The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Announced Investigation Into ‘Walkaway Deaths’ At Assisted Living Facilities In California and Across the Country

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (July 7, 2024) – The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has launched an investigation into ‘walkaway deaths’ at assisted living facilities across the United States.

The investigation comes after a report by the Washington Post found that there have been nearly 100 walkaway deaths since 2018 at these facilities. A ‘walkaway death’ occurs when a member of the facility is left unattended and then leaves.

Residents may die due to exposure to adverse weather. Many have been involved in car accidents. The Post documented 2,000 such incidents in their reporting.

Unlike nursing homes, the estimated 30,000 assisted-living facilities are not regulated by any federal agency. A lack of sufficient staffing and training was a consistent factor in many of the deaths reported.

Liability For Walkaway Deaths At Assisted Living Facilities 

All of the walkaway deaths that have occurred at assisted living facilities were completely preventable. According to The Guardian, “In the majority of the more than 2,000 cases the newspaper found of residents wandering away or simply being left outside, failures by caregivers or administrators were cited, with many care homes understaffed, ignoring alarms, skipping bed checks or otherwise neglecting crucial safety procedures.” Several steps should be taken to prevent walkaway deaths.

  • Assisted living facilities should conduct a risk assessment of each resident’s cognitive abilities.
  • Assisted living facilities should set up secure perimeters to minimize the risk of residents wandering off.
  • Assisted living facilities should utilize surveillance cameras, door alarms, and other technologies to monitor residents.
  • Assisted living facilities should ensure that all of their staff are well-trained.

Assisted living facilities have a legal obligation to protect residents from reasonably foreseeable sources of harm. Patients with dementia or other neurodegenerative illnesses are at an increased risk of being seriously injured or becoming lost if not monitored. Accordingly, these facilities must properly monitor all patients. When a facility fails to properly supervise residents who are then killed, this could form the basis of a negligence claim.

Depending on the facts of any case, there could be several other sources of liability for any walkaway death in California. This is particularly true if a resident is hit by a car. Drivers must take reasonable measures in order to avoid pedestrians, even if they wander aimlessly into the roadway. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code 21954, drivers must utilize due care in order to protect the safety of any pedestrian in the roadway. It is important that evidence is properly preserved after any death at an assisted living facility.

  • Surveillance footage should be sought.
  • Eyewitnesses should be interviewed.
  • Medical records related to the death should be preserved.
  • A police report should be created.
  • An investigation should be conducted.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to deaths at assisted living facilities. Part of the problem is that these facilities have high turnover rates and often face staffing shortages. When there are fewer people available to monitor residents, accidents are more likely to occur. Sadly, though, these facilities will often do everything in their power to deny responsibility if someone dies in their care. This is why it is so important to seek legal counsel as early as possible.

Investigating Walkaway Deaths At Assisted Living Facilities

We at the Sehat Law Firm were deeply concerned to hear of the high number of walkaway deaths at assisted living facilities. It is our sincere hope that measures are taken to prevent additional tragedies. Every single one of these deaths is preventable and a serious violation of trust.

Do you need more information about a walkaway death in California? Our team of personal injury attorneys is here to answer any questions that you may have. We care deeply that assisted living facility residents and their families get the support and justice that they are entitled to. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into any incident, we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (949) 825-5200.



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