Many of us worry about the health and safety of our aging grandparents, parents, spouses, relatives, and friends. We want to be there to help monitor their health, provide companionship, offer home-cooked meals, and assist in their day-to-day activities. Sometimes we reach a point where we need help meeting our loved one’s daily needs. Nursing homes staffed with competent medical professionals offer care and comfort to over 1.5 million disabled and elderly Americans who can no longer live on their own or in their own homes. Most nursing homes are staffed by experienced, capable professionals and offer excellent care. Sadly, however, some nursing homes fall short.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reported almost 188,600 complaints regarding abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a single year in the United States. However, the NCEA also found nursing home abuse and injuries are grossly underreported, so the actual numbers likely run much higher. Abuse can take different forms and can be committed by nursing home staff, other residents, or even visitors to the facility.
Our loved ones are particularly vulnerable to suffering both physical and emotional damage as a result of nursing home abuse. Whether it comes as the result of intentional physical assault or simply a lack of attention, nursing home abuse is inexcusable. Abuse and neglect can have severe consequences to the resident, including serious bodily injury, depression, and premature death.
Any nursing home resident who sustains injuries as a result of the negligence or wrongful conduct of anyone at a nursing home has important legal rights. The law gives nursing home abuse victims the right to take legal action and seek compensation for any physical, emotional, and financial injuries suffered. The Levin Firm in Philadelphia understands how nursing home residents can incur severe and lasting injuries due to abuse. We are here to seek justice and financial recovery for our clients. Please discuss a possible case with our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys today.
Nursing home abuse cases can vary significantly from one victim to the next. In some cases, a staff member may negligently forget to provide the necessary care for a resident. In others, a staff member may lose their temper and physically or verbally lash out at a resident. Other cases involve staff providing inadequate security or supervision and allowing others in the facility who hurt your loved one. In any case, the potential for severe injuries is high.
The following are some types of nursing home abuse:
Neglect – Nursing homes have the duty to provide for a resident’s basic needs, which include having proper shelter, sustenance, a sanitary environment, necessary medical care, and more. Sometimes, staff communication breaks down or certain staff members neglect their duties. When residents do not have adequate food, water, hygiene assistance, shelter, or medical treatment, they can suffer serious injuries.
Physical abuse – People can commit physical harm to others in almost any situation – and nursing homes are no different. Staff or other residents may hit, kick, bite, punch, wrongfully restrain, or otherwise cause physical injury to nursing home residents. Older residents are particularly vulnerable to assaults and injuries, as they may not be strong enough to defend themselves. Injuries may require serious medical treatment and may even put a resident’s life in danger. Such assaults can cause mental trauma, as well.
Emotional abuse – Not all abuse causes physical injuries, as emotional abuse can be seriously harmful to a victim. Staff members may belittle, criticize, threaten, or make other emotionally-harmful statements to residents that can result in serious emotional scars. Residents may also be wrongfully isolated from others, may be forced to live in fear, or may be emotionally manipulated and traumatized in other ways.
Sexual abuse – Not many people discuss the possibility of sexual abuse against elderly nursing home residents, though this happens more often than you may believe. Residents may be incapable of defending against a sexual attacker and thus are completely vulnerable to unwanted sexual exposure, touching, or assault. Needless to say, sexual abuse can cause severe physical and mental trauma.
Any type of nursing home abuse can result in lasting injuries and effects for a victim. Nursing homes should be held fully liable for the wrongful or negligent acts of staff members or others at the facility, as well as failures to provide appropriate levels of care.
The lawyers at The Levin Firm understand that nursing home abuse is underreported. Our attorneys know that some residents are fearful that the nursing home abuse will continue or escalate if the nursing home abuse is reported. Others are ashamed to admit having been victims of nursing home abuse, or perhaps they do not think anyone will believe them. Other residents may not have the cognitive capacity to understand or recall how they were injured. As a result, it is important to be aware of possible signs that your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Signs of nursing home abuse or neglect can include any of the following:
If you notice any of these warning signs, or anything else out of the ordinary, you should not hesitate to discuss your best course of action with a skilled nursing home injury attorney.
If you suspect that an elderly person has been abused or neglected by their nursing home, you should take action. Here’s what to do:
1. Verify the story. Your first step should be to see if the elderly person is telling the truth. Get clear about what your relative or friend is saying by going over the problem with them. If you can, check with other residents of the nursing home who seem to be coherent. Also gather medical records, or take photos, of recent injuries or prescriptions.
2. Consider removing the elderly person to another facility. If you are worried about the safety of a nursing home resident, assist them in leaving the nursing home immediately.
3. Inform the authorities. Inform the police or district attorney. In some states, such as California, you are required to report elder abuse when you learn it has occurred. If the district attorney determines that the evidence that you present rises to the level of criminal behavior, the state will file charges against the nursing home.
4. File a complaint with the appropriate agencies. File a complaint about the nursing home to your state’s department of social services, adult protective services, or elder protective services.
If you are considering filing a nursing home abuse claim, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney. In the event that you file a complaint against a nursing home, you will need to present all evidence of the losses or suffering that resulted from the nursing home’s conduct. Additionally, to strengthen your claim, you should provide as much information on the following types of damages:
1. Necessary and reasonable medical expenses;
2. Actual past expenses for physician, hospital, nursing and laboratory fees, medications, prosthetic devices, etc.;
3. Anticipated future expenses;
4. Harm from conditions caused by prolonged immobilization;
5. Pain and suffering from physical injuries;
6. Pain and suffering reasonably likely to occur in the future;
7. “Phantom pain” and other subjective pain that may not be readily apparent to others;
8. Mental anguish;
9. Harm from loss of sleep;
10. Past and future impairment of the ability to enjoy life.
1. Mental Suffering: Monetary damages may be awarded for a nursing home residents or their survivors, for pain, suffering, disfigurement, and impaired enjoyment of life. These damages are awarded for both physical and mental pain. Mental suffering for which one may recover damages can include the following:
2. Disfigurement: The elderly are entitled to damages for disfigurement caused by another. Disfigurement can include scars, amputation, hair loss, or any other injury that affects one’s appearance. The dignity of senior citizens should be respected and preserved whenever possible, and if it is affected by a disfiguring injury, an appropriate complaint against the nursing home for monetary damages should be made.
3. Loss of enjoyment of life: The loss of the enjoyment of life is generally understood to mean one is deprived of the ordinary pleasures of living a full life. With an elderly client, this could mean the ability to play with one’s grandchildren, to walk and exercise as one did prior to an injury, to communicate meaningfully with others, or to engage in pastimes one previously enjoyed.
4. Shortened Life Expectancy: Courts generally do not recognize shortened life expectancy as a separate injury, but it may be considered in determining the seriousness of an injury, decreased earning capacity, pain and suffering, and mental suffering from the knowledge that one’s life will be shorter. Jurors are typically told to determine a plaintiff’s future damages based on standard life expectancy tables; however, due to improvements in medical science and living conditions over the years, an attorney might argue that life expectancy was or is actually greater than the standard tables would indicate.
5. Punitive Damages: Punitive damages may be awarded in cases where it is shown that a nursing home engaged in malicious or reckless conduct. In such cases, it is sometimes argued that the nursing home resident was deprived of his or her statutory rights.
Representing victims of nursing home abuse requires a team of lawyers, nurses, and others trained to review the facts of these cases, including medical records. It can be very difficult to prove that even the most serious nursing home injury is the result of assault or medical malpractice. That’s why you need attorneys on your side to investigate medical records and find the best medical experts to examine the extent of your injuries. At The Levin Firm, we also work with highly-regarded experts to determine the type of medical malpractice and how and why it happened. At times, we will work with other law firms with particular expertise to assure that our clients receive the most thorough and zealous representation.
When you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey personal injury attorney to represent you or a loved one who has been abused or neglected in a nursing home, contact
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