Nursing Home Abuse: Who is Liable?

Nursing home abuse is a major concern in this country. Each year there are about 500,000 reported cases of elder abuse, though experts opine that unreported cases may be in the millions.
While many abuses occur in the home by family members or health care workers, a substantial number occur in nursing homes where 1 in 3 nursing homes have been cited at least once for nursing home abuse or other violations. This includes Boston nursing home abuse liability claims. Research also shows that 90% of nursing homes are understaffed, a chief factor in why abusive practices are so prevalent. In many of these cases, multiple parties may be legally liable for the abuse or for the injuries residents suffer while in the care of a facility.

Nursing home residents are often elderly and have significant problems with mobility or cognitive functioning and have serious health conditions. Even residents in good health have limited mobility and are vulnerable to injuries from any hazard. For these reasons, legislation is designed to protect our seniors from abuse, fraud and other negligent and criminal behavior.

42 CFR Section 483.25 Quality of Care (Ftag 309) mandates that each nursing home resident receive the necessary care to ensure the highest possible mental, physical and psychosocial well-being in accordance with the health and care plan formulated for each resident. This means that a nursing home has a high duty of care to each resident regarding their health, medical care, nutrition, hygiene and social needs. The failure to provide such care can be intentional or criminally negligent and result in a resident having to endure needless pain, suffering and death. In these cases, a nursing home abuse liability lawyer should be called to determine the responsible parties and to hold them accountable.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse can constitute any of the following types:

  • Bedsore infections
  • Dehydration
  • Over or under-medication
  • Malnutrition
  • Unreasonable restraint
  • Verbal abuse—taunting and intimidation
  • Physical abuse such as punching, slapping, pushing or use of implements
  • Sexual abuse

If you suspect your loved one has evidence of injury or bruising, becomes suddenly ill, suffers mood or physical changes or appears fearful of staff, seek immediate outside medical attention and have the health care provider give an opinion whether abuse has occurred. Also, contact an attorney to investigate whether you may have a nursing home abuse liability claim.

Responsible Parties

While a nursing home and its staff is responsible for the daily care of its residents and is commonly found responsible for abuse due to its violations of state and federal regulations and the practices of its staff, other parties may also be found liable for injuring a resident though it may not be considered abuse.

Nursing Facilities

For the most part, the nursing home facility or its parent company is liable for the acts of its staff and employees who engage in abusive behavior. They have a high duty of care to residents and proof of a violation of a state or federal regulation or law indicates breach of that duty. Often, staff is found to be undertrained, overwhelmed because of short staffing and unmonitored. In some cases, a more comprehensive background check would have revealed an abusive staff member with an assault record. The facility is also responsible for providing security, protecting residents from health and safety hazards, for allowing use of excessive restraints and for not ensuring a resident’s health and medication requirements are met.

Designers and Manufacturers of Defective Products

If a resident was injured by the use of a defective medical device, such as a pacemaker or failed knee replacement system, or some other flawed therapy or health product then a product liability claim might be brought against the product designer, manufacturer and marketer or any other party in the chain of commerce. For example, a defective part in a wheelchair might have caused a brake to fail. If outside contractors improperly used a product or failed to adequately fix or maintain it, then they may be exposed to liability.

Vendors and Contractors

Nursing homes often hire vendors or other parties to perform work such as security, maintenance, food service, recreational activities and transportation. Their failure to exercise ordinary care in not providing adequate security from a robber or trespasser, in creating a hazardous condition, improperly using a device, providing a safe environment or in operating a motor vehicle can lead to serious and catastrophic injuries.

Damages in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

A nursing home abuse liability lawyer can help you and your loved one recover damages for injuries sustained while in the care of a nursing home. Typical damages include:

  • Past and current medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • If married, loss of consortium claim by the spouse

If your loved one suffered fatal injuries, then the administrator of the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim against the nursing home and/or any other party whose negligence contributed to the decedent’s fatal injuries. Damages include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of love, support, guidance and counsel if the decedent was capable of providing this
  • Pain and suffering if the decedent consciously suffered pain before dying
  • Punitive damages if the defendant was grossly or criminally negligent

Call Boston nursing home abuse liability attorney Paul Tetzel if your loved one was the victim of abuse or was injured while in the care and under the supervision of a nursing home. His experience and dedication to getting you fair compensation sets him apart from other legal practitioners who purport to handle these often complex cases.