Nursing homes are subject to both federal laws and your state’s laws. In 1987, the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. Nursing home facilities must provide a definite level of standard of care that is reasonable in all medical and nursing home care industry standards to residents and patients.

If injury or death occurs when a patient or resident is under the care and supervision of a nursing home facility, the nursing home may be held legally responsible. Nursing home negligence occurs when an employee, staff, or other personnel at a nursing home fails to exercise the duty of care that is owed to the patients and residents at the home.

Many times this includes neglect and abuse of patient. In order for an employee to be held liable, the employee’s breach of their duty must be the direct and proximate cause of the patient’s injury, and the injury must be real and objectively measurable.

Negligence in a nursing home setting can often occur due to factors such as:

  • Understaffing
  • Employees working too many hours or too many shifts
  • Failure to inform employees of state and federal health/safety standards
  • Miscommunications between employees

How is Nursing Home Negligence Proved?

Nursing home facilities must provide a definite level of standard of care that is reasonable in all medical and nursing home care industry standards to residents and patients. The plaintiff must prove nursing home negligence by claiming 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 negligent breach was cause of patient’s injury.

When a nursing home is negligent when treating a patient that causes injuries to a patient, the nursing home may be liable for medical malpractice. Proving negligence requires that the following elements be satisfied:

  • Duty Was Owed: All nursing homes owe a basic duty of care to the patient.  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 and/or economic losses. 
  • Damages: The negligent conduct must have caused actual, measurable damages.  Imaginary losses that cannot be proven generally cannot be compensated for.

What are Some Examples of Nursing Home Negligence?

Nursing home negligence can include many different types of violations, including:

  • Failing to respond to patient requests or complaints;
  • Failing to provide food or medication at the required time;
  • Leaving a patient unattended, especially if they need special supervision;
  • Not screening visitors;
  • Direct abuse of a patient;
  • Negligence in relation to bathing, changing clothes, and other duties;
  • Failure to keep premises free of hazards and reasonably safe; and/or
  • Negligent hiring of nursing home employees.

Nursing home neglect or negligence can often go unreported, especially in cases where the patient is elderly or senile. In such cases, the negligence may be discovered through investigations or from personal reports. State-sanctioned investigations can uncover many violations in care homes.

How are Nursing Homes Regulated?

Nursing homes are subject to both federal laws and your state’s laws. In 1987, the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. This act was designed to make sure that nursing home residents get quality care.

The act established which services a nursing home must provide and the standard for these services. They include:

  • Nursing, pharmaceutical, and rehabilitation services
  • Regular assessments of residents’ health
  • Complete care plans for each resident

Additionally, the Nursing Home Reform Act established the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights, which includes:

  • The right to be free from abuse
  • The right to privacy
  • The right 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:

  1. Economic damages reimburse the plaintiff for actual monetary losses suffered. These damages may include:
    • Past medical bills
    • Future medical bills
    • Lost wages
    • Lost future Wages and Earning capacity
  2. Non-economic damages represent compensation for the injury itself and are more difficult to quantify. These damages may include:
    • Pain and suffering
    • Emotional distress
    • Loss of enjoyment of life

When Should I Bring a Claim Against the Nursing Home?

Nursing home negligence and medical malpractice claims have a strict timeline to bring a claim against the nursing home. Usually, a patient is required to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in civil court within five years from the date of 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 serious legal penalties and consequences. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer if you or a loved one has been involved with nursing home negligence. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice for your case, and can also represent you if you need to attend any court hearings. It is also possible that you may face criminal charges if your negligence amounted to abuse, as most states have specific set of criminal statutes that apply in the event of elder abuse. So if you are facing criminal charges, not just a lawsuit brought on by the victim’s family, then it is very important to contact a criminal defense lawyer near you.