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Has anyone brought a suit against a SNF for their parent falling and dying due to staff negligence? My beloved dad had already fallen more than once at his SNF. As a result, it was understood that he needed and imperative that he receive standby assistance at all times when ambulating with his walker. Last week, in spite of his documented fall history, he was allowed to fall hard, becoming unconscious for 1-2 min, even with TWO staff members in his room WITH him. He sustained horrible injuries that were indisputably deemed the cause of his untimely death days later. The fall was medically determined the cause of death as it was in the police report. Dad would still be with us today. The family is grief-stricken and in disbelief that we entrusted him to this SNF to ensure his safety and two staff members couldn't manage to at least ease his violent impact. He had become a tiny, lightweight man - easily caught or at least his descent to the floor slowed IF and only IF, the CNA/RN had been next to him, as were the clear requirements of his/her job. Clearly, no one was anywhere near him. We are a reasonable family. We understand that things can happen quickly and of course, that there are no guarantees. We all do our best. But this was flat out wrong. It was complacency. These staff members rolled the dice by not being where they were supposed to be and this time, it resulted in the worst, most tragic outcome. My assessment may sound clinical but the our grief and sorrow that he had to suffer in so much pain for days on end - and that it was absolutely preventable - is unbearable, as anyone here who has helplessly watched a loved one in their care suffer to their death can attest. Please, if anyone has experience or any insights to share re how we may move forward, your thoughts would be most appreciated. I would also greatly appreciate any references to a trusted Wrongful Death/Personal Injury attorney that you have personal experience with. Many thanks and many blessings to you for taking care of your beloved parent(s)!

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Thank you, CountryMouse. Bless you, your sage advice and your horse whip!
Yes I agree that a personal reference to an attorney would be best if only to get some basic guidance but to date I have not been able to find one. Those who cropped up were responding to my quest for a free consultation ~ but they do seem especially hungry and that alone puts me off. I'm not up for a long, protracted fight and certainly not for money. In my heart of hearts, I just want there to be some justice but hey, we want a lot of things in this world. Perhaps with some time to heal (& sleep) I will find more peace around it all. I wish the best for you and your loved ones as well...and no falls! In appreciation.
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Emotionally charged is right. I think we all understand the desperate anxiety and frustration around falls - on paper they should be so straightforward to prevent, but oh goodness, one split second and there you are.

And the damage! The slightest bump and your poor elder looks as if she (in our case) has been hit by a truck.

If those three attorneys have just popped out of the woodwork now, for two pins I would go over there with a horsewhip and see them off. Taking legal advice might be no bad thing anyway, but get it from an attorney you have known - or people you trust have known - for a long time from experience in other, less emotionally sensitive matters.

How dare those people exploit your grief and shock. How dare they. It's sickening.

If they persist, please report them to the legal standards authorities in your area.
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Country mouse Yes, I will certainly ask and have been only civil in the few exchanges I have had with the facility since the incident. It has only been 2.5 weeks. I have had 3 attorneys wanting to take this on but I want to think long and hard before going down a long, painful legal road. It will not bring him back and I we are not looking for $ - it was just simply wrong. I appreciate the even voices of this community in such an emotionally charged time. Thank you!
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GardenArtist and freqflyer, Many thanks for kindly sharing your experiences and expertise. I will sleep on this. Perhaps our energy is better spent honoring dad's memory in a more peaceful way. Your thoughts have been most helpful and indeed, a comfort. Much appreciated.
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Don't sense. Ask. What's more, ask civilly - request that the NH sends you the records and, assuming they don't refuse, ask when you can expect to receive them.

If you do decide to pursue this claim in court, which I am not sure a reputable lawyer would encourage you to do, give thought first of all to what outcome(s) you hope to achieve.

I am extremely sorry for your family's loss and for the distressing way in which it happened. How long is it since your father passed away?
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GardenArtist and drew flyer, many thanks for this very helpful info. It sounds as if my requesting the records myself initially could be fruitless. I do sense their willingness to cooperate will be limited considering their lack of communication this far. Would anyone happen to have worked with or know of a good southern CA medal attorney? Much appreciated!
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LoveourMamas, perhaps the most efficient way to obtain records would be through a medmal attorney. The ones I worked for had a specific company that did nothing but request records; it was a very efficient method, and it worked.

Individual requests can fall to the bottom of the pile, but in my recollection, the company request was much faster. Attorneys also know the proper verbage to use (typically all inclusive records, i.e., "any and all ..... including but not limited to...") to ensure that the entire chart is copied, or these days, a CD might be created.

In my best recollection, subpoenas were issued for the records, but it has been quite a while and I don't recall for sure.

If a record copy service issues a subpoena, the facility would have to comply b/c it's a legal request, sometimes pursuant to an action (complaint filed) already in process. Otherwise, an injunctive order directing them to comply might be considered.
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Shane, I'd like to share some insight on determination of medical negligence, as I remember it from a few decades ago. Standards may have changed, but at the time I worked in medmal law firms, the standard was based on a "deviation of care" in the area.

I.e., if it was standard for a 2 person assist in facilities of a similar nature and with patients of similar medical issues, then a 1 person assist might be considered a deviation of the standard of care.

Another deviation might be (as we experienced), failing to get higher level support for an IV which was removed b/c it infiltrated. My understanding is that if the floor nurses can't re-insert it, they contact Anesthesiology for staff with more experience in inserting IVs. They don't just leave or deny the patient (who in this case was also NPO) w/o fluids for several hours. That would be a deviation from standard of care.

I don't ever recall a standard including the intent to harm, but then I haven't kept up on medmal standards. "Intent" is not easy to prove, whether in civil or criminal cases, so a lesser standard of care deviation would be easier to prove.
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LoveourMamas, I believe it is up to the Attorney to request said records.

One would think the doctor from the facility would have your Dad's records on the his laptop, as most medical facilities have such records in their computers. I know my primary doctor can pull up my file from any where in the world if she has her laptop with her.
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Thank you for your insightful answers. I do understand that falls can happen quickly and anywhere.
Can anyone give me guidance on how to officially request Dad's medical records from the SNF do that they are legally bound to do so in a timely manner? I called his doctor - who the SNF required him to take on as he is one of the few who services the facility - and the doctor said he doesn't have physically her medical records but the SNF has them all on their premises. Do I need to send a Certified Letter to the SNF director requesting them? Is the SNF legally required to release them to the family? I fear some push back as the director took days to contact me when dad was dying in the hospital after his fall and she was very guarded with me right up front. Thank you so very much for any guidance on this and for the time you've already taken to help!
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LoveourMamas, so sorry for the passing of your Dad.

Elders will fall, that is what they do. The way I look at it, if your Dad was being cared for at home by a relative and he fell, would you sue that relative?

My own Mom fell at home, had a serious head injury, a brain bleed, which eventually took her life a couple months later. There was no way my Dad could have soften the blow as it happened too quickly for him to react. My Mom passed peacefully as the doctor recommended Hospice care.

And yes, my Mom was falling constantly in long-term-care because she wouldn't remain in bed or in her wheelchair. She forgot how to walk or even stand up. It would have been impossible for the Staff to be at her side 24 hours a day and restraining her was not allowed due to State laws.

Thus, you might want to rethink the lawsuit. I doubt your Dad would want the family to relive this situation over and over hundreds of times for the next few years, plus the upfront cost and administrative costs over the years. I would think the only way the nursing home would be at fault is if one of the Staff had pushed your Dad making him hit the floor.... or if something was on the floor causing a hazard.

Just food for thought.
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Was he on Medicaid? These suits may take a long time to process plus whatever monetary funds that are received will go towards the government claw back. You will just waste your time. Factors on rewards are frequently based on estimations of productive age and who is dependant on him.
I need to ask if the state public health was notified? Nursing home are responsible for reporting and states will levy fines.
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I know this may sound mean, but its very difficult to prove negligence as you have to prove there was an intent to harm (I am not an attorney). 
The NH staff cannot be with your father 24/7. To think they are watching his movements all the time is unrealistic as well.
However,that said, I am pretty sure you can find a personal injury attorney to review your case and take it on a contingency basis if they feel there is a case of negligence. 
First I suggest getting a copy of your dad’s medical records for the attorney to review.
I am very sorry for what happened to your father- especially in a care center where he is supposed to have been cared for and his safety assured. I am sorry for your loss as well.
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I too offer my condolences. It must be especially unsettling given the nature of his death.

Was anyone from the family present to witness the fall? Have you ordered a copy of the medical records yet?

I don't know of any med mal (medical malpractice) attorneys in Santa Barbara, but would suggest that you search the California State Bar and county bar associations' websites to get a list of the medmal attorneys. Contact them with your questions, ask if there is any retainer (possibly for costs of getting the records), ask about their experience and success ratio, etc.

Read the profiles of the medmal attorneys on their firm websites. You want someone experienced, and a firm with a good portion of experienced attorneys.

How old was your father? What was the purpose of being in the SNF for rehab? Was it related to falling? Leg fracture? Was he a 2 person assist?

When I worked in medmal firms a few decades ago, this is the general procedure that top notch firms followed. A medical expert in the field of medicine governing your father's particular situation would be hired to review the medical records and opine on the issue of negligence. The law firm would consult with the expert and determine the likelihood of success, and then either advise you of their decision not to sue, or it would go ahead and file suit.

Be aware that actuarial tables are used to determine any award. I.e., someone of, say, 50 years of age would likely receive a higher amount of reward than someone of 80 years of age, because the latter was less likely to live longer, and therefore not appropriate for higher compensatory judgment.

Whatever route you take, I hope you are at some point able to find some comfort from your family and friends.
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I am so sorry about the injury your dad received in his fall, and for his death. Hugs to your entire family.

I think the crux of this issue is can you find an attorney to take the case? An experience wrongful death lawyer can give you a sense of how likely you are to win such a case.
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