When we mention accidents and personal injuries, people often think about our clients seeking advice in respect of road traffic collisions, accidents at work, and clinical negligence. Few people will give immediate consideration to the tragic accidents that commonly occur within the care homes that families have entrusted the safety of their loved ones to.
There are currently around 1,299 care home services in Scotland, supporting around 34-39,000 residents per year. These care homes provide accommodation and care for those who require extra support in their daily lives. It is expected that care homes will provide, not just for a loved one’s basic needs, but a place of comfort and, most importantly, a place of safety. Nonetheless, it seems that many individuals, and families, are suffering the effects of negligent care, and often criminal acts, resulting in the injury or the loss of a loved one.
Earlier this year, several media sources recovered statistics from the National Records of Scotland. These figures revealed that there were 187 deaths last year as a result of accidents, falls, poisoning, self-harm and assaults within these care homes. Many of these events could have been prevented. As a result, several of the offending establishments have had court proceedings raised against them for their failings, and it is hoped that such legal action will act as a preventative measure, and as a warning to the care industry.
So, what should you do if you or your family member has been affected by something such as this?
- Ask the care home questions;
- Get to the bottom of what is happening and how it happened.
The law imposes strict rules on the standard of care that care homes are to provide. There are also duties to risk assess all manner of things from identifying whether a resident requires one-to-one care, whether another is likely to display acts of violence and aggression, or whether bed rails are required. These duties must be complied with. If control measures have been put in place following any risk assessments, these need to be adhered to. Failing to assess these risks and to ensure that users’ needs are met may mean that you have a right of legal action against that care home provider. Of course, there are a number of instances that give rise to legal action, separate to risk assessments.
If you have any concerns in respect of a loved one’s care, it is firstly advisable to lodge a complaint with the Care Inspectorate who will investigate matters. They will usually only accept a complaint if it is no more than six months old, without very good reason. We would also encourage you to seek expert legal advice to find out whether you have a legal case. This will allow for redress for you and your family, and will also help ensure that what happened does not happen to someone else.
It is important that you contact a specialist solicitor as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits. The law will only allow for three years after, usually the date of the event, for court proceedings to be brought.