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April 13, 2021

5 tips for avoiding lawsuits

Jennifer Wilkinson

It should come as no surprise that in today's litigious society, nursing and assisted living facilities are prime targets for untimely and unfortunate lawsuits. These lawsuits can be costly – even financially devastating – to operations of any size.  

Some imperatives may appear to be common sense or logical to most observers, but quality time should be dedicated to understanding what these steps are and how they can benefit you when a lawsuit strikes. Some of the key tips you may want to consider to be better prepared are: 

  1. Incident reports don’t belong with residents’ charts. Keep incident reports and investigation materials separate from the residents’ charts and records. Although the insurance company and attorneys need this information, along with any notes or personnel files, it should be kept out of the charts/records as in most cases; these reports may be discoverable in a lawsuit. 

  2. When in doubt, use the phone. In the modern age, people often utilize text-based communication such as text messages and email. Text communication lacks inherent context and when read out of context, it can mean something wholly different than intended. Further, a simple punctuation error can change how a reader perceives what is being written about; it could mean the difference between "Let's eat grandma!" and "Let's eat, Grandma!" Don't eat grandma!

  3. Keep the plan of care current. Like any field in which a plan is needed to complete a task or handle a situation, plans should always be kept current. An elder's condition can change or deteriorate rapidly, increasing their need for care. As such, an updated plan of care is paramount to promote that care was being considered as a resident's needs changed. It shows a facility is being proactive rather than reactive. Additionally, updated plans can be helpful in refreshing employees’ memories.

  4. Document, document, document! Charting can make or break a case. Good charting is a key piece when defending a lawsuit. Particular attention should be paid to charting and otherwise documenting any communications taking place with the resident’s primary care physician or responsible family members about changes in condition.

  5. Contact the insurer immediately after a sentinel event occurs. It’s key to be prepared to discuss what happened and what’s being done to prevent it from happening again. Ask the insurer for suggestions on how to communicate with the resident and/or family members following the event.

Contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency representative for more information on risk management strategies and best practices for senior living organizations today.