When Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Negligence?
A study from 2018 revealed that approximately 1 in 6 older adults experienced some form of abuse due to neglect in institutions in the U.S.
Most commonly, at the heart of this problem is negligence on the manager’s side.
While there are laws in place to protect nursing home residents, the mere existence of laws hasn’t done much to improve the situation.
When a nursing home resident is injured in any way, proving who is at fault legally is not always easy with scarce evidence. On top of that, the residents injured are not always able to speak for themselves.
So, when can you sue a nursing home for negligence?
In this post, we discuss nursing home negligence to help you determine whether your case qualifies for litigation so you can pursue legal action.
What Qualifies as Nursing Home Neglect?
Negligence is rampant in nursing homes, but not all forms of neglect are clear and easily defined, especially if you’re unfamiliar with state laws.
The next step is to contact a qualified law firm whose services can help you get some justice and hold the responsible people accountable for the injury. An experienced legal team will guide you through the complex process of seeking justice for your suffering.
If you suspect nursing home negligence but aren’t sure what really falls under the scope of neglect in these facilities, below are the most common examples of negligence in assisted living facilities:
Any form of insulting nursing home residents, using degrading terms to describe them, or any words that hurt the person is considered verbal abuse.
Physical abuse includes hitting nursing home residents, restraining them, pinching them and causing any kind of physical harm.
While it can be pretty obvious such as bruises, scars and injuries, in many cases, signs of physical abuse can go by undetected. Oftentimes, a resident is unable to report the injuries because they are terrified or because they have trouble remembering and concentrating on things.
Sexual abuse in nursing homes is also frequent. In fact, over 1,000 nursing homes were implicated in sexual abuse between 2013 and 2016.
Often, victims are women with cognitive impairments.
Any physical touch that a person has not given their consent for is considered sexual abuse. Some examples include unwanted intimacy or even rape.
Elderly people are often lonely and feel isolated in nursing homes, so they become easy targets for sexual assaulters. It is the duty of the nursing facility to protect its residents from this and any other type of assault and provide a safe environment for the elderly.
Psychological and Emotional Abuse
Psychological and/or emotional abuse is harder to detect than physical abuse. It involves any type of behavior that causes pain or suffering to a person.
Emotional abuse often comes from yelling and insulting (verbal abuse), but it can also be non-verbal such as intentionally ignoring the resident and their needs or making them feel guilty.
Emotionally abused residents often become depressed and withdraw into themselves.
Inadequate Administration of Medication
Nurses at nursing facilities are responsible for the proper administration of medication – giving the right dose and at the right time.
Failing to administer medication adequately is a common problem in nursing homes and includes giving the wrong dose, giving the wrong medication, not providing enough water or food as prescribed with the medication, etc.
Failure to Provide Basic Hygiene
Nursing homes are responsible for maintaining hygiene and providing a clean and sanitary environment for residents.
Poor hygiene and sanitary conditions in nursing homes are also considered neglect, so legal action can be taken against the facility in question.
Failure to Maintain the Premises Safe
Nursing home facilities are also responsible for providing safe and secure facilities free of hazards. Unsafe premises can lead to accidents such as slips and falls that can result in serious injury.
If a resident suffers an injury that is a result of neglect, the nursing home manager can be liable and sued for negligence.
Failure to Provide Basic Nutrition and Water
Residents in assisted living facilities often need help eating and drinking because they are ill, recovering from illnesses or surgeries, or they suffer from dementia, so they’re unable to care for themselves.
Failure to assist residents in eating and drinking regularly can lead to health complications or even death and is also considered negligence.
When a nursing home accepts a resident, it assumes the responsibility of providing quality care to that resident. Negligent supervision can lead to injuries, in which case the injured resident or their family can pursue legal action against the facility.
Negligent supervision can also be a result of negligent hiring. Negligent hiring is when a facility hires people who are unqualified for the job, lack experience or have a history of substance abuse.
The facility must perform a background check before hiring an employee and to ensure they have substantial experience in caring for the elderly.
It is not uncommon for elderly residents to be targets of financial exploitation. This includes deceiving and/or exploiting a person for financial gain or stealing their money.
Fraud also refers to forging a resident’s signature or tricking them into signing documents that do not benefit them.
Medicaid fraud is also common in nursing homes where healthcare providers bill for services they didn’t provide.
In many cases, nursing home residents are completely unaware that they are a victim of financial fraud. Many of them suffer from illnesses that impair their cognitive capabilities and are taken advantage of by shady staff.
Understaffed nursing homes fail to provide proper care and support to all the residents. This can lead to many issues such as dehydration, significant weight loss, depression, bedsores, as well as failure to notice and address residents’ needs adequately.
Understaffing in nursing homes became an even greater problem during COVID-19, which led to more nursing home neglect cases.
If a nursing home resident died from injuries that were a result of neglect and the death, and the death was otherwise avoidable, this is considered wrongful death.
Wrongful death can be a result of inadequate medical care, receiving wrong medications, malnutrition, dehydration, assaults, severe abuse, failure to supervise residents, which leads to falls and injuries, etc.
If your loved one died due to nursing home negligence, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Signs of Negligence
As mentioned previously, it is not always easy to detect negligence in nursing homes. However, there are some common signs that indicate that something is wrong, and there is reason to suspect neglect.
Some of the signs include:
- Signs of physical abuse
- Sudden weight loss
- Lack of regular bathing and washing
What To Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Negligence?
Elder abuse and negligence can have grave consequences for the victim and their family members. These consequences can be psychological, emotional, physical, or financial.
If you suspect that you or your elderly loved one is a victim of negligence, you have the right to take action immediately.
The first step is to talk to someone in the facility, report the problem and seek medical attention.
While you can’t make the tragic experience go away, you can be properly compensated for the damages done, and you can potentially help prevent other residents from suffering at the hands of the same facility in the future.
Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.