A lawyer specializing in claims arising from wandering from a Michigan nursing home will help if your loved one suffered harm from lack of supervision.

The steps to establish how a staff member or facility was at fault are complex.  Choosing an experienced attorney is essential to winning your case.

Michigan has more than 400 nursing homes that are licensed and regulated by the Department of Community Health Bureau of Health Systems.

Under their regulations, these facilities are expected to be in compliance with health and safety codes, including keeping patients safe and free from abuse.

Sadly, these regulations are not always adhered to and, as a result.  Injuries happen when a resident walks away from a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Due to their declining faculties, some elderly residents tend to wander. For these residents, it is the facility’s staff members duty of care to keep the resident closely monitor them.

Failing to monitor and supervise a high-risk resident can have devastating consequences. It can also provide the basis for filing a civil lawsuit against a negligent facility.

What Happens When Residents Leave Nursing Homes Without Supervision?

Wandering away from Michigan nursing homes—also referred to as elopement—is a serious problem throughout the state.

Many people use the word “escape” to describe an elopement incident.  However, most wandering incidents result from dementia or mental illness.

Due to advanced age, residents often become confused and unaware of their surroundings.  This causes them to exit the building or the grounds of the care facility.o

Most residents do not appreciate the serious health consequences of walking away without supervision.  If they leave, they are at risk for any number of perils, including:

  • Being hit by a car, truck, train, or another motor vehicle while walking into a busy street;
  • Being assaulted by a stranger or criminal;
  • Succumbing to the weather elements, resulting in frostbite, heatstroke, or freezing to death;
  • Being attacked by an animal, like a stray dog;
  • Falls in ditches, on roads, and other hard surfaces;
  • Drowning in a pool, pond, lake, or other body of water.

The resulting damages from these are severe and life-threatening, leading to physical harm, emotional trauma, and financial strain due to the required medical treatment. Because of this, it is important for a potential claimant to understand the rights of residents and what legal options might be available.

The Rights of Residents in Nursing Facilities

The Patient’s Bill of Rights, as found in the Michigan Public Health Code, defines the rights of nursing home residents. Essentially, no matter their medical or mental condition, residents are provided with:

  • The right to not suffer physical, mental, and sexual abuse
  • The right to be free from physical and chemical restraints, such as wrist restraints or certain medications—with some limited exceptions
  • The right to privacy pertaining to treatment and personal needs
  • The right to consideration and respect
  • The right to receive appropriate medical treatment and personal care

Although these rights are owed to every resident, nursing home residents should never be unsupervised or allowed to wander away from a  Michigan nursing home. Indeed, residents who are allowed to wander without supervision are not receiving care in line with the state’s bill of rights.

How Nursing Homes Should Prevent Elopement

To ensure residents are safe, nursing facilities are required to take necessary precautions to prevent their residents from leaving without supervision.  This includes performing proper risk assessments, implementing necessary interventions, and communicating information to the staff.  The failure to undertake these responsibilities is negligence.

Preventative measures might include placing alarms on doors and installing security cameras with monitors at the nursing stations.  Keeping all windows and doors locked is essential to keep a resident from eloping.  For memory care units, facilities should use keypads for employees to enter and exit the unit.

Many facilities assign extra staff to a resident who is prone to wandering.  Other times,  simple distractions and activities prevent resident elopement.

What to do if a Resident is Missing or Cannot be Found

If the staff notices that a resident is missing or cannot be found, it becomes an urgent matter.  The entire nursing home staff should immediately take efforts to find the resident.

First, the staff should check all exit doors and windows to make sure they are secure.  Next, the staff must do a thorough walkthrough of the facility.  Many times, a resident may wander into another unit, the wrong room, or even a closet.  If the search turns up empty, the police and family should be notified immediately.

Can I sue if a Resident Elopes from a Nursing Home?

More than ten percent of all nursing lawsuits are due to resident elopements.  Of those, almost 80% result in the resident’s death.

In the majority of cases, the resident was a chronic wanderer with a history of prior elopements.

And, almost half of them occurred within the first two days after admission.

You can sue a nursing home if a resident leaves the facility and is injured due to a lack of supervision.  Nursing home lawsuits demand compensation for the harm caused to the resident.  Settlements include payouts for physical pain and suffering, psychological trauma, and medical expenses.

Michigan Nursing Home Wandering Case Study

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a nursing home. A resident with dementia wandered from the facility through an unlocked door in the middle of a cold winter night.

The victim had a history of attempting to leave the building. He was discovered frozen to death outside the following day.

The lawsuit alleged the nursing was negligent for failing to prevent the elopement, as well as delaying the search for him. The case settled for $875,000.

Can a Family File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

For cases involving a resident death, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit.  The case is brought by a family member or guardian of the decedent.

Wrongful death cases demand settlement compensation for the pain and suffering of the resident prior to death.  They also demand compensation for the loss of companionship of the family member.  Recoverable damages also include medical expenses and funeral bills.

Best Michigan Lawyers for Resident Wandering Cases

If your loved one eloped from a nursing home and was injured or died, you have legal recourse. Through a negotiated settlement or lawsuit, a  nursing home lawyer experienced with resident wandering claims will demand compensation for you and your loved one.

However, there are important deadlines for taking legal action. If you miss the deadline, your case will be lost forever.

In general, a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of elopement. For cases involving death, the period may be extended up to five years.

To learn more, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. today.

We charge no legal fees unless you win a settlement!  Start your case now!

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