How the Law Works To Stop Nursing Home Abuse
You might suspect or have recently discovered that a loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect. Even worse, nursing home residents may be subjected to physical abuse and emotional abuse. Others might suffer financial abuse or even sexual abuse. While most caretakers have your loved one's best interests at heart, nursing home abuse does happen.
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect has happened to your loved one, you have legal options. This article provides basic information regarding nursing home abuse laws. Remember, if you believe an elderly victim is in immediate danger, they should be removed from the nursing home facility as soon as possible. You can report all types of nursing home abuse by contacting your local authorities or adult protective services (APS).
Laws Nursing Homes Must Follow
Nursing homes throughout the United States are regulated by a number of different elder laws. It can often be confusing to understand which laws come into play. It's also difficult to figure out which agencies are responsible for helping you with your nursing home abuse case.
Federal and state laws require nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to abide by a certain standard of care. To prevent nursing home negligence and ensure the well-being of residents, such facilities must comply with a "Residents Bill of Rights." It outlines residents' rights to basic needs, including the rights to:
- Be treated with respect
- To receive proper medical care
- To be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion
Here are just a few of the laws that may help protect your loved one:
- Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA)
- Social Security Act (Requirements for Skilled Nursing Facilities)
- Older Americans Act
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
- State Adult Protective Services (to report abuse, neglect, or exploitation)
- State Elder Abuse Laws
Possible Legal Claims Against a Nursing Home
There are a number of civil claims you may be able to pursue against a nursing home or skilled nursing facility. These include:
- Negligence (carelessness leading to personal injury, such as excessive bedsores)
- Wrongful death (carelessness that leads to death),
- Medical malpractice (mistreatment of elderly residents by medical staff)
- Breach of contract (violations of long-term care facility service agreements)
Keep in mind that legal actions can be civil, criminal, or both. Criminal cases against nursing homes are brought by a district attorney or government prosecutor on behalf of the elderly victim. The government may criminally punish those at fault for the abuse. That means jail time, fines, and the potential suspension or revocation of licenses.
Civil lawsuits are different because they involve private parties only. A civil nursing home abuse lawsuit is meant to provide some financial compensation for you or your loved one's losses. You may be entitled to bring a civil lawsuit on your loved one's behalf. You may need a power of attorney (POA) or declaration of guardianship or conservatorship over the victim. While this can get complicated, it is best to consult a nursing home abuse attorney or personal injury lawyer before attempting to file a lawsuit.
Elements of a Nursing Home Abuse Case
Filing a nursing home abuse case can be tricky. First, an act of abuse or neglect of an older person must have occurred. For example, understaffing may have led to malnutrition in patients who weren't properly fed. Or perhaps a caregiver or nursing home staff member made medication errors that caused serious injuries.
After discovering of any signs of abuse or neglect, make sure a report is made to law enforcement or adult protective services. As their investigation begins, you will need to review evidence and facts surrounding the incident. That includes health care disclaimers and quality-of-life reports that may have been notated in your loved one's medical records.
You may need to retain an expert to review any documentation you receive from the nursing home. A personal injury attorney can help you in this process. You will need to follow correct procedures to file a lawsuit against the nursing home or their parent company. There may also be settlement negotiations with insurance companies. Negotiation helps to determine whether the parties can come to an agreement to avoid litigation (a court battle).
Resources To Help Your Loved Ones
You can use each link below to obtain more information on helping victims of nursing home abuse. These resources can help you rehome elderly persons, report problems to authorities, and gather evidence for the legal process:
Have an Attorney Evaluate Your Nursing Home Abuse Claim
If you or your family members are experiencing pain and suffering caused by nursing home abuse or neglect, you have legal options. You don't have to decipher the law on your own, and you may even be able to obtain a free case evaluation. Speak with a qualified nursing home abuse lawyer to help you decide what your next step should be. They can help you initiate a lawsuit before the expiry of your state's statute of limitations, which sets a deadline for filing cases in court.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.