What are the Rights of a Visitor Who is Injured at a Nursing Home?

A. The nursing home operator could be found liable in a personal injury lawsuit if the visitor’s injury resulted from the negligence of the nursing home.

In general, the nursing home has the same obligation to its visitors as any establishment would towards those that are visitors to its property. In other words, a nursing home would be subject to the established rules for premises liability minus whatever risk the visitor could be expected to have assumed when they entered the property.

Nursing homes must anticipate that the residents there will receive visitors. The operators of the nursing home must make sure that the property is free of hazards that are known and are foreseeable. Of course, they are not required to remove every single possible risk, only those that are reasonable foreseeable.

The nursing home’s responsibility would generally be tested under the accepted theories of negligence that govern every personal injury case that is heard in court. The facility owes a duty of care to those who enter the nursing home to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances. In other words, the nursing home must take care to not expose the visitor to unreasonable or foreseeable risks.

Nursing homes can be held liable to visitors who are injured when they breach this duty of care. This happens when they act unreasonably. This analysis presupposes that a reasonable nursing home would provide a safe environment for visitors to the nursing home. Skilled nursing facilities can be responsible when a visitor is injured due to their lack of care. For example, if there is a hazardous condition such as a leak that makes an area unsafe, and the visitor slips and falls, the nursing home may have to pay. Some other examples of nursing home negligence in this area include leaving objects in the middle of the floor and not removing them, leaving equipment in the area where visitors walk and not cleaning up spills.

The nursing home’s liability in this area is not unlimited. For example, if a visitor is going into an area where the nursing home would not anticipate that they go, the nursing home may not be found liable for the injury. Nursing homes are not obligated to remove every piece of equipment from every inch of the facility. However, the reasonable nursing home would make sure that hallways and residents’ room would be free from accident hazards. In addition, it can be logically expected that there will be some hazards in the hallway such as wheelchairs and medicine carts. Visitors are expected to exercise their own level of care to avoid those objects when they are walking around the nursing home.

Of course, the nursing home would argue that the visitor assumed a certain degree when they walked into the facility. While nursing home premises liability cases are not common, in one of these cases, the nursing home attempted to argue that the visitor was responsible for her own injury. In this case, the visitor tripped over a fan in her loved one’s room and suffered a hematoma on her head. The nursing home argued that the fan was an obvious risk that the visitor should have noticed. When the case made it all the way to the appeals court, the court sided with the nursing home.

Thus, visitors to a nursing home should exercise their own level of care, but should there be a foreseeable risk that the nursing home does nothing to address that the visitor could not have noticed, the facility can be held liable for any injury.

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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
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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