Written By: Attorney John Rogers
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Nursing home abuse can cause serious physical and mental injuries to residents. Because residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among the most vulnerable people in the population, they are entitled to special protections from abuse from care providers, staff, and third parties.
If you or your loved one has been subjected to abuse or neglect in an assisted living facility, call (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer at Zinda Law Group to see how we may be able to help you.
LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR NURSING HOME RESIDENTS
Nursing Home Bill of Rights
Most states and the federal government, such as the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, have adopted specific protections designed to prevent the mistreatment of nursing home and assisted care facility residents in the form of a Nursing Home Bill of Rights. These rights typically include basic tenets as well as specific protections such as:
- The right to be treated with respect and dignity
- The right to be free from neglect
- The right to be free from mental and physical abuse
- The right to provide informed consent to medical procedures
- The right of access to facility documents and financial statements
In addition to codified rights, nursing home residents enjoy the same protections available to any consumer of medical services: the right to be free to malpractice or negligence causing injury.
Enhanced Penalties for Nursing Home Abuse
In part because residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse, many states provide enhanced penalties for facilities and practitioners who violate those rights. These enhanced penalties can include provisions that increase compensable damages and those that force the defendant to cover a plaintiff’s attorney’s fees in a meritorious case. Unfortunately, despite these protections, many nursing homes are underinsured or insured with eroding insurance policies. This is one reason why it makes sense to consult with an experienced attorney if you or a loved one suspects any form of abuse, neglect, malpractice, or negligence.
WHAT DOES NURSING HOME ABUSE AND NEGLECT LOOK LIKE?
Nursing home abuse may take many forms. The following are a few of the more common examples of nursing home abuse:
Failure to follow simple physician or specialized wound care nursing orders to prevent bedsores may constitute abuse. For those residents who are confined to their beds for all or part of the day, rotation of the body may be a critical aspect of care to prevent degradation of the skin itself. Once a lesion forms, it can progress rapidly, especially for a patient with other chronic health conditions. Often very specific orders are entered into a patient’s chart that dictate:
- What kind of bandage should be applied
- How a wound should be cleaned
- Whether it should be kept wet or dry
- What medications should be administered
These orders follow a precise protocol depending on what stage of healing the wound is in, and applying the wrong bandage can have serious negative consequences for a developing ulcer. It is shocking how often specific wound care orders are disregarded and how little understood the science behind ulcer treatment is among the very care providers tasked with following the orders.
Defendants often argue that even the very best medical treatment in the world is sometimes inadequate to prevent significant skin lesions. These arguments, however, are typically designed to distract from the defendant’s inadequate evidence that they performed proper precautions in accordance with the patient’s rights and standard practices.
Another scenario common in nursing home residents involves falls in the facility. This includes:
- Falls from beds
- Falls from wheelchairs
- Wheelchairs tipping over
- Falls during assisted transfers
- Falls during assisted showers
Residents of nursing homes tend be at a higher risk of falls, and when they do fall, they tend to suffer more catastrophic orthopedic injuries as a result. Particularly concerning are scenarios where a pattern of falls emerges. A pattern of falls indicates that care providers are failing to provide proper precautions once a patient’s risk of falling is quite obvious. Devices such as lap-buddies, bed alarms, and access to call buttons can be overlooked by facilities that are short-staffed and staff that are not well trained.
BRINGING A NURSING HOME INJURY CLAIM
Gathering Medical Information
The very first step involved in evaluating a nursing home neglect case is ordering the medical chart for the patient. State law requires that certain plan of care documentation be maintained for each resident. Nursing home employees often fail to adequately document compliance with the required treatment plans. A careful review of the medical documentation will sometimes reflect more significantly on what was not done rather than the other way around. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help you gather this important evidence and interpret it.
Discovering the Facility’s Policies and Procedures
Once a case moves into litigation, it is important to gather copies of all relevant policies and procedures, as well as staff bylaws and regulations. Each of these documents will show specific guidelines staff members should follow with respect to documentation, communication, implementing orders, performing hourly checks, or otherwise ensuring resident safety.
Taking Depositions of Care Providers
The next step of aggressively pursuing this type of case involves taking numerous depositions of the care providers who were involved with the resident. It is important to obtain statements not only from employees and agents suspected of neglect, abuse, malpractice, and negligence, but also to speak to employees who performed their jobs correctly. When testimony can be elicited from one provider who acknowledges a certain level of care should have been provided, or was provided under their watch, it becomes more difficult for an employee or agent who failed to perform up to the same standard to justify their actions.
Mediating the Claim
The next step in the process can involve a mediation. A mediation is typically required by state courts whose main aim is to encourage the resolution of as many claims as possible before they go to trial. This saves court resources but also saves each side in litigation from taking on unnecessary risks and expenses to try the case to verdict.
Mediation is simply a settlement conference where a neutral third party tries to help the parties come to an agreement to resolve the case. The mediator cannot force either side to accept an agreement but will often play devil’s advocate and help the parties test out their best arguments regarding the strength of their case. Most nursing home neglect and abuse cases settle before trial, but unfortunately, time is often on the side of the defense. That is one more reason why it is important to move as quickly as possible when investigating and possibly pursuing any nursing home neglect inquiry.
THE NURSING HOME ABUSE LAWYERS AT ZINDA LAW GROUP MAY BE ABLE TO HELP
Please do not hesitate to reach out to the personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group for a free consultation if you or a loved one suspect abuse, neglect, malpractice, or negligence has been committed against a nursing home or assisted living facility resident. Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation, which is why you don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. Call (800) 863-5312 today.
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