legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Columbia Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Columbia is one of the country's most successful planned communities. It is home to an economically and racially diverse population, attracting families, retirees, and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds.
Disabled and elderly individuals can find a great home in the bustling community of Columbia. However, their expectations may not hold up if they have to reside in a nursing home. There are over 120 nursing homes surrounding Columbia’s city center, but most facilities receive a bare minimum score from government inspections. Some are even cited for abuse and neglect.
So, what do you do if you or a family member suffers from substandard care, abuse, or neglect in a Howard County nursing home?
The affiliate Maryland personal injury lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, can help your family hold the negligent nursing facility accountable. Our skilled attorneys handle countless nursing home abuse cases across Howard County, assisting victims in recovering financial compensation through litigation or an out-of-court settlement.
Contact our Columbia nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 for a free consultation. All sensitive or confidential information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.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 intentional acts of nursing home workers, visitors, or other residents.Elder Abuse
The law defines elder abuse as a single or repeated act that causes or increases the risk of harm to a patient aged 65 or above in a relationship with an expectation of trust (e.g., a caregiver-patient relationship).Prevalence of Abuse
Abuse and neglect of disabled and elderly individuals are common in both community and institutional care settings. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that 2 in 3 nursing facility staff admitted to committing abuse in 2017 alone. Unfortunately, there is not enough data to show the overall prevalence of abuse based on reports of older adults and their proxies.
Due to underreporting, the actual rate of abuse in nursing facilities remains unknown. Nevertheless, it is a massive public health problem that needs addressing.The Rights of Nursing Home Residents
State and federal laws help protect the legal rights of nursing home residents. These laws include:Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987
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 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 nursing home 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
The rights of Maryland nursing home residents mirror federal regulations, as outlined in Section 19-343 in the Maryland Code.
The Maryland Code also enforces regulations for the following:
- Safe patient lifting
- Quality assurance
- Annual assessment of workplace safety issues
- Sanctions for non-compliance
Maryland also allows electronic monitoring devices in nursing facility patients’ rooms (Vera’s Law) with certain restrictions. This law enables families to install cameras in loved ones’ rooms to prevent them from being abused or neglected.Types of Abuse in Nursing Facilities
Nursing home abuse cases include many forms of abuse, including:Physical Abuse
Physical abuse involves intentional acts of violence against a resident, causing injury, pain, or impairment. It includes but is not limited to actions such as slapping, striking, kicking, burning, pinching, and restraining a resident without medical reasons.
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Broken bones
- Unexplained injuries (e.g., cuts, burns, bruises)
- Restraint or grip marks
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
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
- Difficulty sleeping
Sexual assault or abuse is any non-consensual sexual contact with a resident, including those who cannot give valid consent (e.g., a mentally disabled person). It can take many forms, including verbal sexual harassment, unwanted touching, explicit photography, sodomy, coerced nudity, and rape.
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 abuse is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of a resident’s personal property, including money and assets. It can take many forms, including manipulating bank accounts, stealing personal belongings, and unauthorized transactions on credit cards.
Signs of Financial Exploitation
- Sudden bank account changes
- Unexplained transactions on debit or credit cards
- Missing belongings
- Forged signatures on financial documents
- Inconsistencies in financial records of the facility
- Sudden changes in financial habits
Neglect occurs when a nursing home fails to provide a resident’s basic needs, including food, medication, clothing, and medical care, creating or increasing the risk of harm to a patient. Whether intentional or unintentional, neglect is considered abuse.
Signs of Neglect
- Poor hygiene
- Bed sores
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Extreme weight loss
- Untreated medical conditions (e.g., recurring urinary tract infections)
- Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
- Inadequate clothing for the weather
- Lack of medical aids (e.g., eyeglasses, walkers, hearing aids)
- Medication errors
Falls are the leading cause of death of people over 85 in nursing homes. While falls can be purely accidental, they can also result from nursing home negligence.
The following are the most common causes of abuse- or neglect-related falls:
- Lack of proper medical aids (e.g., walkers, wheelchairs)
- Inadequate supervision
- Faulty bed rails
- Overdosing or underdosing
- Failure to assess and address fall risks
- Physical violence (e.g., shoving)
Due to seniors' increased physical and mental frailty, abuse can result in severe consequences, such as broken bones, extreme weight loss, and even death. Something minor like bed sores can easily lead to infections, sepsis, and other severe consequences for someone older.
The same goes for immuno-compromised and physically-compromised residents, regardless of age. Pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections, and other seemingly minor ailments have higher chances of escalating when someone is physically vulnerable.Who Is Most at Risk?
Any resident can be a victim of abuse, regardless of age, background, or financial status. However, some residents are more vulnerable than others, including:
- Patients with physical or mental disabilities
- Patients that need additional nursing home care
- Patients with access to an abundance of wealth
- Dementia patients
- Women and children
- Bedridden patients
Many nursing home abuse cases involve significant consequences for victims and their families, such as:
- Severe injuries
- Untreated medical conditions (e.g., pressure sores)
- Psychological trauma
- Emotional distress
- Loss of personal property
- Monetary losses
- Loss of quality of life
- Reduced family or social ties
- Increased risk of illnesses
- Wrongful death
Nursing home neglect and abuse can result in significant injuries, such as:
- Bed sores or pressure ulcers
- Head trauma or traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Broken bones, especially hip fractures
- Bruises and cuts
- Soft tissue injuries (e.g., sprains, strains)
- Spinal cord injuries
Usually, nursing home abuse cases result from multiple factors, including:
- Underqualified and Improperly Trained Staff: Nursing home workers without proper training, education, and experience may lack the skills to provide proper care to disabled and elderly residents. Furthermore, underqualified or improperly trained nursing home staff may be more likely to engage in inappropriate behavior towards residents.
- Understaffing: A lack of employees increases the risk of abuse in nursing homes due to high-stress environments, overworked staff, and subpar nursing home care practices.
- Poor Management: Nursing homes with poor management often lack accountability among their employees, increasing the risk of harm to all residents. Furthermore, poor management can lead to overscheduling and employee dissatisfaction, resulting in abusive or neglectful behavior.
- Underreporting: The law requires nursing homes to report incidences of abuse or neglect. However, only a small percentage of cases are reported to the authorities, leaving many to remain unaddressed. As a result, many abusive or neglectful nursing homes continue to operate without sanction.
- Lack of Background Checks: Background checks are necessary to ensure a safe environment for residents and employees in nursing homes. Unfortunately, some nursing homes skip this vital step, potentially allowing employees with histories of abuse or violence to work directly with vulnerable patients.
Call the police as soon as you suspect your loved one is abused or neglected in their nursing facility. But if you think your loved one or another resident is in grave danger, call 911 immediately.
You can also report nursing home negligence in Maryland to :
- Adult Protective Services
- Maryland Department of Aging
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman
- Office of Attorney General in Maryland
- Maryland Office of Health Care Quality
Maryland agencies may revoke or suspend the licenses, certifications, and government funding of nursing homes found guilty of non-compliance with state and federal regulations. Widespread abuse or neglect may even result in a permanent nursing home closure.
Additionally, local law enforcement may file criminal charges against individuals found guilty of abusing or neglecting a nursing home resident. Depending on its extent, this crime can result in a misdemeanor or felony. Punishments range from fines up to $10,000 to imprisonment or both.
After you file a complaint to the authorities and remove your loved one from the potentially dangerous situation, contact a Columbia, MD nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your case.Filing a Columbia, MD Nursing Home Abuse Claim
State and federal laws forbid the abuse and neglect of nursing home patients. Hence, nursing homes that fail to protect residents from avoidable harm--regardless of who is directly responsible for it--could face significant legal repercussions.
Victims can hold negligent nursing homes accountable by filing a personal injury claim. With the help of a Columbia, MD, nursing home abuse lawyer, your family could recover financial compensation for your damages.The Role of Your Columbia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Your Columbia nursing home abuse attorney will play multiple roles during your case, including helping you:
- Establish the liability of at-fault parties
- File your claim within the statute of limitations
- Collect evidence to support your claim
- Handle all claim-related paperwork
- Negotiate settlement values
- File your lawsuit in Maryland court, if necessary
The following parties may be liable for your loved one’s injuries:
- Staff members
- Other residents
As the law mandates, nursing homes may also be held responsible for failing to protect residents from avoidable harm.Evidence
Substantial evidence is crucial to proving the liability of at-fault parties. Your Columbia nursing home abuse lawyer can help you gather proof to support your claim, such as:
- Photos of your loved one’s injuries
- Medical records, including psychological evaluations
- Incident and police reports
- Financial documents, in case of financial exploitation
- Witness accounts from family members, employees, visitors, or other patients
- Expert testimony
The value of your settlement largely depends on what damages your family incurred, such as:
- Medical Bills: Compensation for your loved one’s medical care, including hospitalization, medication, therapy, surgery, emergency transportation, etc.
- Disability: Compensation for disability-related damages if your family member becomes disabled from their injuries. These damages may include loss of quality of life, disability services, 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, which may manifest in loss of enjoyment in daily activities, reduced independence, and reduced societal ties.
- 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, and grief.
- 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 Columbia nursing home abuse attorney will estimate the potential value of your settlement based on your damages and other applicable factors. This estimation will give you a figure of how much your family deserves to receive in compensation.Settlement
Negligent nursing homes often settle claims without going to court. Hence, the facility’s insurance company may offer you a payment after filing a claim, which you can accept outright. You can no longer sue for additional damages once you accept the offer at any point in the legal process.
However, initial offers are not always fair, making negotiations necessary. Your Columbia nursing home abuse lawyer will negotiate the settlement value on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation your family deserves.Other Legal Options
Unfortunately, not all negotiations are successful. Some nursing homes may even deny responsibility for victims’ losses. If this happens, filing a civil lawsuit may be in your best interest.
When you file your case in civil court, your Maryland nursing home abuse attorney will pursue compensation for your damages through litigation. A judge or jury will hear evidence from both parties before determining a verdict, and this process can take a few weeks to a few months.
Your Columbia nursing home abuse attorney could also help you pursue other legal options, such as mediation or arbitration, which are less expensive and drawn-out than litigation.The Statute of Limitations in Maryland
The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Maryland is three years (Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code section 5-101). Usually, the clock starts running on the date of the underlying incident or its discovery.
File a lawsuit as soon as possible to avoid missing the deadline and losing critical evidence. Working with a skilled Maryland nursing home abuse attorney will help you file your case in court within the statute of limitations.How to Avoid Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
While it is not the public’s responsibility to prevent nursing home negligence, families should do their part in protecting their loved ones from abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The following are some valuable tips to ensure your loved one does not experience poor care, abuse, or mistreatment in a Howard County nursing facility:
- Visit your loved one frequently and encourage other family members to do the same
- Learn the difference between the signs of abuse and dementia or mental illness
- Watch for less noticeable injuries, such as bed sores
- Observe for changes in your loved one’s behavior and personality
- Investigate falls, which are the leading cause of unexplained injuries and broken bones in nursing home abuse cases
- Ensure that your family member has a way to contact you in emergencies
- Get to know your loved one’s primary caregivers in the nursing home
- Ask other patients about their experiences
- Observe how workers treat residents; watch for strange or potentially abusive behavior
- Check if your loved one’s room is safe and sanitary
- Install an electronic monitoring device in your loved one’s room (with the consent of the facility and your loved one’s roommate, if they have one) to catch and deter maltreatment
- See if your loved one’s nursing facility has previous sanctions or violations (this information is usually available to the public)
Look for other Howard County nursing homes if you suspect your loved one is not receiving proper care in their current facility. Furthermore, report poor care or outright abuse to the authorities as soon as possible to prevent it from worsening.
Most importantly, listen to your loved ones if they say they are being abused or neglected in their nursing facility. Avoid giving nursing homes the benefit of the doubt; doing so may lead to your loved one suffering even more.Hire a Columbia Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Attorney to Resolve Your Case
Whether your loved one’s injuries are something minor like bed sores or something more severe like a fracture, you have the legal right to hold the nursing facility accountable for its actions (or inaction).
The Columbia nursing home abuse lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC defend the rights of residents who were deprived of proper care or abused by caregivers, visitors, or other patients. Our skilled lawyers handle cases across Howard County, Maryland, tirelessly helping victims recover fair compensation for their unnecessary pain and suffering.
Call our affiliate Columbia, MD, nursing home abuse offices at (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form for a free consultation. Our Maryland lawyers will hold your best interest at heart, charging you no fees unless we win your case.
All sensitive or confidential information you disclose with our Columbia nursing home abuse lawyers will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.Resources: