Whenever anyone suffers an injury that was caused by the wrongful or negligent conduct of another party, the injured party may bring a claim for compensation. The same holds true for nursing home residents who have sustained an injury, a serious medical condition or emotional distress from an act or acts of nursing home neglect, violence or abuse.
In some tort cases, such as car accidents, liability is often obvious, but proving liability in a nursing home abuse case can present challenges especially if the resident suffers from dementia or fears reprisal if a complaint is made.
To prove liability, it is instructive to know that a nursing home resident is entitled under law to certain safeguards, adequate health care and a safe and clean environment. When these entitlements are not provided or are violated, then the facility can be held liable for any injuries that result.
What Are a Nursing Home Resident’s Rights?
State and federal laws entitle nursing home residents to certain standards of care and attention to medical treatment. Each resident is given a care plan where their special medical or other needs are detailed. Residents also have a “bill of rights” that recognizes their right to adequate and appropriate care, to participate in their own care and recreational activities and to refuse physical or chemical restraints. More importantly, residents are to be treated with respect and dignity and to free from mental and physical abuse.
Unfortunately, physical injuries and mental anguish are common occurrences in nursing homes. But proving that a nursing home caused or substantially contributed to a resident’s injuries or emotional distress can be difficult. If you suspect your loved one was the victim of negligence or abuse by a nursing home employee, contact nursing home abuse lawyer Peter Tetzel to discuss your legal options.
Examples of Nursing Home Abuse
Evidence of possible nursing home abuse comes in many guises:
- Unexplained bruises on face or limbs, which may have resulted from falls or use of restraints
- Torn clothing
- No entries in the resident’s medical records regarding a bruise or illness
- Unclean areas in the facility
- Bruises and bleeding in the genital area
- Broken limbs
- Sudden illness or heart or other serious medical conditions from failure to take medication
- Extreme changes in mood such as withdrawal, depression and reluctance to participate in activities
- Fear or distress in the presence of a staff member
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Hygienic deficiencies
- Determining that medication has not been given or was over administered
- Evasive or unreasonable responses from staff regarding a resident’s appearance or condition
What a Nursing Home Liability Lawyer Can Do
Proving liability for the injuries suffered by a resident may require an extensive investigation by your attorney. Sources that may be used as evidence of abuse include:
- Statements from other residents regarding their observations and experiences
- Photographs of the resident’s room, facility and visible injuries
- Observations from family members regarding the resident’s appearance, demeanor and mood changes
- Examination of the resident’s facility records
- An outside physician conducing a medical examination and/or psychological assessment
- Notes of discussions with staff personnel
- Correspondence from the facility regarding the resident
- Background records of staff members
- Record of complaints and violations against the facility
In Massachusetts, the Department of Health Care Facility, Licensure and Certification investigates complaints of nursing home abuses or neglect. Before a complaint is filed, your attorney may have you discuss any complaints with an ombudsman for the facility who can direct you on complaint procedures or your nursing home abuse lawyer can help with the complaint form and filing it. Meanwhile, gathering the above evidence is essential. If the investigation by the department reveals that neglect or abuse was evident, then a lawsuit or claim against the facility can be easier to bring and negotiate for a settlement. In any case, you or your loved one has a right to file a lawsuit if the injuries were caused by the nursing home staff regardless of the outcome of the investigation if one is conducted.
A resident who has suffered physical or emotional injuries can collect compensation. Your attorney can provide the necessary medical and psychological documentation to prove your loved one sustained the following possible damages:
- Medical expenses
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering or emotional distress can be shown by the physical injuries inflicted and by the change in temperament, feelings of fear and anxiety from statements of family, friends and fellow residents. You may also use the results of psychological counseling or examination. If the resident succumbs to injuries related to the facility’s negligence, the immediate family could recover damages for the loss of love, companionship and support provided by the decedent along with burial and funeral expenses. If the conduct of a staff member and/or facility was grossly negligent, then punitive or exemplary damages may be possibly awarded.
Contact attorney Paul Tetzel if you suspect a loved one has suffered injuries from nursing home abuse. He will analyze the facts and circumstances of your possible claim and discuss the steps to be taken to ensure your loved one is kept safe and given medical attention while investigating the actions of the nursing home facility.