What is Considered Evidence in an Elder Abuse Case?

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We hear about tragedies on the news each day, but one tragedy that tends to fly below the radar and escape our national consciousness is elder abuse. Many people do not think about elder abuse or understand what elder abuse is, likely because such abuse often occurs behind the doors of long-term care facilities.

You might think you have a nursing home lawsuit for elder abuse, but you have not yet spoken to a personal injury lawyer to confirm whether you have enough evidence to prove an elder abuse case. If you do, an experienced nursing home injury lawyer can determine whether you are eligible for a settlement from the care facility.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, speak with a qualified personal injury attorney. Call (800) 863-5312 today to schedule a free case evaluation from a Zinda Law Group injury lawyer.

elder abuse faqs

Elder abuse is a sensitive topic. In order to understand which kinds of evidence are crucial in these cases, you should first familiarize yourself with elder abuse, nursing home injuries, and the various elements of an elder abuse lawsuit. Here are some background FAQs about elder abuse:

What Is Elder Abuse?

According to the U.S. Department of Human Health and Human Services’ Administration for Communal Living, elder abuse involves either an intentional  or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person who causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. As we will see shortly, there are many kinds of abuse, any of which could require different kinds of evidence in an elder abuse case. These kinds of elder abuse include physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.

While every state has some kind of law against elder abuse, that unfortunately does not stop abuse from occurring in nursing homes across the United States. Abuse continues to go largely unreported for a myriad of reasons, including the victim’s fear or inability to express themselves or remember the abuse.

What Is a Nursing Home Injury?

A nursing home injury is a type of personal injury, also called a tort, that occurs in a long-term care facility. Personal injuries can be caused by intentional acts, negligent acts, or failures to act; some are caused by the strict liability of people or businesses.

The types of injuries that take place in nursing homes often have to do with the facility’s intentional acts or failure to act. While an accident can truly just be an accident, a facility should be held responsible when it is decidedly negligent. We will discuss both negligence and intentional acts in more detail in later sections.

What Happens in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?

There are statutory claims that victims can pursue for specific violations of their rights. A lawsuit for elder abuse may proceed as negligence. The burden of proof for negligence is similar across all states for nursing home abuse cases; in short, you must show that the following four elements occurred within your case:

1. The long-term care facility owed you a duty of a standard of care.

2. The facility’s actions violated (breached) that duty of care.

3. The victim must have received a compensable injury.

4. The victim must be able to link his or her injury to the facility’s breach of duty.

Procedurally, you will file a claim stating the harm done and the recovery sought. A professional attorney can gather evidence and negotiate a settlement on your behalf.

What Do Elder Abuse Lawyers Do?

Not only can an elder abuse attorney help you prove the statutory elements of a specific criminal act of your abuser or the elements of negligence, but an attorney can also help you with the procedural elements of your claim. There are various court rules you must follow from start to finish in filing your claim. For example, every claim has a statute of limitations, which establishes how quickly you must file the claim from the day you are injured.

In the evidence-gathering stage, or discovery, an attorney will contact potential witnesses who saw the act occur. They will conduct depositions and interrogatories to put together the story of your case in an admissible, compelling way.

Perhaps most importantly, a lawyer can help you negotiate a settlement with the long-term care facility. The facility will find whatever holes in your case it can to stop you from recovering the amount you deserve, but an attorney who is working on your side can make your case as strong as possible, so you do not miss out on compensation.

Compensation for an elder abuse injury case may come in the form of economic damages for your medical bills and noneconomic damages for things like pain and suffering. Sometimes a court awards punitive damages to punish the tortfeasor (defendant) for an exceptionally abhorrent act.

Physical abuse and neglect

Physical abuse and neglect both cause some form of physical harm to a resident. It is terribly discouraging to learn that one’s loved one has suffered such in a place where they were expected to be well cared for; our first priority should be to put an end to mistreatment of our elderly, no matter where they are. In any case, some forms of physical abuse might be prohibited by statute, while others could be non-criminal, intentional acts such as hitting or pinching.

Neglect, while it is usually unintentional, can also result from the overuse of physical or chemical restraints. Unintentional neglect is often a result of inadequate staffing; if there are too few employees to take care of the needs of each resident in a facility, then a resident may suffer from a lack of personal hygiene care or from a lack of food or water. Eliminating neglect or abuse of an elderly loved one will require recognizing that it has been occurring in the first place.

Signs of Physical Abuse and/or Neglect

There are many common injuries that can show that physical abuse or neglect has likely been inflicted on a long-term care facility resident:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Bedrail injuries
  • Bedsores
  • Broken bones
  • Concussions
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Falls
  • Infections
  • Multiple injuries that are all at differing stages of healing
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, or wounds

Evidence of Physical Abuse

We have already mentioned how lawyers can interview witnesses to help in the evidence-gathering stage of the suit; expert witnesses with the appropriate knowledge can also testify about the resident’s injuries or about whether the nursing home’s hiring and training processes meet the appropriate standard of care. Medical records that track any of the above injuries can help prove that the injury occurred, the cost of treatment already obtained, and the cost of future treatment. Pictures of the injuries can show that the injuries occurred and the severity of those injuries, so take photos of each and every injury as well as of the facility itself.

If the nursing home has video footage of the act that caused the resident’s injury, then you can show how your injuries were caused. Your experienced attorney will also know how to access employee schedules to show whether the facility was consistently understaffed—especially if the resident suffered long-term neglect.

Emotional Abuse

In addition to physical abuse and neglect, emotional abuse sometimes occurs in long-term care facilities. Emotional abuse involves mistreating the resident psychologically by assaulting someone verbally, such as by yelling, humiliating, criticizing, or shaming the resident.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Signs of abuse that could indicate emotional abuse usually involve the victim behaving differently. Gradual behavioral changes can be normal, but sudden changes might mean that the resident has been abused. Signs of emotional abuse to be on the watch for include:

  • Sudden withdrawal, especially in a resident who was once outgoing
  • Sudden desire to be away from others
  • Unexplainable and sudden fear of being touched
  • Noticeable agitation or signs of being upset
  • Reluctance or refusal to speak with you when employees are present

Evidence of Emotional Abuse

The strongest evidence to show that the resident has been emotionally abused is video footage of the employee mistreating the resident. Interviews with eyewitnesses and expert witnesses can also help prove the harm that the victim suffered.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse in nursing homes involves unwanted sexual attention or exploitation. Note that residents who have Alzheimer’s or dementia may not be able to consent to sexual attention.

Signs and Evidence of Sexual Abuse

The signs and evidence of sexual abuse combine the elements of physical and emotional abuse because the harms of sexual abuse embody both physical and emotional aspects. Therefore, physical and behavioral changes in residents must be considered, recorded, and investigated.

Let the Zinda law group elder abuse lawyers hear about what happened to you or your loved one

The privacy of nursing homes can be incredibly positive for residents—non-family members have difficulty accessing the residents’ health records and other identifying information. However, this privacy can also negatively impact a resident’s well-being by blocking family members from the truth about the resident’s care.

This is why you could benefit from having a personal injury attorney on your side to navigate through the barriers the facility might try to impose to stop you from gathering the evidence you need to prove your claim. If you or a loved one received a nursing home injury and think that the nursing home was negligent or abusive, call (800) 863-5312 for your free consultation with Zinda Law Group lawyers.

It is time to get you or your loved one the justice they deserve for any abuse endured. There is no cost to see if we can help. Additionally, our clients have the advantage of our No Win, No Fee Guarantee; this means that you will not pay us unless we win your case for you.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.