When Should You File A Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit? Elder care is a difficult situation for many families. When our loved ones are unable to care for themselves, we sometimes choose nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to provide for their needs. We trust these facilities to provide around-the-clock care, and nobody truly wants to file a lawsuit against them unless there is a legitimate reason. Unfortunately, there are situations that warrant a nursing home lawsuit. The national personal injury law firm of Parker Waichman LLP comments that litigation holds facilities responsible for their actions; this ensures that justice is served and the victim’s rights are upheld, but it also prevents similar behaviors from occurring at nursing homes in the future. Filing a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit holds facilities accountable for their actions.
You should consider a lawsuit if a nursing home’s actions were abusive, negligent, or acted in a willful manner that led to an injury. Lawsuits may be filed when a nursing home staff member acted inappropriately or failed to act when necessary. A facility may be negligent, for example, if it fails to provide a safe environment for its residents. This includes keeping the nursing home reasonably safe and free from hazards. Common safeguards should include preventing slip and fall accidents, for example. A nursing home negligence lawsuit may also be filed if, for instance, a closet full of harmful chemicals was left unlocked and readily accessible for residents. A long-term care facility should be kept clean and sanitary.
Lawsuits may also be filed regarding nursing home hiring practices, including whether staff is appropriately trained and properly supervised. Sadly, there are examples of nursing home staff members committing physical, verbal or sexual abuse. Lawsuits have also been filed when staff failed to attend to a resident’s needs, which can lead to injury or death.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Sometimes, nursing home residents are unable to communicate to their loved ones that abuse or neglect has occurred. Because of this, individuals with family members in nursing homes can look out for certain “hidden” issues that could indicate nursing home problems:
- Bedsores: Also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, occur when there is unrelieved pressure, such as when a resident has laid in one position for too long. According to Mayo Clinic, bed sores are more likely to occur on the area of skin covering bony areas, such as the heels, ankles hips and tailbone.
- Weight Loss: If the resident is not being given proper nutrition, you may notice unexplained weight loss or dehydration. Sometimes, nursing homes are understaffed and basic needs can be overlooked.
- Falling: Injuries from falling are a known danger among elderly individuals, particularly if they are in poor health. Facilities have an obligation to implement fall-prevention plans.
- Unexplained bruises or injuries: These can sometimes be a sign of physical abuse
While these symptoms are not a definitive sign of nursing home abuse, abuse and neglect can produce these signs.
New Rule Allows Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect Victims to Sue
New federal rules announced in September 2016 would give nursing home abuse and neglect victims the right to sue. In the most significant change to rules governing federal funding of nursing homes in 20 years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rule that prevents forced arbitration in nursing home contracts. Forced arbitration means that if residents have a dispute, they give up their right to file a lawsuit and must go through the private and secretive procedure of arbitration.
The New York Times reported that forced arbitration helps keep many nursing home problems hidden, including abuse, sexual harassment and even wrongful death. These forced arbitration clauses are embedded into nursing home contracts when residents are admitted. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy commented, “The sad reality is that today too many Americans must choose between forfeiting their legal rights and getting adequate medical care” according to NYT.
The new rule, if passed, would prohibit forced arbitration clauses at nursing homes that receive federal funding. Nursing homes would not be able to make signing of arbitration clauses a condition of admission. CMS proposed the rule after officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia urged the government to cut off funding to nursing homes that use forced arbitration.
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