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Nursing Home Burn Injury Lawyers
Nursing facilities 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 nursing homes fail to do any of these and a patient suffers a serious burn injury, they can be found liable in a nursing home neglect lawsuit.
When your family member suffers burns in any type of incident, the skilled nursing facility can be held liable. The elder abuse attorneys at the NHLC can help you establish the facts of your case that can show that the facility was at fault for the burn injury. Contact them today for a free consultation to get the process started if your loved one has been injured in this manner at a long-term care facility to recover financial compensation for medical expenses and resulting pain.
Nursing facilities must take extreme care when it comes to fire and burn safety. Given the vulnerability of the home residents and the difficulty in evacuating immobile residents quickly, fire safety becomes a paramount concern for many nursing facilities. The facility'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 facilities 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 Patients Suffer Burns?
Serious 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 staff 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 (cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes) also poses a danger to other residents who are in the vicinity when there is a fire. Other residents may have some type of electrical appliances in their rooms that can overheat or start a fire.
Generally, nursing facilities 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 facility can catch fire and burn. With many immobile residents, nursing facility 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 facility 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 the fire itself was not the fault of a skilled nursing facility, 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 & Burn 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 facilities must identify other high-risk areas, such as 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 medical facility's response that is even more disturbing than the actual incident itself. For example, during the rampant California wildfires, two homes left elderly residents behind. In fact, these 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 facilities abjectly failed to execute their evacuation plans.
One nursing facility attempted to inaccurately claim that its employees successfully evacuated all of the residents. As a result, the California state elder home regulator has announced intent to shut down that nursing facility.
Nursing facility 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 at nursing facilities on an annual basis. These incidents caused 16 fatalities and over 100 serious injuries.
While nursing facilities have improved their fire safety over the years, history is filled with events that have had large-scale casualties during nursing 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 facility killed 72 residents. Six years later, a fire at a facility 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 facilities.Sample Lawsuits & Settlements Against a Nursing Home for Patient Burns & Wrongful Death
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 has 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. A negligence claim was brought against the facility resulting in a settlement.
Lawsuits Filed in Pennsylvania (2017) – There was a blaze in a PA nursing facility 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 neglect, 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 neglect 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 facility 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 facility and that the facility was negligent. Even though the exact cause was not determined, the case was settled at mediation.Has Your Loved One Suffered Severe Burn Injuries at a Nursing Home? Experienced Attorneys Here for You.
Skilled nursing facilities will not willingly write checks to families whose loved ones have been injured at their facilities no matter how egregious the facility’s actions are. You will need legal help to force them to give you the compensation you deserve via a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit, whether that is from a settlement or a jury award. The elder abuse attorneys at the NHLC will help you stand up to the facility 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 for burn-related injuries.