Injury Claims for Negligence in Assisted Living Facilities

If an assisted living facility's carelessness brings harm to a resident, a negligence claim might result.

A variety of long-term care options are available to individuals who are unable to live independently, including:

  • skilled nursing facilities, where medical and non-medical professionals provide 24/7 support to residents for both medical and daily living needs
  • home care, in which residents live in their own home and receive assistance with daily activities, and
  • assisted living facilities, which are something of a middle ground, providing less direct care than a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, but more assistance than might typically be available with home care or in a retirement community.

In this article we'll look at an assisted living facility's potential for civil liability when a resident is harmed. (For details on a related topic, see suing a nursing home for negligence.)

How Assisted Living Facilities Work

An assisted living facility typically provides residents help with:

  • meal preparation
  • health monitoring
  • supervision when taking medications
  • basic medical care
  • assistance with daily living activities (like household chores), and
  • socialization.

The nature of care provided at an assisted living facility usually does not reach the complexity of that at a nursing home or skilled nursing facility. But basic principles of personal injury law still require administrators and staff to act with a certain level of reasonableness and caution when it comes to keeping residents safe from foreseeable harm.

How Negligence Might Occur In an Assisted Living Facility

Negligence doesn’t usually refer to intentional conduct. It arises in situations where someone acts without the kind of care that a "reasonable person" would demonstrate under the circumstances, and someone else is injured as a result.

For instance, imagine an assisted living resident gets sick because they ate contaminated food prepared in the facility’s kitchen. Later, we find out that two meal preparation workers didn't wash their hands before their shift. This would likely constitute negligence, since anyone preparing a meal should abide by basic hygiene standards. The failure to do so in a professional care/service setting likely amounts to one or more health code violations.

Another example might be a caretaker whose job duties include shifting a resident's position in bed every two hours, and ensuring that the resident leaves bed to walk around and use the bathroom at least every eight hours. Instead, the caretaker checks on the resident only intermittently, and the resident develops bed sores.

Both of these examples would qualify as negligence, since all required elements are present.

Breach of a duty of care. An assisted living facility has a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure residents' health and safety. That includes taking steps to prevent bed sores and making sure meals are prepared in a sanitary manner. This duty (which may come from any number of sources, including a contract or statute) was breached in both of the above examples.

Causal link between breach of duty and injury. In our examples, the residents must prove that their food poisoning was the result of unsanitary food prep, and that development of bed sores wouldn't have happened but for the caretaker’s neglect. Proving causation in this setting usually means showing that the resident's harm was a foreseeable consequence of the staff member's action or inaction. Learn more about foreseeability and causation.

Damages (losses) resulting from the injury. An injured resident in a negligence case against an assisted living facility may be able to recover for a variety of damages, including:

Learn more about proving negligence in an injury case.

Typical Negligence-Based Clams Against an Assisted Living Facility

Besides a case for simple negligence, like the two examples discussed above, other types of negligence-based claims against an assisted living facility are possible.

Negligent Hiring

This kind of claim might exist if the facility hires an orderly without doing a state-mandated background check, and it turns out the orderly has a criminal history that includes aggravated assault and domestic violence. If the orderly physically assaults a resident, the assisted living facility could be liable for negligent hiring.

Negligent Supervision

A plaintiff might have a negligent supervision claim against an assisted living facility if there are numerous complaints from residents that a particular nursing assistant comes to work under the influence of alcohol. Despite these complaints, the assisted living facility does nothing. Finally, a resident breaks a hip while getting out of the bathtub because the nursing assistant assigned to help the resident was passed out. Learn more about negligent supervision claims.

Premises Liability

Premises liability exists when an unsafe property condition causes injury. An assisted living facility may find itself in a premises liability lawsuit if a resident slips and falls on standing water that was left in the common area for more than six hours.

Medical Malpractice

A medical malpractice claim may exist if a medical professional deviates from the appropriate medical standard of care in treating a patient. Medical malpractice might have occurred if a nurse gave the wrong dose of a medication to a resident, for example. But these kinds of claims are rare in an assisted living facility (as opposed to a nursing home or skilled nursing facility) due to the limited amount of medical care provided.

If you're thinking about taking legal action over injuries that may have been caused by the negligence of a long-term care facility or a member of its staff, you may want to discuss your situation (and your options) with a personal injury lawyer.

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