legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Columbia South Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Thousands of nursing home residents suffer from abuse and neglect every year. Unfortunately, many cases of nursing home abuse are not reported to enforcement agencies, even though it is legally required.
According to the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services, nursing homes fail to report approximately 1 in 5 abuse cases to state agencies. Hence, there is no accurate data to reflect the abuse rates in nursing homes.
Nevertheless, nursing home abuse is a known public health issue across the country, including in South Carolina. Hundreds or maybe thousands of nursing home residents suffer from injuries, mental distress, and financial losses from the negligence of their facilities.
Are you or a loved one a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse? The affiliate South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC can help you seek financial compensation.
Call our legal team at (800) 926-7565 for a free case evaluation. Our experienced Columbia nursing home abuse lawyers can help you hold responsible parties accountable and recover just compensation for your damages.What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is a single or repeated act that causes physical, psychological, or financial harm to a resident. It can result from negligence, carelessness, or malicious intent of employees, visitors, or other residents.What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of action that causes harm to an older person aged 60 and above. It can occur in any relationship with an expectation of trust, such as in a caregiver relationship.
Since over 90% of nursing home residents are senior citizens, elder abuse is the most common type in nursing homes.The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act defines what services nursing homes and other residential care facilities must provide residents and establishes standards for these services. This law aims to protect the legal rights of nursing home patients, including:
- Freedom from abuse, neglect, or mistreatment
- Freedom from physical restraints
- Accommodation of physical, psychological, medical, and social needs
- Participation in resident and family groups
- Be treated with dignity
- Exercise self-determination
- Communicate freely
- Participate in one’s care plan review and be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or status change in the facility
- Voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal
Abuse in nursing home facilities can take many forms, including:
Physical abuse involves the deliberate use of force against a patient, causing physical pain, injury, or impairment. It includes but is not limited to actions like slapping, striking, kicking, burning, and pinching.
Restraining a patient without medical reasons may also be considered physical abuse and is prohibited by state and federal laws.
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Broken bones
- Unexplained physical injuries (e.g., cuts, burns, bruises)
- Broken eyeglasses
- Restraint or grip marks
- Fearfulness around a specific staff member
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Mental or Emotional Abuse
Psychological abuse, also known as mental or emotional abuse, involves verbal and non-verbal acts that cause psychological harm to a resident. These acts may include verbal abuse, humiliation, intimidation, gaslighting, and geographical or social isolation.
Signs of Mental or Emotional Abuse
- Personality or behavioral changes
- Depression or anxiety
- Being extremely withdrawn
- Loss of enjoyment in usual activities
- Bouts of anger
- Difficulty sleeping
Sexual assault or abuse is any unwanted sexual contact with another person. It can take many forms, including verbal sexual harassment, unwanted touching, sodomy, coerced nudity, and rape. Sexual contact with a person that cannot give valid consent is also regarded as sexual abuse.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Reluctance or refusal to be touched
- Unexplained bruises around the breasts or genitals
- Genital infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
- Sudden changes in personality or behavior
- Refusal to be alone with specific individuals
Financial exploitation or abuse is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of a resident’s personal property, including money and assets. Financial abuse occurs in different ways, such as forging checks, stealing valuables, and using credit cards without authorization.
Signs of Financial Abuse
- Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
- Unexplained transactions on credit cards
- Missing belongings
- Forged signatures on financial documents
- Inconsistencies in financial records of the facility
- Sudden changes in financial habits
Neglect occurs when nursing home staff fails to provide a patient’s basic needs, including food, medication, clothing, proper hygiene, and medical care, creating or increasing the risk of harm to a patient.
Neglect may be intentional (e.g., a staff member deliberately refusing to feed a patient) or unintentional (e.g., a staff member forgetting to feed a patient due to a high volume of tasks). Both are considered abuse.
Signs of Neglect
- Poor hygiene
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
- Inadequate clothing for the weather
- Poor mental health
- Lack of medical aids (e.g., eyeglasses, walkers, hearing aids)
- Medication errors
The signs of elder abuse may mimic those of early-stage dementia, such as mood and personality changes, sleep problems, and social withdrawal. Thus, family members should not immediately assume dementia in their elderly relatives exhibiting strange behavior.
Consult a specialist outside your elderly loved one’s nursing facility if you are unsure whether they are exhibiting signs of abuse or dementia.Abuse and Neglect vs. Mental Illness
Nursing home abuse or neglect may manifest in signs similar to mental illness, such as irritability, insomnia, frequent crying, and apathy. For this reason, family members must investigate suspected abuse or neglect before assuming mental illness.Which Nursing Home Residents are Most at Risk of Abuse?
Some nursing home residents are more susceptible to abuse than others, including:
- Patients with physical or mental disabilities
- Patients with special needs
- Patients with access to an abundance of wealth
- Dementia patients
- Women and children
- Patients in understaffed nursing facilities
Victims of nursing home neglect and abuse often suffer the following consequences:
- Fractures, head trauma, and other serious injuries
- Psychological trauma
- Emotional distress
- Financial losses
- Loss of personal property
- Loss of quality of life
- Reduced family or social ties
- Increased risk of illnesses
- Untimely death
Although abuse, neglect, and mistreatment can occur in any facility, they are more likely to occur in places where the following staff issues are present:
- Underqualified and Improperly Trained Staff: Medical staff needs adequate education, training, and experience to provide quality care to disabled and elderly patients. When nursing home staff lack the qualifications to care for these vulnerable individuals, the risk of abuse and negligence is higher.
- Understaffing: A lack of employees leads to high-stress environments and an imbalanced patient-caregiver ratio, increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.
- Poor Management: Lack of accountability, supervision, and organization can promote abusive or neglectful behavior among staff members. Poor management may also lead to disgruntled employees who may retaliate by abusing residents.
- Underreporting: Although South Carolina law requires nursing home employees to report cases of mistreatment, a vast majority go unreported. As a result, many nursing home abuse and neglect cases remain unresolved.
Report suspected cases of abuse or neglect to the Columbia Police Department. But if you think your loved one or another nursing home resident is in imminent danger, call 911 as soon as possible.
You can also file a report to the following South Carolina agencies:
- Adult Protective Services (APS)
- South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP)
Any nursing home, assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility found guilty of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment may lose its licenses and certifications. Moreover, Columbia police may file criminal charges against individual perpetrators of abuse, violence, or exploitation against a resident.Filing a Columbia Nursing Home Abuse Claim
If a nursing home fails to protect its residents from abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, it may be liable for a victim’s damages. Victims of nursing home abuse in Columbia, SC, can take legal action by filing a personal injury claim.
The Role of Abuse and Neglect Attorneys
A skilled attorney can help you hold the negligent nursing home facility responsible for their actions. The following are some of their primary duties:
- Establish the liability of at-fault parties
- Collect evidence to support your claim
- Handle all claim-related paperwork
- Negotiate settlement values
- File your case in civil court, if necessary
The perpetrators of nursing home abuse and neglect may include:
- Nursing staff members
- Other residents
Regardless of who is directly at fault for the abuse, the nursing home owner or administrator will also be legally responsible for failing to take preventative measures.
The following forms of evidence can help you prove nursing home negligence:
- Photos of your loved one’s injuries
- Medical records
- Psychological evaluations
- Incident reports
- Police reports
- Financial records, in case of financial abuse
- Witness accounts from employees, visitors, or other residents
- Expert testimony
Gathering proof as soon as possible is crucial to building a strong claim. Our nursing home neglect lawyers will tell you what evidence you need during your free consultation.
Abuse victims and their family members could recover compensation from negligent nursing homes for the following damages:
- Medical Expenses: Compensation for your loved one’s medical bills, including hospitalization, medication, therapy, surgery, emergency transportation, etc
- Disability: Compensation for disability-related damages if your family member becomes disabled from the abuse or neglect. These damages may include loss of quality of life and medical equipment.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and non-physical injuries, including physical pain, mental trauma, emotional distress, etc.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Compensation for your loved one’s reduced quality of life after the abuse or neglect, which may manifest in loss of enjoyment in daily activities, decreased independence, reduced societal ties, etc.
- Wrongful Death: Compensation for death-related damages if your loved one dies due to abuse or neglect. These damages typically include funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical treatment, grief, etc.
- Punitive Damages: Monetary awards on top of compensatory damages, aiming to punish negligent nursing homes for their actions and deter harmful behavior in the future.
Your lawyer will estimate the settlement value you deserve based on these damages and other factors in your case.
Filing a personal injury claim against a negligent South Carolina nursing home may not always be successful. After you file your claim, the facility’s insurance company may offer you a settlement. Usually, initial offers are too low to compensate for all damages. If this happens, your lawyer could help you negotiate a better settlement.
However, if the nursing home refuses to budge or denies liability for your damages, you could take the case to a civil court. During the trial, a judge or jury will hear both sides of the story and determine a verdict.
Note that you can no longer pursue additional damages once you accept the settlement offer. With that in mind, consult an attorney before signing any document from the insurance company.
The Statute of Limitations
Victims of negligent South Carolina nursing homes have three years from the date of the underlying incident to file a civil lawsuit (SC Code Ann. section 15-3-530).
It is crucial to file your nursing home negligence lawsuit within the three-year window. Otherwise, the court may refuse to hear your case unless particular circumstances are present.
Should there be any particular circumstances in your case, our legal team will help you determine how long you have to file a lawsuit.Hire an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney to Obtain Justice For Your Family
Despite the laws and state agencies regulating South Carolina nursing homes, abuse is still a problem in the state. Columbia is no different, with thousands of nursing home residents (most are senior citizens) suffering from mistreatment at the hands of negligent facilities.
Did you or a loved one receive improper care from a South Carolina nursing facility? Or were you a victim of direct assault resulting in physical injury, disability, or mental trauma? Whatever the case, our Columbia nursing home abuse lawyers are here to help resolve your legal issues.
Our affiliate South Carolina attorneys can help your family recover just compensation for your damages through litigation or an out-of-court settlement. Our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency basis, meaning there are no fees unless we win.
Contact our South Carolina office at (800) 926-7565 or fill out this contact form for a free consultation with an experienced attorney. All information you provide during your free case review will remain confidential under an attorney-client relationship.