When you or a loved one moves into a nursing home, you have every reason to expect to receive professional and compassionate care. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and nursing home negligence is an all too common problem. As such, it is crucial to understand your legal rights in cases of nursing home neglect and abuse.
This blog will delve deeper into what constitutes nursing home negligence and abuse, the common signs of neglect, how to prove negligence, and the steps to take when filing a lawsuit against a nursing home. Our goal is to provide you with a clear understanding of the issue and help you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.
- What is Nursing Home Negligence?
- Common Signs of Neglect in Nursing Homes
- Steps to Take When Filing a Lawsuit
- How to Prove Negligence
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
Negligence is a legal term used to describe the failure of an individual to exercise reasonable care that results in injury or damage to another party. Negligence occurs when someone fails to fulfill their duty not to harm another person.
Nursing home negligence can come in many different forms. Some examples of nursing home negligence include:
- Medical neglect can include failing to administer medication, not providing the correct and necessary medical treatments, or not properly monitoring a resident’s health condition for changes. Medical neglect is especially dangerous for residents with chronic medical conditions whose lives depend on receiving the proper care. If a nursing home fails to provide necessary medical care, the resident can suffer serious health consequences or even death.
- Emotional neglect occurs when the nursing home staff causes emotional distress to its residents. This could be caused by isolating residents, ignoring residents’ requests for assistance or attention, or failing to provide opportunities for socialization. Emotional neglect can lead to depression, anxiety, and a decreased quality of life for residents.
- Neglecting basic needs includes failure to provide for the basic needs of its residents, such as personal hygiene, a clean living environment, and adequate food and water. Neglecting basic needs can have negative health consequences, including infections, malnutrition, and dehydration.
- Physical neglect and abuse are any actions or inactions that result in physical harm or injury. Physical abuse includes things like hitting, pushing, or restraining a resident. Physical neglect and abuse can result in injuries, bruises, fractures, and even death.
- Sexual abuse is a particularly insidious form of nursing home abuse that can be difficult to detect as residents may be hesitant to report such abuse out of fear or shame. Sexual abuse consists of any unwanted sexual conduct that a resident experiences.
- Financial abuse happens when a staff member steals or misuses a resident’s money, property, or assets. It can also occur when staff members coerce or manipulate residents into signing financial documents.
Nursing home neglect and abuse can be purposeful and malicious, but it can also be the result of understaffed facilities, poor staff training, hiring inexperienced or unqualified workers, failure to maintain the facility in accordance with industry and state guidelines, and more. Regardless of the cause, nursing home neglect and abuse are illegal and unacceptable under any circumstances.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect?
The signs of nursing home neglect can vary depending on the type of abuse or neglect experienced. Some of the most common signs of neglect and abuse include:
- Visible physical injuries, such as bruises, scars, cuts, or burns
- Weight loss, malnourishment, or dehydration
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers
- Infections or sepsis
- Emotional changes, such as increased stress levels, anxiety, or depression
- A loss of interest in activities
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inadequate hygiene, such as dirty clothing or unwashed hair
You may also notice worrisome signs with the nursing home’s facilities or employees. Some of these signs may include the following:
- The nursing home’s facilities are dirty or in need of maintenance.
- The staff communicates poorly with residents and family members and lacks transparency when communicating.
- The facility is noticeably understaffed and can’t provide adequate care to all of its residents.
- Employees downplay or ignore reports of suspected negligence or abuse.
- Staff members give residents the wrong medications or provide prescriptions that conflict with other medicines.
If you notice any of these signs, talk with your loved one about the care they’re receiving to see if they’ve experienced any problems or have concerns about the nursing home.
Filing a Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit
If you suspect or know that a loved one is a victim of nursing home negligence or abuse, taking prompt action is crucial. Proving negligence in nursing homes can be challenging, but it is a necessary step to hold the nursing home accountable. To prove negligence, the following conditions must be met.
- The nursing home owed a duty of care to the resident
- The nursing home breached that duty of care
- The breach caused the resident injury or harm
- The resident suffered damages as a result of the breach
Like hospitals and other medical facilities, nursing homes owe their residents a duty of care. The specifics of the duty owed can vary, but working with an experienced nursing home negligence attorney can help you determine the exact duty owed.
In most cases, the statute of limitations for filing a nursing home negligence or abuse lawsuit in Illinois is two years. This means you have two years from when you knew, or reasonably should have known, that your loved one was hurt to file a lawsuit. Therefore, it’s best to take action as quickly as possible to preserve all the relevant evidence to your case.
Forced Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Homes
One potential roadblock to filing a lawsuit is if the nursing home includes a forced arbitration clause in its contract. Unfortunately, many nursing homes bury these clauses in their contracts, which can significantly impact a person’s ability to sue for negligence. These clauses require that disputes be resolved through arbitration rather than the court system.
Arbitration is a private process in which an arbitrator, rather than a judge and a jury, reviews the case and makes a decision. The decision is typically final and binding, meaning that there is no opportunity for appeal.
In some cases, you may be able to challenge the validity of the arbitration agreement in court. For example, if the resident didn’t sign the agreement because of competency and a family member signed instead. Your attorney may also argue that the clause is unconstitutional because it violates your Seventh Amendment rights to receive a jury trial.
Just because a nursing home includes an arbitration clause, know that you and your loved ones are not required to sign and agree to it. If you feel pressured into signing something or don’t fully understand the legal ramifications of what you’re signing, do not sign anything without consulting with an experienced attorney first.
How to Prove Nursing Home Negligence
Proving negligence will require evidence showing that the four previously mentioned conditions were met. Here are some types of evidence that may prove negligence.
- Medical records that show treatment for injuries or other health issues incurred as a result of neglect
- Nursing home records showing inconsistencies in treatments
- Photographs or videos that document injuries or unsafe living conditions at the nursing home
- Witness statements corroborating the neglect or abuse
- Expert statements that support the validity of your claim
- Inspections by the state showing that the nursing home violated state requirements
A good lawyer can help you understand what evidence may be needed for your case. They’ll guide you through the legal process, help gather evidence, and explain your options.
Contact the Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys at Lewis Law Firm
If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home neglect or abuse, take immediate action. Contact local law enforcement to report the abuse, move your loved one out of the nursing home, and find an attorney experienced in nursing home negligence cases.
Attorney Brian Lewis and the professionals at Lewis Law Firm have decades of experience with nursing home negligence, personal injury, wrongful death, medical practice cases, and more, with a proven track record of results. Contact us today for a consultation.