The Unwitnessed Fall

Elderly people are at risk for falls in both nursing homes and hospitals.  Many times elderly patients suffer a fall after they have been left alone and not regularly monitored by the staff.  Sometimes elderly patients use a call button, but no one comes to help them. Other times, the patient suffers from dementia and gets up without seeking help.  Many times the falls are not witnessed by staff or family members.  To make things more puzzling, the patient cannot remember what happened.  Can the hospital or nursing home be held responsible when this happens? How can a case of negligence be established when no one saw the fall and the patient cannot remember what happened?

The law firm of Miraldi and Barrett has handled a number of cases like this, both in the nursing home and the hospital setting.  In each case, we start by carefully reviewing the hospital or nursing home records and request that the institution give us a copy of the protocols (internal rules) that they have developed to prevent falls.  We then take detailed statements from all of the people who cared for the patient and then analyze those statements.  Are the statements consistent? did the nursing staff adequately assess the patient's risk for falls? Is there evidence that some of the fall prevention rules were not followed?

Recently, Miraldi and Barrett concluded a case against a hospital where the elderly patient had and unwitnessed fall around 5 a.m. when she apparently got up to go to the bathroom.  The patient suffered a brain injury from the fall and was unable to remember what happened.  David Miraldi of the firm argued that the hospital failed to follow its own rules when it did not take the patient to the bathroom as often as its rules required.  The parties later reached a settlement, the terms of which are confidential.