Nursing Home Burn Injury Lawyers

burn-stages-nursing-home-patientNursing homes have an obligation to maintain the facility safely. This includes taking the proper measures to prevent fires as well as properly evacuating residents in the event of a fire emergency. If a nursing home fails to do any of these, they can be found liable in a lawsuit.

When a resident at a nursing home suffers burns in any type of incident, the nursing home can be held liable. The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center can help you establish the facts of your case that can show that the nursing home was at fault for the injury. Contact them today to get the process started if your loved one has been injured in this manner at a nursing home.

Nursing homes must take extreme care when it comes to fire and burn safety. Given the vulnerability of the residents and the difficulty in evacuating immobile residents quickly, fire safety becomes a paramount concern for many nursing homes. The nursing home’s annual inspection that is carried out by the state at the behest of the federal government will have many different checks for fire safety. Nursing homes will receive a separate grade and evaluation for fire safety. This particular evaluation checks everything as opposed to merely sampling several items to inspect.

How do Nursing Home Burns Occur?

Nursing home burns can happen in one of several different ways. Residents can burn themselves. Many residents have smoking habits, and depending on the resident’s cognitive abilities and mobility, the nursing home may allow the resident to take smoke breaks independently. However, some residents, when left unsupervised, may no longer be able to smoke safely. As a result, a flaming ember from a cigarette or a lighter can cause the resident to suffer injury. Sometimes, the resident may be given a cigarette by someone else even they do not have a smoking habit. When that resident has limited mobility and cognition, yet attempts to light the cigarette, they can light themselves on fire. Smoking also poses a danger to other residents who are in the vicinity when there is a fire.

Other residents may have some type of appliances in their room. The residents who are more independent may have the means to access electrical devices. Generally, nursing homes should carefully inspect and supervise the use of these implements. However, sometimes, these appliances are used improperly or have electrical issues that can cause a fire. When a resident is in close proximity to a burning appliance, it has the possibility to cause grave injuries.

Finally, there is also the possibility that the entire nursing home can catch fire and burn. With many immobile residents, nursing home fires can be extremely deadly since residents may not be able to be evacuated in time. There have been many instances of nursing home fires over the years that have turned deadly and killed large numbers of residents. Not only must a nursing home keep its property safe and eliminate risks of fire, but it must also have a practical evacuation plan that it must follow in the event of a fire. Even if a fire itself was not the fault of the nursing home, the facility will be held liable if it does not take the right steps to keep the residents safe.

Another type of burn does not involve fire. In some cases, residents can be scalded by hot water and suffer similar burns to a fire. If the resident is left unsupervised in a shower or bath, they can suffer these types of injuries.

The Nursing Home’s Fire Prevention Obligations

The nursing home’s first step must be in fire prevention. Since many fires can begin in the kitchen or dining area, the facility must take effective measures to separate those areas from the rest of the facility and build safeguards that would keep any fire from spreading. In fact, over half of the fires at nursing facilities start in the kitchen. The nursing home must identify other high risk areas, such as a laundry, and take additional safety steps to make them more fire resistant. The facility will need to have adequate sprinklers and test them regularly. They will also have to periodically reevaluate their safety plan and make changes as necessary.

Sometimes, it is the nursing home’s response that is even more disturbing that the actual incident itself. For example, during the rampant California wildfires, two nursing homes left elderly residents behind. In fact, these nursing homes outright abandoned the residents, leaving them to be harmed by a raging wildfire. Although no residents were injured or killed, some of these nursing homes abjectly failed to execute their evacuation plans. One nursing home attempted to inaccurately claim that its employees successfully evacuated all of the residents. As a result, the California state nursing home regulator has announced intent to shut down those nursing homes.

Nursing home fires are more common than realized in the United States. Over a four-year span from 2002-2205, fire departments responded to approximately 700 calls as nursing home on an annual basis. These incidents caused 16 fatalities and over 100 injuries.

While nursing homes have improved their fire safety over the years, history is filled with events that have had large-scale casualties during nursing home fires. For example, prior to 1979, there were seven separate fires across the country that resulted in the deaths of over 20 residents. In 1957, a fire at a Missouri nursing home killed 72 residents. Six years later, a fire at a nursing home in Ohio that was caused by faulty electrical wiring killed 63 residents. Stringent inspections and mandated safety plans have reduced some of these risks, but fires still occur with frequency at nursing homes.

Lawsuits Against a Nursing Home for Burns

Jury Verdict for $950,000 in Virginia (1994) – The Virginia nursing home resident suffered second and third-degree burns over a large part of their body, including their genitals and buttocks. The injuries required extensive skin grafts. When the resident suffered the injury in the bathtub, the nurse’s aide was unable to get the resident out of the tub, which exacerbated the injuries.

Settlement for $80,000 in Pennsylvania (2009) – In another non-fire related injury, the resident suffered burns over 17 percent of his body due to an allergic reaction. Here, the resident was prescribed an antibiotic to treat a urinary tract infection, but was allergic to the medication. The prescription was given in spite of the resident’s allergy.

Lawsuits Filed in Pennsylvania (2017) – There was a blaze in a nursing home that killed four residents. A federal investigation could not determine the cause of the fire, but it did establish that the main sprinkler was turned off shortly before the fire. The sprinklers were also not designed properly and there were no external sprinklers that could have prevented the fire from spreading.

Lawsuit Filed in Georgia (2015) – The resident was traumatized after spending seven hours hiding in a bathroom from an advancing fire. The facility’s policy was for residents to shelter in place during some emergencies. The resident became convinced that she would die and covered herself with wet towels in order to protect herself. For more information on Georgia nursing homes, look here.

Settlement in New York for $300,000 (2000) – The resident was blind and was smoking in a specially designated room for the activity. According to the NY nursing home lawsuit, the residents were not adequately supervised. The resident believed that they had extinguished the cigarette and put it in their chest pocket. However, the cigarette was not out and the resident’s clothing caught fire and they suffered severe burns.

Jury Award for $378,000 in California (1998) – The resident was walking around carrying a hot cup of coffee. She spilled the coffee on herself and then fell. In the fall, she broke her femur and suffered severe burns from the coffee. The CA nursing home claimed the accident was the resident’s own fault, but the plaintiff argued that elderly residents should not be walking around carrying hot cups of coffee.

Settlement for $185,000 in Florida – After a short stay at a nursing home, the resident was discovered with severe burns on her lower extremities. Nobody was able to establish exactly how the resident received the burns. The family argued that the burns must have occurred at the Florida nursing home and that the facility was negligent. Even though the exact cause was not determined, the case was settled at mediation.

Has Your Loved One Been Burned at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now

Nursing homes will not willingly write checks to families whose loved ones have been injured at their facilities no matter how egregious the nursing home’s actions are. You will need legal help to force them to give you the compensation you deserve, whether that is from a settlement or a jury award. The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center will help you stand up to the nursing home and get your family its day in court for the harm that your loved one has suffered. Call them today at (800) 726-9565 to start the process so you can file the legal action necessary for financial compensation.

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Client Reviews
Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric