Nursing homes are subject to both federal regulations and your state’s laws. In 1987, the federal government enacted the Nursing Home Reform Act. Nursing home facilities must supply a definite standard of reasonable care to all medical and nursing home care industry standards to residents and patients.
If injury or death happens when a patient or resident is under the care and control of a nursing home facility, the nursing home may be held legally liable. Nursing home negligence happens when an employee, staff, or other personnel at a nursing home fails to exercise the duty of care owed to the patients and residents at the home.
Many times this includes neglect and abuse of the patient. For an employee to be held liable, the worker’s breach of their duty must be the direct and proximate cause of the patient’s injury. The injury must be real and objectively measurable.
Negligence in a nursing home setting can often occur due to factors such as:
- Employees working too many hours or too many shifts
- Failure to inform employees of state and federal health/safety standards
- Miscommunications between employees
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
There are millions of elderly adults in nursing homes throughout the country. These people rely on others for primary care, such as nutrition, water, and clothing. Nevertheless, many nursing homes have insufficient and poorly trained staff which contributes to the growing issue of nursing home abuse.
What Are Some Common Types of Abuse?
Abuse, particularly long-term care abuse, can include the following:
- Failure to provide sufficient sustenance, water, or medication
- Failure to protect the elderly from safety risks
- Assault, battery, rape, or any other unwanted physical touch
What Can I Do to Stop the Abuse?
There are a variety of steps an elderly individual can take to stop the abuse:
- File a complaint with local law enforcement. The police may start a criminal investigation into nursing home abuse.
- Contact your local protective services agency to start an investigation. The local protective agency usually comes under the State Department of Health.
- A lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages may be feasible.
Can a Nursing Home be Held Responsible for the Actions of Its Employees?
Employers can usually be held liable for the actions of their employees when they’re at work. If an employee injured you or a loved one while on duty, the nursing home is probably responsible.
How Is Nursing Home Negligence Proved?
Nursing home facilities must deliver a definite standard of care that is reasonable to all medical and nursing home care industry standards to residents and patients. The plaintiff must demonstrate nursing home negligence by asserting that the nursing home failed to perform standard of care when taking care of the patients and breached their duty of care to patients, and the negligent breach was the cause of the patient’s injury.
If a nursing home is negligent when treating a patient that causes injuries to a patient, the nursing home may be responsible for medical malpractice. Establishing negligence requires that the following elements be satisfied:
- Duty Was Owed: All nursing homes owe the patient a basic duty of care. However, the exact standard of care may depend on the professional’s field practice.
- Breach of Duty: The nursing home must have acted in some way that breached their duty of care.
- Causation: The breach of duty must be the direct and actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries or financial losses.
- Damages: The negligent conduct must have caused actual, measurable damages. Imaginary losses that cannot be verified generally cannot be compensated for.
What Are Some Examples of Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing home negligence can include many different types of offenses, including:
- Failing to respond to patient requests or complaints;
- Failing to provide food or medicine at the required time;
- Leaving a patient alone, especially if they need particular supervision;
- Not screening visitors;
- Direct abuse of a patient;
- Negligence concerning bathing, changing clothes, and other responsibilities;
- Failure to keep premises free of dangers and reasonably safe; and
- Negligent hiring of nursing home workers.
Nursing home neglect or negligence can often go unreported, particularly when the patient is elderly or senile. In such circumstances, the negligence may be uncovered through investigations or personal reports. State-sanctioned investigations can find many infringements in care homes.
How Are Nursing Homes Regulated?
In 1987, the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. This act was designed to ensure that nursing home residents get quality care.
The act specified which services a nursing home must supply and the standard for these services. They include:
- Nursing, pharmaceutical, and rehabilitation services
- Regular reviews of residents’ health
- Comprehensive care plans for each resident
Further, the Nursing Home Reform Act specified the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights, which includes:
- The freedom to be free from abuse
- The right to privacy
- The freedom to make complaints against the home without facing discrimination
- The right to be treated with dignity
What Are the Recoverable Damages for Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing home negligence can lead to civil damages for the losses caused to a patient. These damages can include damages to reimburse the plaintiff for actual financial losses suffered.
These damages may include:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Lost earnings
- Lost future wages and earning capacity
Non-economic damages represent compensation for the injury itself and are more challenging to quantify. These damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Limits on Non-Economic Damages
Regulation of non-economic damages differs with jurisdiction. Some states only issue non-economic damages if the plaintiff can first establish economic damages. Frequently, non-economic damages are subject to a specific formula in proportion to the economic damages, and they are frequently subject to a statutory cap.
Under federal regulation, non-economic damages must be reasonable. Generally, they are limited to ten times the amount of economic damages awarded. They cannot be issued for purely imaginary losses or invented by the plaintiff and have a greater chance of being given if they can be traced to some physical manifestation. For instance, pain and suffering may manifest in physical symptoms such as ulcers or PTSD.
When Should I Bring a Claim Against the Nursing Home?
Nursing home negligence and medical malpractice claims have a rigid timeline to bring a claim against the nursing home. Usually, a patient must file a medical malpractice lawsuit in civil court within five years from the injury or occurrence of incident/claim or within three years from when the injury was discovered, whichever is earlier.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing home negligence can often lead to severe legal penalties and consequences. You may need to hire a nursing home abuse lawyer if you or a loved one has been involved with nursing home negligence. Your lawyer can provide you with legal advice for your case and represent you if you need to attend any court hearings.
You may also face criminal charges if your negligence amounted to abuse, as most states have a specific set of criminal statutes that apply in the event of elder abuse. If you face criminal charges, not just a lawsuit brought on by the victim’s family, then it is essential to contact a criminal defense attorney.