legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
Nursing facilities owe a duty to their residents to treat them with dignity and respect. Those who are at a nursing home are there because they are physically or cognitively infirm and cannot care for themselves. Accordingly, they are the most vulnerable members of society. Many long-term care facilities treat their residents with the level of respect and care that they deserve.
However, some skilled nursing facilities have staff members who actively mistreat the residents. Elder abuse is, unfortunately, something that must be dealt with throughout society. Not only can certain instances of abuse be considered criminal in nature, but they may also be a legal cause of action for your family.
The nursing home abuse attorneys at the NHLC can help your family if your loved one has experienced abusive care at a nursing facility. As described below, there is a fine line between ordinary mistreatment and something that rises to the level of abuse. Our attorneys can help you figure out if whatever your family member is experienced is grounds for a nursing home abuse lawsuit.What is Constitutes Abuse?
'Abuse' is a very broad classification that sweeps in many different types of mistreatment. One type of elderly abuse is the sexual assault of older adults in a long-term facility. The other types of abuse of residents are physical abuse, financial abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse. While some staff members may simply be having a bad day and maybe verbally or physically rough with the resident, at a certain point it crosses a line to where it can be thought of as abuse.
Further, neglect of residents is another type of abuse. Residents who develop pressure ulcers and infections from general neglect of care have also successfully brought lawsuits against offending facilities with the help of a nursing home abuse lawyer.
In addition, neglect does not have to be as a result of the actions of the staff members. A resident can suffer abuse at the hands of another resident. When that happens, the nursing facility may be liable on the grounds that they failed to protect the elderly resident from harm.
Both physical and verbal abuse can be legally actionable. Verbal abuse that is egregiously shocking can be the basis for legal action, especially if that abuse is intended to degrade or cause emotional harm to an elderly person. Certainly, physical abuse that causes an injury could result in financial compensation for your family.Legal Obligations to Keep Patients Safe and Free from Abuse
Nursing facilities have many different obligations when it comes to instances where their residents may be abused. The requirements start at the hiring phase. A facility must run background checks of staff members to both make sure that they have no prior incidents of abuse and that there are no felony convictions in general. Nursing facilities can face regulatory action from the state and federal governments if they fail to do so. If a home does not give the proper level of attention to these background checks, it will be another factor in a decision to bring a legal claim for the actions of their employees.
In addition, a facility must promptly investigate any allegation of abuse of elderly patients. The facility does not have the option of making their own judgment about the plausibility of an allegation without performing an investigation. This holds true even if the resident has a history of making far-fetched allegations of abuse. There is a legal responsibility to immediately report every abuse allegation to the state right after it has been filed with no exceptions.Statistics on Abuse in a Long-Term Care Setting
If nursing abuse seems prevalent, it is because statistics show that a large percentage of senior citizens are subject to some sort of mistreatment. A large majority of cases of elder abuse are not even reported to the authorities. There was a study of 2,000 senior citizens in nursing facilities, and 44 percent of them reported that they were victims of abuse. There is the possibility that some experienced abuse and did not even report it to the survey.
In addition, nursing home abuse is something that is very much a part of public consciousness. The media reports of elder mistreatment seem horrifying and garner many headlines. For example, there was a scandal at the Good Samaritan Society Nursing Home where four teenage nursing assistants performed horrific acts of abuse on elders including spitting in the residents' mouths, invasive sexual touching and verbal abuse of residents. The four nursing assistants faced criminal charges and the state issued a large fine for the abuse. In addition, there was also a civil lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the residents. Headlines such as these are shocking and arouse public consciousness and ire.
The vulnerability and physical condition of residents mean that they will likely suffer more profound effects of the abuse. Seniors who have experienced abuse have a higher death rate than those who have not. The worse condition that a senior is in, the more likely they are to suffer abuse. Those with dementia or Alzheimer's disease have a higher abuse rate than seniors who do not have the condition, in part because they are less likely to be able to report mistreatment.
Again, most errors and nursing neglect can be argued as abuse. Juries may be more sympathetic to plaintiffs when there are allegations of abuse as opposed to mere negligence.Sample Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit Verdicts & Settlements
Here are some instances in which plaintiffs have received financial compensation as a result of nursing home negligence lawsuits.
Jury Verdict for $75,000 in Maryland (2004) – An elderly person was found on the floor with bruises on her body. The facility claimed that the bruises were natural since the resident bruised easily. The family alleged that another resident was physically abusing the resident and the facility failed to take steps to protect the resident. The resident’s son alleged that there were many assaults, and some of them were not reported to the family or to the police. According to the lawsuit, the Maryland facility breached its duty by failing to move the resident to a safer place.
Jury Verdict for $11.1 million in New York (2012) – The resident was developmentally disabled. The elder abuse awsuit alleged that they were subject to a long pattern of psychological abuse. The resident had a condition where they repeated words that were spoken by others and staff members would use profanity and then laugh and mock him when he repeated those words. The NY nursing home’s defense was that the resident had the developmental capacity of a two-year-old and could not understand that he was being mocked. There were punitive damages of $3.5 million included in the jury award.
Settlement for $550,000 in Illinois (2008) – A resident was allegedly pushed by another resident, resulting in a fall. The resident sustained a fractured her hip and other serious injuries when she fell. This was the ultimate cause of her death. The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the IL nursing home failed to provide a safe environment and protect her from the other resident. In addition, the family claimed that these residents had threated the plaintiff in the past and the nursing home failed to take any action or intervene when other residents had physical confrontations with her.
Jury Verdict for $160 million in Texas (2005) – The resident was provided with a roommate who violently assaulted him. In the attack, the resident suffered a brain injury, a concussion, and a subdural hematoma. The lawsuit claimed that the nursing home placed a resident with a known tendency for violence in close proximity with the plaintiff. The lawsuit alleged that there were doctor’s warnings that the assailant was mentally challenged and should be placed in a locked area instead of in an unlocked area with the plaintiff. The TX nursing home was assessed punitive damages of $150 million as part of the total.
Settlement for $120,000 in Ohio (2013) – The elderly resident was attacked by another resident and suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in his death. The fatal attack was the third in a series of attacks by the same assailant. The nursing home abuse lawsuit alleged that the OH nursing facility knew of the violent nature of the assailant and failed to take steps to remove the attacker from the facility and protect the resident who was assaulted. While there was a settlement, the nursing home was able to escape some liability because it was a mental health facility and was not liable for the acts of patients.Has Your Loved One Been Physically Assaulted or Abused at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now
The nursing home abuse attorneys at the NHLC have been assisting families in obtaining justice for many years. Unfortunately, we are all too well versed in the area of nursing home abuse and have helped many families in this area. We can apply our expertise to the facts of your case and let you know if we believe that you have a viable lawsuit against the nursing home where your loved one was harmed. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 for a free consultation.