Investigation Into Nursing Home Resident’s Death in Van Accident Begins

Nursing Home Law Center Staff

handicapped van.jpgIn some respects, nursing home patients are at a far greater risk for injury when they engage in non-traditional nursing home activities outside of the confines of the facility– compared with the day-to-day care they typically receive in the course of their daily programs.

While nursing home employees may receive a good deal of training when it comes to day-to-day care of patients, in other aspects of patient care there maybe less emphasis on training— and consequently an increased liklihood of patient injury.

The transportation of patients into or out of the nursing home is indeed a crucial part of the care of many patients and facilities must remember their obligation to provide skilled nursing care doesn’t exempt them from providing quality care for their patients just because they are on a van.

While the obligation to ensure safe transportation indeed falls on the shoulders of the nursing home pursuant to both federal and state laws, at some nursing homes transportation safety is still very much an afterthought.

Especially for disabled nursing home patients who rely exclusively on the assistance of staff, even minor accidents with minor impacts — or sudden stops– can result in a patient getting violently ejected from their wheelchair and thrown into other patients or the floor of the vehicle.

Having represented families after patient has suffered an injury or dies in a nursing home van accident, I’ve noticed a number of commonalities when it comes to the cause of these incidents.  Many nursing home van incidents derive from:

  • Inadequately trained drivers
  • Improperly licensed drivers (in some states)
  • Old equipment and wheelchair lifts
  • Broken or missing restrain belts
  • Inappropriately outfitted vans– without handicapped access or restraints

While there are few statistics regarding the number of nursing home patients injured or killed in vehicles operated by nursing home (or assisted living) employees, I suggest that the number is far higher we’d believe— or needs to be with the implementation of basic safety precautions.

Just recently, a patient at Heartland Health Care Center- Kalamazoo (A ManorCare facility in Michigan) died from injuries related to a handicapped van accident.  Though the specifics of the incident have not been revealed, the elderly patient was being taken to a dental appointment in the nursing home’s van when the driver hit a curb.

As this incident gets evaluated by authorities, they will likely look at how the patient was restrained and the type of training this driver had.  Depending on the level of culpability on the part of the facility and driver, criminal charges may also be forthcoming.


Nursing Home Patients Transported In Vehicles Are At Risk For Injury When Safety Is An Afterthought

Nursing Home Patients Injured After Driver of Van Fails to Secure Their Wheelchairs

Medicare Standards Require Nursing Home Patients to Be Transported Safely

State to investigate nursing home resident’s traffic death, July 9, 2011 Detroit Free Press

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