Can Michigan Nursing Homes Be Liable If A Resident Falls or Rolls Out of a Bed?

More than one-third of all fall-related injuries happen to nursing home residents who are unable to walk,[1] and many of these incidents occur when seniors fall out of their beds due to the negligence of a senior living care facility or its staff. Nursing homes and senior living facilities have a duty to protect at-risk residents from preventable falls by utilizing safety precautions, such as:

  • Bedrails
  • Bedside Wedges (also referred to as soft rails)
  • Floor Pads
  • Bed Alarms
  • Lowered Beds
  • Frequent Checks
  • Two-person patient transfers

When a nursing home or its staff fails to take the necessary safety precautions and a resident is injured or dies after falling from a bed, the facility may be liable for damages, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and burial and funeral expenses (in cases of wrongful death).

If your parent or loved one was injured in a nursing home, long-term care facility, assisted living community, or another senior living home after falling out of a bed, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Michigan nursing home neglect attorney to learn about your options for pursuing accountability, justice, and monetary compensation for your loved one’s injuries.

How Do You Prevent A Resident From Rolling Out of Bed When Moving Or Repositioning Them?

When a person falls from a bed in the process of being helped out of bed or being re-positioned, it is often because the staff failed to use proper care or to follow proper protocols (such as ensuring that there are two staff members who are assisting in certain bed transfers).

For example, if an attendant is providing treatment and rolls a patient to the other side of a bed, and there is no one there to protect the resident, he or she may roll off the bed.  Because many elderly residents have lost significant weight, inadvertently causing a resident to roll out of bed is sometimes easier than one might imagine.  If another staff member assists on the other side of the bed, or if a guard rail was in place on the other side of the bed, these types of accidents normally could be avoided.

Similarly, falls from beds can also result from nursing home staff failing to safely transfer a resident from a bed to a wheelchair.  As an example, the staff member may help a resident so that the resident is sitting on the side of the bed, waiting to be transferred to a wheelchair.  Instead of transferring the resident directly, the staff member may leave the resident sitting on the bed while going to the other side of the room (or even outside the room) to get additional supplies or additional assistance from another staff member to help complete the move to the wheelchair.  When the resident is left unattended while sitting on the side of the bed and the resident then falls, this is typically a sign of nursing home negligence.

Can A Nursing Home Be Held Financially Liable If A Resident Falls From A Bed?

Nursing home staff have a duty to take steps to prevent avoidable falls.  If they fail to uphold this responsibility, the facility may be financially liable for any injuries sustained.

If your loved one fell out of bed and suffered an injury as a result of nursing home negligence, those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.  As Michigan nursing home fall lawyers, we invite you to call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can assist in seeking justice and the full and fair compensation you deserve without any upfront cost.

We represent clients injured in nursing homes on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you will only pay a fee if we secure a settlement or damages at trial.  We additionally advance the costs of litigation (these costs are normally repaid through compensation obtained in a successful lawsuit).

What are the Common Causes of Fall Injuries from Nursing Home Beds?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), between 50% and 75% of senior residents fall each year.[2] Many of these incidents occur when elderly residents tumble or roll from their beds because nursing home staff negligently fails to follow and implement safety protocols.

Falls from beds can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Inability to use patient protective devices and equipment;
  • Failure to accurately assess a resident’s risk of falling;
  • Bedrail misuse or non-use;
  • Lack of adequate staffing during sheet changes and perineal care;
  • Underqualified or improperly trained staff;
  • Failure to follow facility safety protocols;
  • Inappropriate transfer methods;
  • Improper positioning of a resident;

Nursing homes are expected to uphold a high standard of care for patients to ensure they do not sustain injuries.  If these (or any other) shortfalls result in injury, the nursing home or care facility may be liable.  Fortunately, many incidents can be easily avoided if nursing homes take the following precautions.

What is Bed Mobility? And Why Is It Important?

Nursing homes should evaluate residents’ bed mobility to determine the potential risk of falls. “Bed mobility” is defined as the ability to perform specific motions in bed.  Testing for bed mobility can be conducted by nursing staff or a physical therapist.  Tests include:

  • Scooting up or down
  • Scooting sideways
  • Rolling over
  • Twisting and reaching
  • Lifting hips (as in bridging)
  • Moving from sitting to lying down in bed
  • Moving from lying down to sitting up in bed

If, after evaluation, it is determined that bed mobility issues exist, a nursing home should take extra precautions to prevent a resident from falling or rolling out of bed when administering care or during transfer.

Can a Nursing Home Care Plan Prevent Bed Fall Injuries?

It should.

It is vital for nursing homes to develop individualized Care Plans to keep residents safe.  A Care Plan sets forth what the nursing home will do to ensure the safety of residents and provides directions to the nursing staff and assistants regarding these matters.  For bed mobility, a Care Plan should include specific interventions to address a resident’s reduced bed mobility, such as:

  • Setting bed in a low position;
  • Keeping essential items close by;
  • Providing for a scoop mattress;
  • Designating a transfer method;
  • Indicating how many staff are required to assist the resident with bed mobility;
  • Using pillows or other devices to keep limbs in functional alignment;
  • What Can Be Done to Safely Transfer a Resident with Mobility Issues?

Fall incidents commonly occur during transfers to and from a bed, wheelchair, toilet, or chair. Many injuries can be avoided by following basic patient safety protocols, including:

  • Ensuring that the proper number of trained staff attend to re-positioning and bed transfers
  • Avoiding forcing or pulling on the individual’s limbs;
  • Assisting the resident on their weaker side;
  • Minimizing shearing forces on the skin;
  • Maintaining all precautions set by the physician;
  • Ensuring that enough staff is present to assist in the transfer;
  • Maintaining balanced support;

To avoid a resident falling or rolling out of bed, it is essential that the nursing home staff follow the Care Plan.  If nursing home staff fail to follow a resident’s Care Plan, the nursing home can be held liable for any injuries that are sustained.

Many falls occur simply because staff try to take on more than they can handle, or they make a poor decision, thinking that everything will be OK.  For instance, nursing home staff should never walk away and leave a resident with poor bed mobility lying or sitting on the edge of the bed unattended because of the risk of a fall.  The nursing home staff needs to make sure the resident is safe and bring supplies with them before placing the individual on the side of the bed, rather than leaving the resident to sit on the bed while the staff member gets the needed supplies – even if such supplies are only across the room.  Alternatively, the nursing home staff can call for help from other staff rather than leaving a patient in a precarious position in bed.

Momentary bad decisions – such as leaving the resident on the side of the bed alone for only a few seconds, or trying to move the resident from a bed to a wheelchair without getting additional assistance when such assistance is necessary – can easily result in a severe injury.

How Should A Nursing Home Resident Be Properly Transferred from A Bed?

Patient care transfers from a bed to a wheelchair or stretcher are a vital yet often neglected aspect of patient care. Unsafe and poorly organized transfers can result in a significant increase in mortality; thus, it is critical that nursing home personnel strictly adhere to clinical guidelines.[3]

For example, during a bed-to-stretcher transfer, the following steps must be performed:

  1. Identify the number of staff required for a transfer (typically, 3-4 personnel for a bed-to-stretcher transfer)
  2. Explain what the patient can do to assist (hands crossed over chest, chin tucked, etc.) and obtain necessary supplies
  3. Raise/lower the bed to a safe working height, lock the brakes, lower guard rails, and position the patient closest to the side of the bed where the transfer will commence
  4. Place a sheet on top of a slider board
  5. Roll the patient over to the side opposite the stretcher and place the slider board under the patient
  6. Roll the patient back into the supine position (making sure the resident is centered on the slider board)
  7. Brind the stretcher to the side of the bed (slightly lower than the bed)
  8. Position the heathcare team such that the patient’s weight is distributed evenly
    • Two on the side of the stretcher (grasping the sheet placed over the slide board)
    • One at the head of the bed (grasping the pillow and sheet)
    • One at the far side of the patient between the chest and hips
    • An additional staff member can be positioned at the end of the bed
  9. The leader of the healthcare team should initiate transfer, counting 1, 2, 3
  10. The providers will take the following actions:
    • The provider on the far side of the bed will gently push the patient;
    • The two providers on the side of the stretcher will shift their weight from front to back by pulling the sheet; and
    • The providers at the head and foot of the bed will ensure that the patient is secured, lifting the head/shoulders and feet, respectively
  11. Slide the resident until the resident is on the stretcher’s center
  12. Remove the slide board and cover the patient
  13. Raise the guard rails and adjust the stretcher height[4]

If personnel fail to follow clinical guidelines and a patient is injured during a transfer, the nursing home could be liable for damages resulting from the injuries or a wrongful death.

Can a Nursing Home Be Liable if My Loved One Fell Out of Bed on their Own?

If a resident does not have mobility issues and falls out of bed on their own accord (such as while sleeping), by sheer accident, or when staff is not around or assisting, it is usually difficult (if not impossible) to prove that a nursing home is liable without additional facts that the nursing home actually did something wrong.  As an example, if a resident had previously fallen out of bed and guard rails were prescribed, and staff failed to implement guard rails or failed to place them in the “up” position on the bed, a nursing home might be liable.

Call Us for a Free Consultation

If you are unsure whether a nursing home is at fault for a fall, call our office to schedule a complimentary consultation.  Our experienced nursing home neglect attorneys and our on-site nurses can review the facts and circumstances of your loved one’s injuries, including all information from their medical and health charts and the Care Plan developed for them.  There is also no cost for this review and investigation, even if your case is not accepted.

Once we have undertaken a medical assessment of the case, we can advise you as to whether we believe that a case for negligence exists and the options that you (on behalf of your loved one or family) may have in seeking justice and accountability.

You deserve answers.  We’ll help in seeking accountability.

[1] Falls in Nursing Homes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

[2] Falls in Nursing Homes – Homes and Recreational Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

[3] Patient Care Transfer Techniques, National Library of Medicine,

[4] Id.