NJ Nursing Homes Are Liable for Injuries to Residents Who Wander Off

Our lawyer-doctor fights for justice in nursing home neglect cases

Nursing home residents usually have some impairment that keeps them from living independently or under the care of family members. Physical frailty, cognitive decline, dementia, emotional problems and mental illness are common among patients in a typical nursing home. For this reason, the nursing home has a duty to make sure its residents remain on its property and under appropriate supervision.

Seigel Law opened our doors in 1976 with the sole purpose of representing injured clients in the communities of Ridgewood, Hackensack, Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Garfield, Fort Lee, Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth and Clifton. We advocate for justice for the vulnerable victims of nursing home injuries. Our lawyers take immediate steps to ensure your loved one’s safety, and then assertively pursue compensation for the injuries your relative sustained after wandering off.

What is wandering off and elopement?

Wandering typically refers to the aimless movements of a person with cognitive impairments inside the facility, but often outside an area considered safe. Elopement involves leaving the safe confines of the nursing home. An eloper may purposefully vacate the premises, without appreciation for the dangers of doing so.

Nursing home elopement safeguards

Approximately 10 percent of nursing home claims are related to elopement, with 45 percent of these elopements occurring within the initial 48 hours of admission and 70 percent resulting in the resident’s death. In common cases, residents were exposed to assaults, falls down stairs, tumbles into water bodies, pedestrian traffic accidents and other dangerous situations outside the direct supervision of the nursing home personnel.

When you admit your loved one into a nursing home, you expect the facility to protect the person. At the core of this duty is keeping the residents in safe areas of the home and in the confines of the facility itself. Failure to do so is negligence. Nursing homes have a variety of resources at their disposal to prevent residents from being put in harm’s way, including:

  • Assessing at-risk patients and more closely monitoring them
  • Installing supervised cameras in non-private areas of the facility and especially at exit doors
  • Rigging audible alarms at exit doors and windows
  • Installing locks to prevent ingress to dangerous areas of the building
  • Implementing a counting system to quickly react when a resident is missing
  • Keeping regular tabs on residents, particularly those with an increased likelihood for elopement — such as a patient suffering from dementia

Long-term care facilities are not permitted to use physical or chemical restraints to prevent their residents from eloping or wandering off. Use of such devices may be considered abusive and subject to criminal sanctions and civil claims.

Protect your family member from nursing home neglect

Seigel Law advocates for the rights of nursing home residents throughout northern New Jersey. Call our medical malpractice attorneys at 201.444.4000 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation with our lawyer-doctor. We make appointments at our Ridgewood office, in your home or at the long-term care facility if your caretaker duties or injuries keep you from coming to our office. Through our contingency arrangement, you are not responsible for paying lawyer fees unless we recover damages through settlement or verdict.