legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Negligence?
Neglect is one of the most common forms of mistreatment in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care settings. Unfortunately, it is also a frequently occurring form of elder abuse against seniors at home.
In a nursing home and any other setting, neglect is the failure of a caregiver to meet the basic needs of an individual dependent on them for care. Neglect encompasses the lack of food, hydration, clothing, medical care, social interaction, and other things necessary to maintain a person’s physical and emotional well-being.
Nursing homes are legally responsible for protecting residents from abuse or negligence from anyone. Hence, failing to meet a patient’s basic needs is a clear violation of resident rights, potentially subject to legal repercussions. If you or a loved one experienced nursing home neglect, the compassionate personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, could help you sue the facility.
Contact our personal injury lawyers at (800) 926-7565 for a free consultation.What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a form of abuse wherein a facility fails to provide proper care to residents. More specifically, it is the failure to meet a patient’s basic needs, including:
- Food and Water: Residents must receive enough food and water to maintain their health and well-being. Furthermore, nursing homes must provide therapeutic diets to those who need them to manage medical conditions (e.g., controlled-carbohydrate diets for diabetic nursing home residents).
- Clothing and Personal Hygiene: Nursing home residents have the right to appropriate clothing and good hygiene. They must be dressed in clean and weather-appropriate clothes as much as possible. Moreover, nursing home staff must assist residents with bathing, toileting, and dressing if they cannot do so independently.
- Medical Care: Nursing home neglect can stem from medical negligence, often occurring when employees fail to provide proper and timely medical care. It can also involve failing to prescribe and administer necessary medications, manage wounds, diagnose illnesses, prevent pressure ulcers, etc.
- Safety: Every nursing home must address accident hazards to keep residents safe and reduce the risk of accidents. Otherwise, nursing home residents have an increased risk of slips, trips, falls, and other mishaps that can lead to significant injuries. Furthermore, a nursing home must have adequate security measures to prevent elopement (i.e., a nursing home resident leaving the facility without supervision) and unauthorized entry of non-residents.
- Sleep: Nursing home residents should get adequate rest daily. Facility staff must ensure that all residents get enough sleep and provide medical support to individuals who have trouble falling and staying asleep if necessary.
- Warm and Clean Living Conditions: Every nursing home resident has the right to a clean and warm space. When nursing home neglect occurs, patient quarters could be left unsanitary, cold, and generally unsafe for vulnerable older adults.
- Social and Recreational Activities: A resident’s social and recreational needs are often overlooked, especially in understaffed or overcrowded nursing facilities. Nursing home neglect can occur when employees do not give residents opportunities to socialize with others, engage in hobbies, stimulate their brains, contact loved ones, etc.
- Physical Activity: Exercise is a basic need for some nursing home residents, particularly older adults with weakened physical states. Nursing home staff should help these patients engage in physical activity as much as possible unless medically inappropriate.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 states that every nursing home resident has the “right to be free from neglect or abuse.” Moreover, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) impose standards all nursing homes must meet to retain government funding.
Government agencies also regulate, investigate, and certify nursing homes to ensure the quality of nursing home care on the state level. States survey all long-term care facilities at least once yearly to determine if they comply with state and federal regulations.Common Nursing Home Neglect Cases
Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, handles thousands of nursing home neglect cases yearly. Some of the most common claims we encounter stem from the following:
- Failing to prevent accidents, leading to physical injury
- Not responding to requests for assistance
- Allowing malnutrition or dehydration to happen
- Failing to prevent pressure ulcers, infections, and other preventable conditions
- Neglecting to diagnose and treat medical conditions on time
- Not providing a safe, sanitary, and warm living environment
Neglect is a widespread problem in nursing homes but is severely underreported and unaddressed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 12% of nursing home staff admitted to committing neglect in 2017.
However, rigorous data on nursing home neglect is limited, meaning the actual scope of the problem is difficult to determine. Furthermore, neglect cases in long-term care facilities are severely underreported, further hindering accurate estimates.What Are The Causes of Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is usually a multi-factorial issue. Neglect can stem from the following:Understaffing
According to the National Health Care Association (NHCA), representing over 14,000 nursing facilities in the US, about 94% of nursing home providers said they had experienced staffing shortages in July 2020. However, understaffing has been a persistent problem in nursing homes for decades.
Federal law requires at least one registered nurse (RN) on-site eight hours daily, seven days a week, a licensed nurse 24 hours daily, and sufficient staffing to meet resident needs (“sufficient” is not defined through a specific number of nursing home staff). These regulations do not specify the hours an RN on duty must dedicate to direct care only.
The CMS recommends 4.1 direct care hours per resident, 2.8 hours from certified nursing assistants (CNAs), 0.75 hours from registered nurses, and 0.55 hours from licensed practical or vocational nurses. However, over the past two decades, multiple studies have revealed that many facilities’ staffing levels fall below these minimum recommendations.
A lack of staff reduces direct care hours for each patient, increasing the risk of nursing home neglect. In understaffed facilities, the staff-to-resident ratio is severely disproportionate, with one staff member often taking care of too many people at one time. Hence, these overburdened employees often have inadequate time and energy to meet the care needs of all patients.
Sometimes, nursing home staff are forced to postpone care for some residents because others need their attention more.Negligent Hiring Practices
Nursing home employees must have proper education, experience, and training to deliver quality care to all residents. A nursing home lacking acceptable hiring standards and policies ultimately risks the quality of care.
Nursing home neglect can occur due to the following deficiencies when finding and hiring new employees:
- Not conducting background checks
- Hiring people with inadequate experience and education
- Hiring staff for the sake of filling out positions quickly instead of ensuring adequate care for nursing home residents
- Re-hiring employees who have committed nursing home neglect or abuse
Nursing home employees need proper onboarding and training before they can manage residents. Furthermore, existing staff members should receive re-training or refresher courses to improve or maintain the quality of care in nursing facilities.Poor Supervision and Management
Every nursing home facility needs an effective management team to prevent abuse and neglect. Nursing supervisors should be present to oversee all employees, especially those involved in direct patient care, and ensure that residents are receiving the care they need.
Adequate supervision helps prevent nursing home neglect by:
- Discouraging neglectful behavior from employees for fear of repercussions
- Giving out disciplinary actions for negligent staff members, such as written or verbal warnings, suspensions, terminations, etc.
- Identifying nursing home patients that require additional care and attention
- Determining the signs of nursing home neglect
- Addressing staff grievances that increase the risk of nursing home neglect, such as burnouts, dissatisfaction, employee conflicts, abusive residents, etc.
Anyone can become a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. However, residents in understaffed and underfunded facilities are the most frequent victims, based on numerous studies and complaints.
The following factors also increase the risk of a resident experiencing nursing home neglect:
- Being part of a racial minority
- Being physically or mentally disabled
- Being bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound
- Having poor cognitive or mental health
- Being entirely dependent on nursing home staff members or basic needs
Elder abuse in the form of nursing home neglect can lead to significant physical, psychological, and financial consequences to nursing home residents and their families, such as:
- Physical Injuries: Lack of supervision increases the risk of accidents that can cause broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord trauma, and other injuries. Insufficient skin assessments can lead to pressure ulcers. Inadequate staff could mean untimely responses to a medical emergency resulting in injuries. And so on.
- Trauma and Poor Mental Health: Victims of elder abuse often suffer psychological wounds, usually manifesting through depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental conditions.
- Social Withdrawal and Isolation: Abused residents may self-isolate or become hesitant to interact with others due to nursing home neglect's emotional and mental effects.
- Diseases: Older adults that don’t receive adequate care have higher chances of suffering communicable diseases and infections. Furthermore, nursing home neglect can lead to a lack of relief from existing medical conditions.
- Poor Health and Immunity: Elder abuse and neglect can cause residents’ health to decline, leading to poor immunity and quality of life.
- Increased Mortality: Nursing home neglect can increase patient mortality due to the abovementioned factors.
- Financial Burdens: Elder abuse victims and their families may experience increased financial hardships because of medical bills caused by physical injuries or illnesses and the costs of transferring loved ones to new facilities.
Elder abuse signs may manifest differently from person to person. Additionally, they may be difficult to notice, especially if the indicators are similar to symptoms of other conditions, such as dementia.
Nevertheless, any changes in your loved one’s physical or mental status may indicate nursing home neglect. Common warning signs include but are not limited to the following:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pressure ulcers
- Recurring infections
- Unexplained injuries and illnesses
- Poor personal hygiene
- Dirty or unsafe living conditions
- Lack of medical equipment, e.g., wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc.
- Fear of nursing home staff members
- Lack of improvement in existing medical conditions
- Unusual behavior, such as agitation, withdrawal, depression, anxiety, etc.
If you notice these signs in your family member, consider seeking assistance from a personal injury attorney. They can help investigate your claim and take legal action if they find evidence of nursing home neglect.How to Report Nursing Home Neglect
You can report known or suspected nursing home neglect to local law enforcement. The police can file charges against the at-fault individual if they find evidence of significant negligence. However, call 911 if you think your loved one or another elderly resident is in immediate danger.
You can also report a negligent nursing home to the following agencies in your state:
- The Department of Health and Human Services
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- The Department of Public Health
- Adult Protective Services
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman
- The Office of the Attorney General
Reporting a negligent nursing home to the authorities could result in penalizations for the facility or individual, such as fines or license revocation. However, doing so will not lead to financial compensation for your family.
Filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit could help you pursue damages from the facility. When you sue a nursing home for neglect, you are taking legal action for their failure to provide proper care, which is one of their primary responsibilities.
Our nursing home abuse neglect attorneys can help you file a nursing home neglect lawsuit. Generally, you must satisfy the following elements to sue a nursing home:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you or your loved one. Every nursing home has the legal obligation to prevent abuse and neglect.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. A ‘breach’ is any act of nursing home negligence, such as hiring an incompetent worker, failing to set infection control procedures, etc.
- You or your loved one suffered a significant injury. A key element to a nursing home neglect lawsuit is a substantial injury. You must prove that you or your loved one suffered significant physical, emotional, or financial harm to sue a nursing home for negligence.
- The defendant’s actions directly caused your damages. Additionally, you must show that the defendant’s negligence directly led to your economic or non-economic losses.
You can sue a nursing home for negligence to recover financial compensation for your and your family members’ losses, such as:
- Medical Bills: Out-of-pocket expenses for hospitalization, medication, surgery, therapy, and other treatments required to treat the consequences of neglect.
- Disability: Mobility aids, physical rehabilitation, and other related damages if your loved one becomes disabled due to an injury or illness resulting from neglect.
- Loss of Quality of Life: Monetary compensation for the loss of quality or enjoyment of life due to neglect.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and emotional injuries, including physical pain, trauma, mental anguish, etc.
- Lost Wages: Income lost by family members while caring for an injured loved one.
- Wrongful Death: Funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical treatment, loss of companionship, and other wrongful death damages if your loved one dies from elder abuse and neglect.
Suing a nursing home does not guarantee a set amount. Your lawyer will determine the potential value of your settlement during your initial consultation.How an Elder Abuse Attorney Can Help
Suing a nursing home for negligence is not easy, especially if the facility is part of a powerful company. The legal process is more straightforward when a skilled attorney handles your nursing home neglect case.
The experienced lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, can help you sue a nursing home for negligence by:
- Investigating the neglect your loved one experienced in their nursing home or assisted living facility
- Identifying at-fault individuals and establishing their role in the mistreatment
- Determining the exact laws and legal rights the facility violated through nursing home negligence
- Calculating your losses and determining a potential settlement amount
- Gathering evidence to prove your claim
- Filing a legal claim on your behalf
- Negotiating with the at-fault company
- Filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit and representing you in court, if necessary
- Filing medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit, if necessary
Negligent nursing homes put residents’ health, safety, and welfare at risk, often leaving older adults vulnerable to injuries, illnesses, and even death.
Seeking legal help is crucial before suing a nursing home for negligence. A nursing home abuse lawyer can handle your abuse or wrongful death lawsuit process, making it easier for your family to recover financial aid.
The skilled attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, are here to help you take legal action against your loved one’s nursing home for negligence.
Contact our attorneys at (800) 926-7565 for a free case review. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Suing a nursing home should not lead to additional financial hardships. Our lawyers handle all accepted civil lawsuits on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.Resources: