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Understanding Nursing Home Elopement

Nursing homes have a duty to protect their patients, including the duty to make sure they don’t leave the premises unattended. This is commonly referred to as “elopement,” and it can be extremely dangerous for residents. From falls to freezing weather, nursing homes need to protect residents from wandering off.

What is nursing home elopement?

Nursing home elopement refers to when a resident is left unsupervised and subsequently leaves the premises. Elopement is often used interchangeably with wandering, but they’re two different concepts: wandering typically involves moving around the premises unsupervised, while elopement involves leaving the grounds entirely.

What is a nursing home’s responsibility?

Because nursing homes care for people who may be confused, suffering from cognitive decline, physically disabled or otherwise unable to appreciate the potential dangers, they have a heightened responsibility for making sure elopement doesn’t occur. Preventative measures include but are not limited to security guards, alarms and patient tracking systems. Unfortunately, because so many homes are understaffed, it’s easy for residents to elope and become injured.

When a nursing home fails to fulfill their basic duties, they may be held liable for negligence. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must show that the nursing home had a duty to avoid causing harm to the patient, they breached that duty and as a result, the resident suffered actual harm. “Actual harm” simply means the plaintiff was physically or financially injured. For example, leaving the premises for five minutes, without incident or injury, is usually not considered actual harm. In contrast, leaving the premises for five minutes, slipping, falling and suffering a fracture is actual harm.

The best way to find out whether you have an actionable nursing home elopement claim is to work with an attorney experienced in nursing home abuse and neglect cases. Contact the knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP to learn more about your legal options.