Attack by care home resident leads to injury – but who's liable?

Dated:   

On 23 May 2011, a 26 year-old West Midlands carer was injured after a violent attack by a resident of the care home she worked for.

Elderly Care Home

It was a day on which 3 members of the centre's staff were scheduled to work. However, during the shift one took leave of absence for another appointment, leaving just 2 carers to cope with an already excessive workload.

Sudden frenzied attack


Without warning one resident began to attack another with his wheelchair. When the carer intervened in an attempt to protect both residents from injury, the attacker then turned on her, kicking and punching her.

Astonishingly, the struggle lasted almost an hour, during which the carer received no assistance from her co-worker. The attack left the carer with bruises to her arm and at one point she felt her arm crack.

Severe arm injuries


A medical examination revealed the carer had suffered soft tissue and muscle injuries to her left wrist and elbow. However, there were further long-term problems: the carer was unable to carry out domestic chores, and she needed her sister's help to care for her children. The carer was also forced to take 10 months off work, leaving her unable to pay many bills.

Care home was liable


On the carer's behalf we wrote to the owners of the care home alleging its responsibility. Among a number of breaches of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the home had failed to make a suitable assessment of risks and, by employing staff in insufficient numbers, had not provided a safe system of work.

Acting for the carer, Simpson Millar's Chris Hoyle noted how the case has highlighted the duties of employers in the care arena.

"Employers need to ensure they provide suitable levels of staffing to meet the care needs of their clients and to ensure the safety of their employees," Chris said. "The compensation award recognises that this company's obligations have not been met."

Extra childcare fees


Among these were fees for childcare. Normally the carer's children attended a nursery three days a week. Unable after the incident to look after her kids without assistance, however, she was forced to send them to nursery for an extra two days, which without a regular income she could not afford.

To substantiate the extra fees we obtained evidence from the nursery, along with confirmation from a medical expert that it was reasonable for the carer to have childcare assistance.

This meant we could claim for the additional nursery fees, the carer's loss of earnings and the care and help she received from her family.

Staff shortage


According to the carer, five members of staff would normally be tasked with looking after the home's seven residents. The staffing shortfall on the day of the incident was compounded by the fact that the carer's co-worker was usually based at another centre.

The carer was awarded compensation of £13,000.

Top tips to take away:


  • Care home owners are responsible for the health and safety of staff as well as residents
  • Lack of staff is a critical issue – more and more, it's the cause of hurt and distress in the care arena


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