Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Injury Lawyer
As nursing homes grappled with the COVID pandemic that left nearly 100,000 residents at long-term care facilities dead, the agencies who monitor these facilities reported that another type of complaint was skyrocketing alongside the virus: Nursing home negligence. Researchers found that, for every two residents who died from COVID, another resident died from other unexpected causes. One expert noted that facilities operate in normal circumstances on a razor-thin margin in terms of staffing, but the facilities can’t cope with a crisis such as a pandemic.
Chronically understaffed facilities saw a more aggressive spread of the virus and a higher number of deaths for other reasons. Agency watchdogs began to receive resident complaints at these understaffed and highly contagious facilities who were malnourished, dehydrated, with soiled clothing and deep bedsores.
Nursing home facilities in Fort Lauderdale and beyond are required to provide a standard of care designed to keep residents safe and to maintain or improve their quality of life. Failure to do so can result in injury and can leave the facility liable for the expenses and psychological impacts of their negligence. If your loved one was injured by nursing home negligence, you can hold the facility accountable. An experienced Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence attorney from The Levin Firm can help you understand the legal process of seeking compensation in a nursing home negligence case. Contact us today.
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
Negligence is defined as a deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would provide.
To establish someone’s actions as negligent, you must be able to show the following elements:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care in a nursing home negligence case would be to uphold the rights granted to the resident by federal law.
- There was a breach in the duty of care that was owed. The breach refers to the actions that the facility took that violated the duty of care.
- This breach resulted in an accident or incident that resulted in harm to the resident.
Common Examples of Negligence in a Fort Lauderdale Skilled Nursing Facilities
There are many ways in which nursing home negligence can occur.
Here is a look at some of the more common negligence complaints against nursing homes.
- Negligent hiring practices. The facility failed to properly vet its potential employees to ensure that its staff is properly licensed and trained to do the work that the position requires, and that the background check did not reveal any previous history that could indicate behaviors that would cause harm to residents. The facility is also responsible for properly supervising employees to ensure they follow protocols.
- Failure to keep the facility reasonably safe and free from hazards that can result in injury. Premises liability laws note that the facility staff must regularly inspect the premises to discover these hazards, and promptly repair, replace, or remove known hazards.
- Failure to adequately supervise and assist residents whose care plans indicate that they are at increased risk of falling.
- Failure to follow health and safety policies and to provide clean and sanitary conditions in resident rooms as well as common areas.
- Failure to provide medical treatment in line with the standard of care provided in similar circumstances.
- Failure to adequately provide for a resident’s dietary needs, including observing orders to restrict the resident’s diet.
- Neglect of a resident, which can result in injury or even death if the resident falls, wanders away from the facility, or if the facility fails to take measures to prevent bedsores from forming or worsening.
- Failure to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and to offer vaccinations that can protect residents from suffering from infectious diseases such as flu or pneumonia.
- Failure to report. Nursing home staff is required to report all complaints of abuse and neglect to the proper authorities. They also must report other important information, such as falls, and must report to the family any time there is a medical concern with the resident that requires treatment.
What Rights Do Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Residents Have?
Federal nursing home laws provide rights to nursing home residents.
These rights serve as the standard of care that skilled nursing facilities must provide for their residents, and include:
- The right to a dignified existence. Included in this right is the provision that residents receive respect; that they are free of abuse, neglect, misappropriation of property, and physical or chemical restraints. The provisions of this right also call for the resident’s quality of life to be maintained or improved, to offer a home-like environment and security of possessions, equal access to quality care, and the ability to exercise these rights without fear of interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal.e
- The right to self-determination. The provisions of this right include the ability to make one’s own decisions about activities, schedules, healthcare providers, and the resident’s designated representative. Nursing home residents also have the right to have reasonable accommodations made to meet specific needs, to organize and participate in resident or family groups, and to request, refuse, or discontinue treatment.
- The right to be fully informed. This includes being informed of the type of care that is being provided and its associated risks, changes to the care plan or health status, and a notice of roommate or room transfers. They must provide information in language the resident can understand and must include both a written copy of the resident’s rights as well as the contact information for the long-term care ombudsman program and the state survey agency. The resident also has the right to see the facility’s state survey reports and plans to correct deficiencies.
- The right to raise grievances. This includes filing a complaint with the state’s long-term care ombudsman program or state agency without fear of retribution, and to have facility staff promptly resolve grievances and to receive a written decision of their request.
- The right of access. Nursing home residents can have access to individuals, services, community members, and activities both inside and outside of the facility, as well as the right to have or to refuse visitors of their choosing. Visitors may visit at any time of the resident’s choosing. Additionally, nursing home residents can access their personal and medical records, their physician, state long-term care ombudsman program, and state survey agency and participate in social, religious, or community activities. The individual also has the right to assistance if sensory impairments exist.
- The right to manage one’s own financial affairs. This right includes receiving information about the services that the facility can provide and the costs of those services. The resident has a right not to be charged for services provided by Medicaid or Medicare, and can also have access to a facility-opened bank account for personal funds over $100, with bank statements provided quarterly or upon request.
- The right to privacy. The nursing home resident has the right to private, unrestricted communication with anyone of their choosing. They also have the right to have personal, financial, and medical affairs kept private, and privacy during treatment and personal care.
- Rights during discharge or transfer. Discharge and transfer rights include the right to appeal any discharge or transfer and have that action delayed pending the outcome of the appeal. The resident must receive at least 30 days’ notice of any discharge or transfer and must be properly prepared to ensure a safe transfer takes place. The resident must also be given notice of the right to return to the facility after hospitalization or therapeutic leave.
Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Negligence, Neglect, Abuse, and Exploitation in Fort Lauderdale
Nursing home negligence, neglect, abuse, and financial exploitation are serious issues that federal nursing home reform aimed to address and prevent.
To recognize the signs of these issues, you first must understand each of these types of negligence.
- Neglect: Nursing homes have the responsibility to ensure that the basic human needs of the resident are met, including the provision of food, water, a bed, sanitary living conditions, and necessary medical care. Residents must also be provided with supervision adequate to meet the needs and accomplish the goals of the resident’s care plan. This includes the prevention of infectious diseases and appropriate assistance for personal and self-care tasks.
- Physical abuse: This involves a staff member or another resident kicking, shoving, slapping, punching, or otherwise physically attacking the resident.
- Emotional abuse: This involves a staff member or another resident using threats, intimidation, or humiliation to control a resident. Emotional abuse also involves separating the resident from others or disallowing him or her to participate in activities at the facility.
- Sexual abuse: This includes unwanted sexual touching, exposure, or even sexual acts, as well as subjecting the resident to pornography.
- Financial exploitation: This involves taking the resident’s money or personal property through coercion or force, or convincing the resident to add a staff member to his or her bank account signature card, or providing lavish gifts to a staff member.
Unfortunately, cognitive declines make the resident unable to accurately describe what is happening or reluctant to report mistreatment out of fear of reprisal or getting someone in trouble.
Here are some common red flags of nursing home negligence or abuse.
- A chaotic environment at the facility, including noise, bad smells, and unanswered phones or call nurse lights. This often indicates that the nursing home is understaffed, which is one of the most common factors in nursing home negligence cases.
- Your loved one seems to either be overmedicated or under-medicated. Some common indicators of this include new confusion or drowsiness that would indicate that the patient has been given too much medication or that he or she has not been adequately monitored for dangerous side effects.
- Your loved one is incontinent because he or she did not get timely assistance when needing the toilet. He or she has bedsores in the diaper area that suggest he or she was left in soiled clothing after episodes of incontinence.
- Your loved one has a messy or soiled appearance due to assistance with personal care needs.
- Your loved one appears dehydrated or malnourished, presenting with signs such as unexpected weight loss, dry and cracked lips, swollen tongue, and weakness.
- Your loved one’s safety has been compromised by a lack of supervision and assistance that is needed to avoid falls, elopement, and other harmful occurrences.
- Your loved one has unexplained injuries or bruising, or is behaving in an agitated, withdrawn, or fearful manner that is different from how he or she normally behaves.
- Your loved one has unexplained withdrawals from his or her bank account, is missing personal items, or has begun furnishing staff members with lavish gifts.
Seeking Compensation for Nursing Home Negligence in Fort Lauderdale
Injuries arising to a resident at a nursing home due to negligence fall under the wide umbrella of personal injury law. In Florida, the process for recovering damages resulting from the negligence usually involves filing a lawsuit against the facility and/or specific staff members. This is a legal claim filed in civil court that seeks to prove liability for the injury and to show the expenses and impacts that the victim has incurred as a result of the injury. A wrongful death lawsuit can provide the resident’s family with compensation if nursing home negligence led to the resident’s death.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Negligence
There are more than one million individuals in nursing homes throughout the U.S., with the majority of those residents being over the age of 65 and many experiencing cognitive declines or medical conditions that require round-the-clock supervision and care. Nursing homes are tasked with the huge responsibility of not only providing care for both basic needs and medical issues, but in providing a quality of life for the resident as well. While many facilities take these responsibilities seriously, others are negligent in the care they provide, leaving vulnerable residents open to injury.
If you or your loved one was injured in Fort Lauderdale as a result of nursing home negligence, you likely have a lot of questions about the process of holding the facility and its staff legally accountable for the injuries that their negligence caused. Here are the answers to some of the questions our nursing home negligence clients most frequently ask.
What should I do if I suspect that my loved one is being neglected or abused in a Fort Lauderdale nursing home?
If you have reason to suspect that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home facility, you are required to report the abuse.
You can do so through these channels—call us for help in doing so:
- The Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a volunteer service that advocates for quality of care in nursing facilities and the federally-honored rights of nursing home residents. They receive and investigate complaints filed on behalf of nursing home residents or their family members. Some of the issues that are commonly the subject of complaints that the ombudsman program will investigate include transfer and discharge issues, medication administration, assistance with personal hygiene, menu quality, and the cleanliness of the facility.
- Adult Protective Services provides the Florida Abuse Hotline in which individuals can report known or suspected abuse. Once a report is made, the Florida Department of Children and Families’ adult protective services division is legally required to investigate the complaint to determine if abuse occurred and if assistance is necessary to protect the victim’s safety.
Does Florida have mandated reporting laws regarding abuse in nursing homes?
Yes. Certain individuals in Florida are specifically required to report all known or suspected abuse of elderly persons, including nursing home staff, physicians, and others responsible for the individual’s care. Florida’s law also spells out though that anyone who knows or suspects abuse of a vulnerable adult must report it. This includes family members.
How are Fort Lauderdale nursing homes regulated?
Enacted in 1987, the federal Nursing Home Reform Act put in place provisions regarding the safety of residents and the quality of care they receive at Medicare/Medicaid certified nursing homes. Part of the reform requires that state agencies conduct inspections—known as “surveys”—of nursing homes as part of the certification process. These surveys are conducted once a year, along with emergency surveys that are conducted if a complaint of negligence is received. Surveyors will also return to a facility from time to time to ensure that the proposed corrective actions to facility deficiencies were taken.
Do certain characteristics make a person more subject to nursing home negligence in Fort Lauderdale?
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, several common characteristics appear in nursing home abuse and other negligence cases.
Those characteristics include:
- Lack of social support.
- Dementia. It is estimated that about half of all individuals suffering from dementia also suffer from some form of abuse. Currently, about half of all individuals over the age of 85 are suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia.
- Experience with trauma or abuse.
- Poor physical health and functional impairments.
- Being female. Women are more likely to be subjected to abuse and neglect in nursing homes than men are. This is particularly true when the woman has a disability. Disabled women in nursing home facilities are far more likely to experience interpersonal violence than women without disabilities.
- Lower-income or poverty.
Are nursing homes in Fort Lauderdale subject to minimum staffing requirements?
Yes. While federal nursing home regulations only call for a minimum staff needed to provide a quality of care for residents, Florida puts actual numbers to the requirement.
In Florida, nursing homes must provide:
- 2.3 hours of direct nursing assistant care per resident per day.
- One hour of direct licensed nurse care per resident per day.
- No facility will staff below one licensed nurse per 40 residents.
Who is liable in a Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence case?
When a resident is injured due to nursing home negligence, generally the nursing home faces liability for the accident. Nursing homes have a tremendous responsibility to provide quality care and uphold the federally-recognized rights of their residents to quality of life and care, the ability to self-determine, and the right to be fully informed of their health status and pending transfers or discharges.
Some of the issues that would suggest liability (legal responsibility) for the nursing home facility include:
- Negligent hiring, training, or supervision of staff.
- Failure to provide adequate security.
- Failure to provide the basic daily necessities for living, such as clean drinking water.
- Medical neglect.
- The use of physical and chemical restraints in more than just a few very limited circumstances.
- Intentional abuse by staff members.
However, you may find additional sources of liability in your case, including:
- A staff member who subjects a resident to abuse, neglect, or exploitation or who causes an injury to a resident through the negligent use of equipment or administration of medication.
- An outside contractor who installed defective equipment or performed work on the facility that resulted in injury to a resident.
- A vendor who provided food that was unsafe for consumption or a food service provider at the facility who failed to follow protocols on the safe handling of food.
Your nursing home negligence attorney will look very carefully at your case to determine all potential sources of liability and all insurance resources that can be accessed to compensate you.
What should I consider when choosing a Fort Lauderdale nursing home for my loved one?
According to the National Institute on Aging, when choosing a nursing home, consider:
- Consider the services important to you and search for facilities that offer them.
- Talk to friends, family members, neighbors, and even health care providers about nursing homes in your area that they recommend.
- Call nursing homes that provide the services you’re seeking and find out about whether they have waiting lists and how much they charge for their services.
- Visit the facilities that are in contention for your business. Be sure to look for handicap access, Medicare/Medicaid certification. Ensure that residents appear well cared for and that they are engaged in warm and friendly interaction with staff.
- Ask questions. It is not out of line to inquire as to a bad odor in the facility or to ask how long the managers of the facility’s various departments have worked at the nursing home or what the staff turnover rate is.
- Visit the facility again. This time, don’t call ahead. This allows you to see how the facility operates under normal conditions when they’re not expecting to give a tour.
- Carefully read your contract before signing it. If you have any questions, be sure that you obtain answers from the nursing home director.
How long do I have to file a Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence case?
Nursing home negligence cases in Florida must be filed within four years after the date on which the injury occurred. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death.
How much compensation can I receive from a Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence case?
There is no set amount of compensation that a claimant in a nursing home negligence case can receive. Florida allows the pursuit of the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages. Damages refers to payments made for physical harm. Economic damages are payments made for out-of-pocket expenses such as the cost of medical treatment or psychological counseling to assist the victim in recovering from the harm. Non-economic damages are payments made for the impact that the injury has had on the victim’s life, and can include such things as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
Your attorney will establish a value to your case based on the expenses you have incurred and the impacts you have faced. Your case’s value represents the maximum amount of compensation that is statutorily available to you based on your ability to prove liability and to establish the expenses and the impacts you have endured. It should be noted, however, that this value is the starting point of negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Likely, a settlement offer you receive will not be as high as the case value. Your attorney will provide you with guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer or litigating a case.
Why should I hire an attorney to pursue a Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence case?
Nursing home negligence cases are often hard to prove. It can be very difficult to get a victim of an advanced age—who may be dealing with cognitive impairments and other disabilities—to accurately report the series of events that led to the negligence, and nursing home staff often fail to report complaints for fear of facing social, work-related, financial, or even legal consequences for doing so. An experienced nursing home negligence lawyer knows the type of evidence that is needed to prove nursing home negligence claims and is familiar with the legal process of recovering damages related to the injury.
Your attorney can provide you with important services aimed at increasing your chance of obtaining the compensation you are entitled to receive for the nursing home negligence that caused your injury.
Some of these services include:
- A free case evaluation that is designed to provide answers to legal questions you have about your specific case, assist you in learning more about the nursing home negligence claims process, and to allow you to “interview” the attorney for the job of representing your case.
- A client-friendly contingent fee payment scheme that allows you to withhold payment for your lawyer’s services unless your case successfully concludes.
- A determination of all liable parties and all sources of insurance that can be accessed to provide your compensation.
- A valuation of your case that is based on the financial and emotional impacts of your injury.
- Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction, and attendance at all pre-trial conferences and hearings associated with your case.
- Aggressive negotiation focused on attaining a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
- The collection and organization of the evidence and witness testimony that can be used to prove your case.
- Litigation, including the preparation of opening and closing statements as well as the presentation of evidence and the examination of witnesses.
- Assistance collecting your settlement or award.
Call The Levin Firm’s Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Attorneys Today
The experienced attorneys at The Levin Firm are devoted to helping nursing home negligence victims throughout Fort Lauderdale obtain the compensation that they deserve. Let a knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence lawyer from our firm help you to make sense of the legal process. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (954) 715-3260.