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It’s inevitable: bad things happen. When they happen to a loved one in a nursing home or assisted care facility, you or your client may be left with a lot of questions. Was this preventable? Did the nursing home staff do what they should have to prevent this type of injury?

Often, nursing-home injuries involve a fall, which can have severe consequences for the elderly. In a Star Tribune article studying Minnesota nursing homes, authors Glenn Howatt and Pam Louwagie found that, on average, “one nursing home resident in the state dies every two days in circumstances stemming from a fall.” Moreover, often the nursing home is the primary investigator of the cause of the fall! Despite this conflict of interest, some industry professionals advise nursing homes to reduce their reporting of injuries to the bare minimum required by law. If your loved one is injured in a nursing home, you may be on your own trying to figure out whether the nursing home caused the injury.

What should you do if your loved one is injured in a nursing home? I asked attorney Nick DiCello, an experienced trial attorney representing victims of nursing home abuse and their families, what he would recommend. This is a list based on our firm’s experience handling serious nursing home negligence cases. Please be sure to leave a comment below (it’s fast and easy!), and if you are interested in learning more about how to select a safe nursing home to avoid this type of injury, see my earlier post, The 8 Most Important Things to Do Before Choosing A Nursing Home.

  1. Remember your rights! You and your loved one have rights, which the nursing home is required to provide you upon request. Don’t hesitate to ask! I’ve written about Ohio’s Nursing Home Bill of Rights; demand to see what the nursing home has in place.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the facility administrators questions, and demand full answers. A nursing home should be able to explain what happened, when it happened, who was there, and what caused the injury. In fact, they may be required to report the event to the state. Ask for all the details, and be wary if the facility declines to provide them, changes stories, or otherwise shows that it is more interested in avoiding responsibility than providing a full and accurate disclosure.
  3. Ask for all documentation produced regarding the injury during, after, and in investigation of the accident. Include a request for photographs, if any, of the injury or the scene of the injury.
  4. Take pictures. Understandably, in the process of caring for your loved one through an injury, your focus is on the future, not the past. If there is an injury involved, though, you may want to have documentation.
  5. Talk to the Ombudsman, but be wary. Sometime the nursing home will do the right thing, own up to their responsibility, and you should at least hear their side of things. But don’t assume they’ll have your interests at heart, so be reasonably skeptical. And don’t assume that you have to arbitrate—get a qualified attorney to determine if such an agreement is enforceable.
  6. Consult an attorney, or more than one attorney. Good plaintiffs’ attorneys specialize in determining whether potential clients have a viable claim, and you should seek one or more opinions from a qualified attorney in your area. If you have an attorney you trust from working on other issues, like setting up an estate or handling a business matter, ask for a referral from them. Or, you can call the local bar association. Remember to make sure you consult with an attorney who has handled this type of case before—experience counts.
  7. Learn your statute of limitations. If you consult with an attorney, they probably already told you what the applicable statute of limitations period would be—that is, the time frame during which you can file a claim, and after which you will be forever barred from filing. Whether or not you ever decide to file a claim, you should know your time limitations early on to avoid making a costly mistake. If you don’t know, call an attorney and ask.

If you ever believe that your loved one has been a victim of abuse, neglect, or that his or her rights have been violated, you should address the situation immediately and consider contacting a civil justice attorney. They specialize in getting to the bottom of this type of situation, and can provide expert guidance at a time when you are understandably focused on more pressing issues.

Please leave a comment with your feedback, your own experiences, or advice! You’ll be surprised by how many people will identify with your comments!


  1. Gravatar for Doug

    This is all good advice. However, falls will indeed occur, and they increase in probability after the age of 60. Some ways to theoretically minimize falls are not good restraints, bed siderails, and 24/7 one-on-one staff assistance.

    If you place a loved one in a nursing home with the expectation that the facility can prevent a fall, your expectation is unreasonable. However, it is reasonable to expect the facility to identify known risks (history, medications, environmental challenges, physical limitations, etc.) and to take reasonable action to minimize the known, identified, fall risks.

    A fall, with or without injury, should indeed be investigated and reacted to (by both the facility and family members), with appropriate documention. Post injury assessment and medical attention should be expected to be prompt and comprehensive. Falls should not be ignored or assumed to be inevitable. But because a person is living in an assisted living community or nursing home, it does not create (nor will it ever create) a situation of an environment that will prevent all falls. happens.

  2. Gravatar for William Eadie


    Thanks for your feedback and comments. I heartily agree with your points--falls can, and will, happen. What people need to look out for are the circumstances of the fall. As you note, "Falls should not be ignored or assumed to be inevitable." Especially when a resident requires assistance transitioning from a wheelchair or bed, the facility should have--and follow--procedures that ensure falls are not possible.

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