Premises liability is the set of laws that hold property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. This includes any accidents and injuries that occurred in and around their business, such as inside a nursing home.
Premises liability law requires that property owners, such as nursing home operators, ensure the safety of any person who enters their property. Additionally, the property owner must take all reasonable measures in order to prevent injuries to persons that enter and remain on their property. As a legal concept, premises liability is commonly associated with personal injury cases in which a person’s injury was caused by unsafe or defective conditions on a property owner’s property.
Generally, premises liability claims are based on the legal concept of negligence, similar to most personal injury claims. Negligence is the legal term that refers to a person failing to exercise their duty of reasonable care, with that failure resulting in the damage or injury of another person. Thus, negligence focuses on an individual’s failure to take required precautions and actions, as opposed to that individual’s direct actions.
In order for an injured party, also known as a plaintiff, to be successful in proving negligence under the legal theory of premises liability, the plaintiff generally must prove the following legal elements:
- The property owner owed a duty of care to the visitor or person who was injured on their property;
- There was a dangerous, unsafe, or defective condition on the property owner’s premises;
- The property owner knew of the dangerous, unsafe, or dangerous condition but took no actions to remedy the situation prior to the visitor or individual entering their property; and
- That an injury occurred to the plaintiff because of the property owner’s failure to exercise their duty of care to prevent accidents and injuries.
A duty of care is generally owed to another individual in any situation in which an individual may foreseeably be injured by another’s actions or inaction. As such, a breach of this duty occurs when a property owner does not act as reasonably or prudent as another person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
It is important to note that the property owner’s negligence must be the “actual and proximate” cause of the injuries being claimed by an injured plaintiff. This requirement of proving actual and proximate cause is also referred to as proving causation. Once all of the required legal elements have been proven, the plaintiff must then prove that they suffered some quantifiable loss or damage resulting from the property owner’s negligence.
In relation to a nursing home, any patient that is injured on the premises may be able to bring a lawsuit for their injuries against the nursing home or the party that caused their injuries if they can prove that the nursing home breached their duty owed to them as a patient.
What Is A Nursing Home’s Duty To Their Patients?
As mentioned above, nursing home owners and staff have a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury to the patients at their facility. Reasonable care is determined in light of the patient’s physical or mental condition, as well as the physical or mental conditions of the other patients in the facility. It is important to note that a nursing home’s duty is limited to known or foreseeable consequences of the patient’s impairment, including reasonable precautions that must be taken to protect those unable to protect themselves.
For example, if the nursing home is caring for a patient that has diabetes, it is foreseeable that failure to provide proper diabetes care for the patient would likely result in the patient suffering injuries.
However, it is also important to note that a nursing home is not an insurer of a patient’s safety and is not required to have staff follow the patient at all times, unless such care is required for the patient’s particular medical needs. Additionally, the nursing home’s duty to the patient may be modified by the contract entered into between the nursing home and patient, or by state or local laws.
What Are Some Common Nursing Home Injuries?
There are numerous examples of situations in which an individual could be injured while at a nursing home as a result of the nursing home failing in their duty, including:
- Slip and Falls: Slip and fall injuries are the most common type of injury that occurs within a nursing home that gives rise to nursing home liability. For example, if the nursing home fails to attend to a patient that is known to have mobility issues, they may be liable for injuries associated with that patient falling. However, if the patient is attended to, the nursing home is almost never held liable.
- Once again, this will depend on the condition of the patient and the circumstances of the injury suffered by the patient. Another example is a bedridden patient being injured by falling out of bed. The nursing home may be found liable if they failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries, such as by raising the side rails on the bed;
- Burns: Another common injury in nursing homes is for burns suffered by patients. For example, there are numerous cases in which a semi-paralyzed or immobile patient may suffer burns due to being placed near a radiator or other heating element. In such cases, a nursing home may be found liable for not taking reasonable precautions to ensure that the immobile patient was not near a heating element.
- On the other hand, a nursing home would not be found liable if a patient is injured by suffering burns by accidently setting themselves on fire while trying to smoke. In that case the nursing home would not be the actual and proximate cause of the patient’s injury;
- Bed Sores: Another common injury in nursing homes is bed sores. Once again nursing homes that are aware of the immobility of their patients owe those patients a more specialized duty of care. Thus, nursing homes must have practices and standards of care for patients that are bedridden.
- For example, if a nursing home fails to turn a bedridden patient, such as by turning them every two hours, and that patient develops bed sores, the nursing home may be held liable for not taking proper care of that patient;
- Injuries Suffered Due to Wandering: Nursing homes may be held liable for a patient wandering away, if the nursing home knows that the patient has a propensity to wander. For example, if the facility allows an individual that has a propensity to wander outside in a non-fenced area, and that individual wanders into a busy street nearby and gets hit by a motor vehicle, the nursing home may be held liable for the injuries suffered by that patient;
- Assault by Staff or Patients: Another common injury that occurs at nursing homes is physical assault by either staff or fellow patients. Typically a nursing home will not be held liable for a patient assaulting another patient, unless they were aware of the assaulter’s propensity for violence. This is because typically a property owner cannot be held liable for the actions of a third party.
- However, if the nursing home is aware of the assaulters propensity for violence, such as evidence of them being aggressive and assaulting others in the past, they may be held liable for injuries suffered to another patient if they fail to protect the harmed patient from the aggressive patient. Additionally, any physical injuries caused by a staff member would likely open the nursing home up to liability; and/or
- Neglect: Once again, nursing homes have a duty to provide reasonable care to their patients. This means that the basic needs for patients must be provided by the nursing home, including food, clothing, and shelter. If a nursing home fails to provide for their patient’s basic needs, the patient or their legal representative may bring a lawsuit against the nursing home based on long-term care abuse.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Nursing Home Liability?
If you have been injured during a visit or stay at a nursing home, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.
An experienced attorney can advise you as to whether or not you may hold the nursing home liable for your injuries. Additionally, an experienced attorney may also initiate a civil lawsuit on your behalf against the nursing home owner or responsible party in order to recover your damages. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as necessary.