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NYC Nursing Home Fall Lawsuits

Injuries from nursing home falls due to negligence by staff

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that about half of the 1.6 million nursing home residents across the country fall each year. A bad fall can lead to significant injuries and a reduced quality of life. If your loved one has fallen because of the negligence of nursing home staff, you may decide to hold the nursing home responsible for their injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit.

This page will give an overview of the legal process as well as the types of compensation your loved one can recover.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR NURSING HOME FALL CLAIMS

One of the first things you’ll want to consider when you file a lawsuit on behalf of your injured loved one is the limited amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. This deadline is called the statute of limitations and varies depending on the claim.

For a personal injury claim in New York, you generally have three years to file a lawsuit due to negligence in accordance with N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 214(5). However, there are exceptions to this rule that can extend or reduce the amount of time you have to bring a claim. The time to file a lawsuit will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.

THE PROCESS OF A NURSING HOME FALL LAWSUIT

While every lawsuit is different and involves its own unique set of facts and circumstances, they all generally tend to progress in a similar manner.

Initial Case Evaluation and Investigation

The nursing home lawsuit process begins with an initial case evaluation, which consists of a consultation and an investigation of the claim. Once your lawyer accepts your case, they’ll begin a more in-depth investigation to determine if the claim involves mistakes in medical care that rise to the level of medical negligence.

Initial Complaint

The plaintiff will then file a complaint in the court with proper jurisdiction over the case. The “complaint,” as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary 323 (9th ed. 2009), is“[t]he initial pleading that starts a civil action and states the basis for the court’s jurisdiction, the basis for the plaintiff’s claim, and the demand for relief.”

This document is then served to the defendant in the case, who will then have an opportunity to respond by filing what’s referred to as an Answer. An Answer, in this case, is “[a] defendant’s first pleading that addresses the merits of the case, usually by denying the plaintiff’s allegations.” Once these documents have been submitted and exchanged, the case moves forward to the discovery phase.

A defendant may choose to take another path in lieu of filing an Answer, which involves choosing to file a “Motion to Dismiss” in response to the Complaint instead. In this case, the plaintiff will have the opportunity to file a response to this motion and a subsequent hearing will be held. At the hearing, each party will argue as to why the case should or should not be dismissed and the judge will decide if the case will continue. If the judge continues the case, the defendant will file their Answer and the case will move to the discovery phase.

The Discovery Phase

During this phase of litigation, each party will build their case and learn information from the other side using various discovery tools. Some of the most common methods to obtain discovery include interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admission, and depositions.

The discovery phase takes time to complete. How long this phase lasts will depend on a number of factors. For example, the discovery in a more complex case generally takes a longer amount of time than the discovery in a simple one. This period can also last longer if there are a lot of disputes over evidence or witnesses. For instance, if the plaintiff requests a document or photo and the defense objects to producing that piece of evidence, the parties may have to go before a judge in a hearing in order to have the judge decide if the document must be produced.

Once the discovery phase is complete, the case may then proceed to trial.

Settlement Discussions

Most people aren’t aware that many cases of this nature aren’t decided at trial by a judge or jury. Instead, a majority of civil cases end in a settlement agreement. This arrangement is reached through a settlement discussion that can occur throughout the litigation process. A settlement agreement can be extended through negotiations between parties or using another method, such as mediation.

Mediation is a process where a neutral third party—the mediator—is brought in to hear arguments from both the plaintiff and defendant and help the parties voluntarily resolve the case. The mediator doesn’t propose a solution or rule on the case. Instead, the mediator will review the case, evaluate the claims on both sides, and help the parties negotiate between themselves in order to resolve the case. If the mediator is unable to get both sides to come to an agreement, the lawsuit will move forward to trial.

Trial

In general, trials follow a similar format. The plaintiff goes first, making their case to the judge or jury by presenting the evidence that they’ve collected and questioning various witnesses who know pertinent information. The plaintiff will try to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

After the plaintiff has completed their presentation of the evidence, it’s the defendant’s turn to make their case. They’ll present evidence and question witnesses who show why they’re not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. Once both sides rest, each party has the opportunity to make a closing argument.

The case then goes to the trier of fact—either a judge or a jury—who will deliberate and render a verdict.

Nursing Home Fall Damages

If those responsible for the care of your loved one are deemed negligent in their duties, you may wonder what type of compensation your loved one can recover in a personal injury case. Can your loved one recover damages for the extensive medical bills that have been piling up? Can your loved one recover any compensation for the considerable pain and suffering endured? Can you make the person or entity pay any damages because their behavior was egregious?

It depends. The damages that are recoverable in a particular personal injury lawsuit will be contingent on the unique facts and circumstances of that case.

Generally, damages can be split into two categories: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are designed to reimburse the plaintiff for harm they suffered and losses they incurred as a result of any negligent actions. This category can include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages, by contrast, are not meant to compensate the plaintiff but rather to punish the defendant for their reprehensible behavior and to deter any similar behavior in others in the future.

It’s important to note that punitive damages are only available in certain instances when a defendant’s behavior was particularly willful or egregious.

Financial Disbursement

The financial disbursement process can vary on a case-by-case basis. The settlement agreement will determine the amount of time a defendant has to submit payments. If the lawsuit includes multiple defendants, the defendants may also settle their claims at different points throughout the case. If there are any outstanding bills or liens, the attorney is responsible for making sure those are paid off before disbursing money to the client.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT NURSING HOME FALLS?

To prevent these types of injuries from occurring in the future, it’s important that you and your loved one ask the nursing home management staff about their fall prevention practices. Aging and illness may not be avertable, but they can be managed, and environmental factors that increase the risk of nursing home falls can be addressed.

Here are a few general strategies that may apply to your loved one and reduce their risk of Falling:

  • Preventing fainting: Falls are often a result of an elderly resident standing up too quickly, which suddenly drops their blood pressure and causes them to faint. Medications can help prevent something like this from occurring. If a patient is prone to blacking out, the management care staff should be advised.
  • Staying active: Though elderly nursing home residents tend to remain sedentary, it’s important that they still find the time to move their body, even if that means just moving around their room or sitting up in bed and stretching. However, those residents who need assistance should be aided by the staff who can help them do so safely. Likewise, caretakers should make sure immobile residents remain comfortable and engaged so they don’t have to get up unnecessarily.
  • Ensuring proper footwear and clear floors: Elderly nursing home residents—and especially the nursing home staff—should create and maintain safe surfaces. This includes making sure the floor space is clear of all potential hazards. Likewise, the nursing home staff should ensure that the residents are not walking around in slippery socks, moccasins, or shoes that are too big for them.

If your elderly loved one suffers a fall as a result of a lack of any of the above systems, they may be a victim of neglect. Perhaps their risk of falling was not properly assessed or protective measures were not taken. In any case, securing the help of a nursing home abuse lawyer would be in your best interest.

Contact an Elder Abuse Attorney

Dalli & Marino, LLP is a premier nursing home negligence and elder abuse law firm in New York that specializes in nursing home fall lawsuits. Our team of attorneys is familiar with all major nursing home facilities in New York and has been fighting for the rights of nursing home residents for over 20 years. Dalli & Marino has won millions of dollars for victims of nursing home negligence.

Lawyers Not Screeners

In addition to speaking to a live person whenever you call Dalli & Marino to discuss a nursing home fall lawsuit, you’ll find that every case is screened by a lawyer, not a receptionist. Contact us and speak to a lawyer who can tell you if you have a case.

Focus

A firm must be experienced in the particulars of nursing home operations and applicable state and federal law to be successful at trial. Dalli & Marino, LLP is that law firm.

Evidence Gathering

Gathering evidence in today’s environment requires a clear understanding of the rules, plus the possible role of electronic medical records, health records, and expert witnesses. For help doing so the right way, look no further than the trusted professionals at Dalli & Marino.

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