Congress Contemplates Limiting Damages for Nursing Home Abuse Cases. H.R. 1215, entitled”An Act to improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system,” was passed in the House of Representatives on June 28, 2017. The Senate now has H.R. 1215 for its consideration. The Bill awaits action by the Senate Judiciary committee. The committee has not acted upon H.R. 1215 at this time. This bill could reap havoc on an injured person’s ability to recover adequate damages as compensation for injuries suffered from the negligence of a medical practitioner. Nursing homes would fall under the jurisdiction of H.R. 1215 if it became law.
Parker Waichman LLP Represents the Victims of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Parker Waichman LLP is nationally renowned for delivering justice for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. The nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers from Parker Waichman LLP will fight vigorously to obtain justice for you and your loved one injured while residing in a nursing home. Even if H.R. 1215 becomes law, you can rest assured that Parker Waichman’s nursing home lawyers will rely on their vast experience and extensive resources to maximize your chances of receiving a financial award.
How Far Does H.R. 1215 Go?
H.R. 1215,who’s “Short Title” is “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” if signed into law, would have far-reaching implications for the medical profession. The proponent of the Bill, Rep. Steve King (IA-4), phrases the text of the Bill as an altruistic foray into cutting health care costs for the average person. Most people would agree that health care costs are tremendously expensive at present and they are not likely to recede without a drastic governmental overhaul. Thus, Rep. King proposes that limiting the amount of non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, loss of quality of life and punitive damages to $250,000 per claim will help control the spiraling costs of health care.
H.R. 1215 has several subsections, as all federal laws do. The most significant subsection of the Bill to many is the limitation of damages. At the outset, H.R. 1215 would not restrict or limit any amount of economic losses suffered by the plaintiff. That would mean, for example, that if a patient lost their job due to an injury, they would be compensated for that loss subject only to the amount of damages the plaintiff proves he or she is owed. Past, present, and future medical bills would fall into the same category.
The next subsection substantially alters the legal landscape in the U.S. H.R.1215 limits a claimant to recovering $250,000 for non-economic damages. Even if a jury awarded more than the proposed statutory limit, the judge would have an obligation imposed by H.R. 1215 to reduce the award to $250,000. The number of defendants in the case has no bearing on the limitation of damages. Each defendant must pay their fair share, no more, no less, until the plaintiff received $250,000. Incredibly, the proposed law would apply to cases settled out of court and to all forms of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation and arbitration.
This rule would apply to almost every healthcare facility, doctor, medical device manufacturer, and hospital in the U.S. The law was designed to cover every healthcare professional who received funding from federal sources, including Medicare and Medicaid. To put the icing on the cake, H.R. 1215 would immunize medical device manufacturers from liability if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved of the device and permitted thesaleof the deviceto the public.
H.R. 1215 Would Yield Harsh Results for People Injured in Nursing Homes
H.R. 1215 might serve the purpose of eliminating frivolous lawsuits,but its passage would do more harm than good to people living in nursing homes. A nursing home would have little incentive to prevent or uncover injuries and abuse caused by their employees. Poor patient care is already an issue in many nursing homes across the country. There are also numerous complaints and allegations of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in many nursing homes around the country.
Having the ability to go to court and seek redress for wrongs before a neutral and detached judiciary is one of the principles upon which this country was founded. By passing, H.R. 1215, Congress would be acting as judge and jury. Proponents of the Bill will argue that the Act does not prevent an injured person from seeking redress in court. Instead, it merely prevents plaintiffs from collecting an unwarranted and unjustified award.
It is the specter of non-economic damages that can serve as a deterrent to healthcare providers that they must treat their patients with all due care. Non-economic damages also place a dollar amount on injuries that cannot be quantified by just adding medical bills and lost wages together. Non-economic damages gives juries an opportunity to award money to a plaintiff who has suffered mentally and emotionally as a result of another’s carelessness. H.R. 1215 essentially says to the injured person that their suffering means nothing.
H.R. 1215 removes the possibility of awarding significant punitive damages as well. Punitive damages, as the name indicates, are meant to punish intentional or reckless conduct that injures another. Punitive damages are not applicable in every case, but there are some claims that punitive damages are warranted. H.R. 1215 does not explicitly omit punitive damages. However, punitive damages, if awarded, would be included in the $250,000 limitation on non-economic damages.
Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Ruins Lives
In 2014, approximately 1.4 million people were residing in nursing homes and long-term healthcare facilities in the United States.That same year, national data analysis indicated that about 190,000 complaints were made by residents and their families about their living conditions. Approximately 17 percent of those claims involved “abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.” The abuse a loved one suffers might not necessarily be at the hands of the staff. The frequency of resident-on-resident abuse has increased steadily in the last few years.
Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Some signs of abuse are more readily observable than others. Recurring bruising without sufficient explanation is one indicator that a person is suffering physical abuse. Other physical injuries like pressure sores, or bed sores, broken bones, cuts, sprains, again without a goodreason, are signs that a person may be suffering from abuse or neglect.
Existing medical conditions often become worse with abuse and neglect in a nursing home. Many elders become easily agitated, depressed, and emotionally unstable when subjected to abuse. Unfortunately, some elderly people who are physically and emotionally abused by their caretakers die despite not suffering from life-threatening medical conditions.
Nursing home employees and fellow residents can exploit vulnerable patients. Exploitation can be financial when the patient is coerced into giving money to another resident or a staff member. Disgustingly, some staff members exploit their patients sexually. Sexual assault in nursing homes happens all too often. All too often nursing homes are slow to uncover assault allegations. Additionally, residents might be hesitant to come forward because they are afraid of the ramifications disclosure could have. Or, in some cases, no one learns about the abuse until it is too late because the patient has trouble communicating or is mentally impaired.
Immediate Help for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse
Call Parker Waichman LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your loved one’s rights if they were injured or abused in a nursing home. H.R. 1215 is not law at this time. You and your loved one might be eligible to receive financial compensation for nursing home abuse. Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) and learn how to protect your rights and the rights of your loved one.
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