Attorneys Representing Families in Assisted Living Accident Lawsuits
Assisted living provides a different level of care challenges than do skilled nursing facilities. While, on the surface of things, the level of care necessary at assisted living facilities may be less than nursing homes, there is still extensive attention necessary on the part of the residential facility. At the same time, the higher level of functioning by the residents of this facility and greater independence presents different risks to their well-being. While different standards may apply to the operators of these assisted living facilities, they can still be held legally liable for harm that befalls their residents.
The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center can help your family when your loved one has been injured at an assisted living facility. By speaking with you, we can help you establish whether the injury occurred as a result of the negligence of the nursing home. If this can be proven in court, or if the claim is strong enough, then your loved one or your family can be eligible to receive financial compensation for the injury.Statistics About Assisted Living
The number of Americans who reside in assisted living facilities has increased as the population ages. There are nearly 29,000 assisted living facilities located throughout the country. These facilities have a total capacity of nearly one million beds. In 2016, there were approximately 700,000 people living in these facilities.
This means that each facility has an average capacity of 33 beds, making them much smaller than nursing homes. Since assisted living is a profitable business, the number of facilities in the country is on the increase. In addition, corporations dominate the landscape for assisted living. Slightly over half of the assisted living facilities in the country are owned by chains, as opposed to 42 percent that are independently owned.
What may make assisted living facilities more dangerous is the fact that they are not subject to the same level of regulation and scrutiny as a nursing home. There are no uniform federal laws and regulations for assisted living facilities, leaving states to establish their own standards. Some states have more lax standards for assisted living facilities and, therefore, information about care and injuries may be difficult to obtain.
The level of care required and standards that must be followed are often not widely known. There is little to inform families about the quality of case at an assisted living facility before they select it as the residence for their loved one. At the same time, lawsuits after the fact are the only way for these facilities to be held accountable. They cannot be “shamed” in the same manner as a nursing home would be by the release of a scathing inspection report.
While the level of medical care required is lower than in nursing homes, assisted living facilities may still be negligent when a resident is injured. The term “assisted living” implies that there is some sort of assistance provided. When that assistance is not forthcoming, residents can suffer physical harm. Either a failure to obtain medical care for the resident or not providing the necessary level of supervision necessary can result in an injury to the resident. Although residents may be mobile and have higher cognitive abilities, it does not mean that the assisted living facility can simply leave them to their own devices.
Assisted living facilities can still suffer from the same shortages of staff that plague nursing homes. These companies are often for-profit entities that seek to maximize their profits. Sometimes, this comes at the expense of adequately staffing the facility. When this occurs, residents do not receive the necessary care.
Recently, there has been a precedent-setting lawsuit that has sought to apply the Americans with Disabilities Act to assisted living facilities. The legal theory is that in failing to provide adequate staff for these facilities, the operators are denying the disabled the full use of the facility. A judge recently ruled that the ADA does apply to assisted living facilities and now the lawsuit is proceeding on the merits.Injuries Suffered in Assisted Living Facilities
Here are some of the common harms and injuries suffered by residents at assisted living facilities:
- Falls - The most common risk for injury at these facilities is from falls. Roughly one in seven residents here will be injured in a fall each year. One in every three will experience some sort of injury related to a fall.
- Abuse – There are many different types of abuse that can be encountered at assisted living facilities. First, residents are still able to manage their financial affairs and can be vulnerable to either being swindled or having their identity stolen. Second, residents may be sexually assaulted or abused by staff at the assisted living facility. Third, staff may also physically or emotionally abuse the residents.
- Failure to Supervise – Assisted living residents are more mobile and, as a result, they have the ability to get around on their own. They are often taken on trips and activities outside the facility. Residents can either leave the facility on their own or be injured when they are on an organized activity. The staff has the obligation to supervise the residents both when they are off and on premises.
- Failure to Provide Medical Care – While assisted living does not deal with patients who are as infirm as nursing homes, they still assume the responsibility for the resident’s medical care. They must ensure that each resident receive the proper medical care and it must be administered correctly. The facility can be held liable for any medical malpractice that injures the resident.
While they may not be subject to the same level of regulatory oversight, assisted living facilities can still be held legally responsible for injuries. In many cases, the damages in an assisted living lawsuit can be higher since the resident had a higher quality of life prior to the injury. Here are some instances in which families have recovered financially from an assisted living facility for an injury sustained by a resident.Lawsuits Against Assisted Living Facilities
Jury Verdict for $1.5 million in New York (2012) – The resident fell and hit her head and suffered a decline in health that led to her death within a year. The family contended that the assisted living facility should have never admitted her in that she warranted a higher level of care. According to the family, the facility should have followed a higher medical standard of care and conducted an assessment of the resident and whether assisted living was a fit for her. The lawsuit also alleged that the facility should have monitored the woman’s condition and noticed a decline in her overall physical health.
Jury Verdict for $5 million in California (2017) – The resident was in an assisted living facility for those with dementia. She was wandering outside the facility unsupervised and she fell. She suffered fatal injuries in the fall. The resident had previously been injured in a fall and warranted a higher level of supervision. The family argued that the facility neglected the resident and it constituted elder abuse according to California law.
Jury Verdict for $19,708,263.11 in Texas (2005) – The resident was at an assisted living facility with a special care unit for those with Alzheimer’s. The resident wandered into another resident’s room and was brutally attacked, suffering cuts and bruises. Several weeks later, she was beaten again by another resident and hit her head in the confrontation. The resident became more lethargic and starting sleeping more often. By the time the family had insisted on further examination, the resident had severe head injuries and died shortly thereafter. The family’s lawsuit alleged that the assisted living facility did not adequately supervise the resident and prevent her from being beaten.
Settlement for $2 million in Massachusetts (2017) – The resident had dementia and was in a special memory care unit of the assisted living facility. The resident was wandering around the facility unsupervised. She end up on the second floor of the facility by a window, which she managed to open. The resident fell out of the window to her death. The nursing home knew that the resident had a tendency to wander and look for the exits.
Verdict for $11 million in Arizona (2009) – The resident was a 36-year old male. He suffered severe gastrointestinal damage when ingested various foreign objects. He died of an obstruction to the gastrointestinal tract. The family alleged that the facility made misrepresentations to them about the facility and the caregivers. The lawsuit claimed that the facility failed to provide adequate supervision and did not properly store the foreign objects. Included in the damages were $4 million of punitive damages. For more information on Arizona law, look here.
Verdict for $23 million in Washington (2019) – This is a rare case where an assisted living facility resident developed pressure ulcers. She checked out of the facility and died three months later. One of the factors that caused her death was the pressure ulcers. The lawsuit was brought in California even though the facility itself was located in Washington. California law allows for punitive damages against assisted living facilities, and most of this verdict consisted of punitive damages.Has Your Loved One Been Injured in an Assisted Living Facility? Get Legal Help Now
The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center have many years of experience helping families of seniors who have been injured due to the negligence of operators of assisted living facilities. These companies do not have unfettered power to neglect their obligation to your loved one. Instead, the law can hold them accountable and we can help the law work for you. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 to schedule your completely free no-risk case assessment so we can begin to discuss how we can help your family.Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources