Moving a loved one into a nursing home or assisted living facility is difficult for most families. It requires placing trust in the facility to provide adequate medical treatment and emotional support so that the resident spends their final years in comfort, dignity, and safety.
Unfortunately, elder abuse and neglect are prevalent in U.S. assisted living facilities. According to a survey of 2,000 nursing home residents by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), 44% report abuse by nursing home staff, while 95% report neglect or witnessing neglect. The WHO reports similar statistics, with 64% of nursing home staff across nine studies self-reporting that they neglected or abused a resident within the last year.
These shocking statistics suggest that many nursing homes violate state and federal guidelines to protect elderly residents. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1986 requires facilities to provide a specific standard of care that entitles any nursing home resident to a specific set of rights, including:
- Freedom from restraints
- Freedom from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment
- Free communication
The best way to ensure nursing homes’ compliance with these regulations is to hold them accountable. If you suspect that your family member is receiving nursing home abuse or neglect, contact experienced personal injury lawyers, such as our team at Sadaka Law, to protect your loved one’s rights.
What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect and nursing home abuse are not exactly the same thing, but both are harmful to residents who rely on staff members to provide adequate care.
Nursing home abuse refers to intentional harm, while nursing home neglect refers to a failure to provide necessary care. Both issues may stem from common causes, including understaffing, negligent hiring practices, and not providing adequate training to staff members.
While nursing home neglect doesn’t stem from malice or the desire to intentionally harm an elderly resident, as abuse can, neglect can still have serious consequences. These might include serious injuries or wrongful deaths.
Examples of neglect can include staff failing to:
- Comply with safety standards
- Adequately care for wounds and bedsores
- Keep the nursing home clean and sanitary
- Provide help or notice that a nursing home resident requires help
- Provide adequate nutrition
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Neglect?
Yes. If you suspect that your loved one was a victim of elder abuse or nursing home neglect, you may be able to receive financial compensation for medical bills and the resulting trauma.
It’s always important to consult with an experienced nursing home attorney before considering filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit. A lawyer will be able to examine your case and provide the necessary guidance for suing a nursing home and obtaining justice for your family member.
Statute of Limitations in Nursing Home Negligence Cases
Statute of limitation refers to the time within which you must legally file a nursing home abuse lawsuit, starting from the first instance of neglect or abuse. If you fail to submit a civil lawsuit within this timeframe, you lose your right to pursue financial compensation and hold the negligent nursing home accountable.
Different states have differing statutes of limitations for nursing home abuse cases. For instance, states like Kentucky and Tennessee have a statute of limitations of one year, while others have a statute of limitations of six years.
Working with an experienced nursing home negligence lawyer will ensure that you submit your nursing home lawsuit on time to pursue legal action and hold these facilities accountable.
How Much Is a Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit Worth?
Each nursing home lawsuit is different with unique circumstances, and compensation can vary dramatically. In most personal injury lawsuits, damages cover:
- Medical expenses arising from the neglect
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress arising from the neglect or abuse
- Mental health therapy
In extreme cases, the judge may also decide to add punitive damages. These damages act as a punishment and deterrent to keep other nursing homes accountable and hopefully prevent further instances of nursing home neglect.
Other factors that can influence the compensation received from nursing home lawsuits include:
- How much the defendant can pay
- What the plaintiff feels is a fair amount
- The quality of the plaintiff’s evidence and legal argument
- Compensation amounts from similar nursing home lawsuits
How Long Does Suing a Nursing Home Facility Take?
Suing a nursing home is a lengthy process. On average, a nursing home negligence lawsuit takes between 18-24 months from the initial appointment with a nursing home abuse attorney to the final disbursement, but many factors can influence the duration of the claim.
When you first contact an elder abuse attorney with your case, they may be able to provide you with an estimated timeline based on factors including:
- Finding the right expert: Some cases may involve medical malpractice or other specialized forms of neglect, which require evidence from an established expert. Depending on the case, finding the right expert with the correct specialization may take several weeks.
- Obtaining an expert report: A complex nursing home neglect case requires extensive investigation. Most experts are working professionals and may not have the time to quickly produce a report.
- Discovery: Discovery refers to the process in which each side submits questions, document requests, and deposition schedules to gather all the relevant information about the nursing home negligence lawsuit. In more complex cases, this can take several months or even years.
- Trial: Most civil lawsuits end during negotiations and often don’t go to trial. However, if mediation and settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the next step is to take the legal claim to trial before a judge and jury. Trials may be as short as several days or last several weeks and can add to the length of the lawsuit.
Who Can Sue a Nursing Home for Neglect?
Nursing home residents who experience neglect or abuse can take legal action to seek justice and compensation for their injuries. When the resident cannot file a claim, close family members may do so on their behalf. In the event of a wrongful death lawsuit, close family members can sue a nursing home.
In some cases, even distant relatives or trusted friends can file a nursing home abuse lawsuit on behalf of the resident if they have power of attorney.
Proving Nursing Home Negligence
Suing a nursing home successfully requires proving negligence, which consists of four facets:
- Duty: The plaintiff has to show that the nursing home has a general and medical duty to the resident, such as providing adequate medical care and complying with federal and state regulations
- Breach: The plaintiff has to show that the nursing home failed to provide the necessary standard of care, either through unintentional neglect or active intent to harm. This can include things such as failing to provide adequate medical care, taking care of personal hygiene, or even failing to provide emotional support.
- Causation: Simply failing to uphold a duty of care is not enough to prove nursing home neglect — the plaintiff must also show that this breach directly caused the harm experienced by the resident.
- Damages: To receive financial aid, the plaintiff must show damages, such as serious injury or emotional pain and suffering.
Types of Evidence Used in a Nursing Home Negligence Case
Having solid evidence of neglect is essential when suing a nursing home. While most law firms have experienced partners who gather evidence on your behalf, you can also contribute by:
- Noting and writing down any signs of nursing home neglect or abuse, the nursing home staff member involved, and the date you noted the neglect or abuse.
- Taking pictures of signs of physical abuse or personal hygiene neglect. If you are filing on behalf of a family member or friend, get their consent before taking any photographs.
Types of Nursing Home Neglect
Neglect can take on many forms, all of which can cause physical or emotional suffering.
Medical neglect is when nursing homes fail to provide adequate medical care, including under-trained staff, not having the right medical equipment, or failing to respond correctly to a medical emergency.
Medical malpractice or neglect can result in long-term health issues that can be devastating for older residents. It may affect their mobility and quality of life and even result in death.
Physical neglect occurs when nursing homes fail to provide for the physical needs of their residents. These can include failing to provide adequate nutrition and hydration or creating an unsafe environment.
Another common issue is when a nursing home fails to help a resident maintain their personal hygiene, which includes assisting with laundry, bathing, and dental care. Not only does this neglect cause health concerns, but it also affects the dignity and psychological well-being of the resident, which may lead to many other concerns.
Physical neglect can lead to a host of other issues, such as an increased risk of injuries, and some residents may experience severe malnutrition or dehydration as a result.
While many people focus on suing a nursing home or assisted living facility for physical neglect, few consider the impact of psychological neglect. Residents need recreation and psychological support, and failing to provide this care can result in higher levels of dementia and self-neglect.
In some instances, psychological neglect may escalate into emotional abuse, where staff berate or neglect a resident and cause significant mental health harm.
One of the biggest challenges of living in a nursing home is maintaining social ties, both within the home and with friends and family outside. Social and emotional neglect includes leaving a resident alone for extended periods or preventing them from seeing their loved ones.
Residents with disabilities may suffer more from social neglect as they rely more on nursing home staff to connect them with others.
Financial abuse refers to incidents in which a nursing home takes a resident’s money or personal belongings. This abuse can include stealing, forging checks, withholding funds, and taking a resident’s income for themselves. Nursing home residents are particularly susceptible to financial abuse, as they also suffer from factors that increase the risk of financial abuse, such as:
- Loneliness or isolation
Nursing homes that fail to screen employees properly may let in sexual predators that prey on the elderly. While not common, this type of abuse is grounds for suing a nursing home for neglect and taking legal action against the perpetrator of the crime.
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Negligence
Nursing homes tend to try and present a professional and caring image, and detecting negligence requires vigilance. The following signs may indicate potential neglect and warrant further investigation:
- Loss of mobility: Good nursing homes have treatment plans to keep residents mobile and active. Understaffed facilities will leave residents in wheelchairs or bedridden, which may worsen potential mobility issues. A rapid decline in mobility is a clear cause for concern.
- Poor hygiene: Elderly individuals often require assistance with hygiene tasks such as bathing and brushing their teeth. Overworked staff will often forgo daily baths to focus on more pressing concerns, leading to a decrease in the health and cleanliness of residents.
- Psychological concerns: Nursing home neglect can also harm residents emotionally. Abused or neglected residents will often become withdrawn or angry, and may be reluctant to trust staff, which leads to higher levels of physical neglect.
- Signs of malnutrition: A recent study found that 20% of nursing home residents suffered from malnutrition due to various factors, including cognitive or functional impairment, swallowing difficulty, and depression. A malnourished resident is a red flag that other systems within the nursing home are not providing adequate care.
- Unexplained injuries: Seniors are more susceptible to injuries, and nursing homes must provide safe environments to prevent unintentional harm. Failing to keep accurate medical records of injuries and increasing numbers of bumps, scrapes, and bruises can be warning signs of potential neglect.
Most people consider suing a nursing home intimidating, but with the rise of neglect and abuse cases, it’s vital to hold these institutions accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home neglect, schedule a free consultation with our team at Sadaka Law by filling out our online form or calling (201) 266-5670 to discover whether you can sue a nursing home and claim compensation for your injuries.