Nursing Home Abuse Law



What is Nursing Home Abuse Law?

Nursing home abuse law deals with the civil, criminal, and regulatory standards for the unlawful treatment of elderly people by care facility staff and administrators. When a nursing home fails to meet these standards, it can be sanctioned in a variety of ways. These include forced changes to operating procedures, loss of government funding, license suspension or revocation, and the imposition of monetary damage awards.

From the standpoint of victims and those interested in pursuing legal claims on their behalf, the most powerful form of legal recourse is a negligence lawsuit. Most nursing homes are run by corporations or other business entities primarily concerned with making a profit. As detached as the owners may be, a large negligence verdict or settlement is sure to get their attention and lead to positive changes at the facility. It also provides needed compensation for the victim.

Recognizing the Signs of Abuse or Neglect

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of nursing home abuse law is the fact that the majority of legal violations are never reported. Victims may fail to make a report because they have no practical means of doing so, or out of fear of retribution from their abusers. In some cases, victims may not even be cognizant of the situation due to their condition or advanced age. Thus, it is often up to family members and visitors to discover the problem and take action.

Abuse in a nursing home environment will take one of two forms. The first involves the condition of the facility. Generally speaking, the building and grounds must be safe, clean, and properly equipped. Residents must have access to nutritious meals, social services, recreational activities, medications, and onsite emergency care. Staff must be well-trained and present in sufficient numbers at all times. Finally, the home should be designed and maintained to prevent slip and falls – the leading cause of nursing home injuries.

The second form of abuse involves the conduct of employees. Abuses of this kind may be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. In some cases, visitors will notice lacerations, bruising, bed sores, dehydration, sudden weight gain or loss, sanitary concerns, or other such manifestations. Other times the results of abuse or neglect will be less obvious. The victim may simply appear depressed or withdrawn. When visiting a loved one, be sure to ask questions, check financial records, and investigate suspicious circumstances.

Legal Options for Victims and their Families

When confronted with what appears to be evidence of abuse or neglect, it may be prudent to inquire of other residents at the nursing home, or to speak directly with the staff or administration. If this does not resolve the concern, or if the seriousness of the situation is immediately clear, a report should be made to the proper authorities. Typically, this will be the state department of health, the county adult protective services, or an ombudsman’s office. If in doubt, bring the matter to the attention of local law enforcement.

Once the case has been reported, those affected by nursing home abuse have the option of contacting a private attorney specializing in this area of the law. An attorney can follow up on the client’s behalf and ensure the matter has been properly reported and that corrective measures are underway. Furthermore, this is the time for victims and their families to discuss the matter with counsel and decide whether a negligence lawsuit is appropriate.

Proving Negligence and Obtaining Compensation

Negligence is the legal doctrine that holds people responsible when their careless actions cause someone else to suffer harm. It is used by victims of car accidents, malpractice, dog bites, and other such incidents. In the context of nursing home abuse, negligence occurs when an employee injures a resident by failing to provide a reasonable standard of care, taking into account all of the facts and circumstances. To decide what is reasonable under the circumstances, the court will consider things like common practices in the industry, and regulatory standards established by the government.

Besides negligence, victims may be able to sue under specific federal or state statutes, or bring a tort action for intentional conduct. In fact, some of the worse cases of abuse will involve intentional acts, rather than careless mistakes or oversights. Cases involving particularly egregious conduct may justify an award of punitive damages, meant not just to compensate the victim, but to punish the offender. Other types of compensation available in nursing home cases include medical expenses, physical suffering, mental anguish, and if the victim passes away, loss of consortium and support for surviving relatives.

Reasons to Hire a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Nursing homes are represented by insurance companies eager to dispose of abuse cases quickly and cheaply. If you or someone you care about has been victimized, you need to make sure you are fully compensated, and that steps are taken to prevent anyone else from getting hurt. Contact a lawyer to learn about your rights.

Copyright HG.org

 

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Nursing Home Abuse Organizations

Nursing Home Abuse Publications




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