Know Your Rights Regarding Nursing Home Neglect
My elderly relative was injured while residing in a nursing home, what can I do?
If your loved one has been injured while living in a nursing home facility, he or she has the right to bring a legal action for damages. You may also bring a claim on your loved one’s behalf, if he or she is not able to do so. You may have different legal claims depending on the situation and type of injury your loved one has suffered. Most often, a personal injury claim against a nursing home will be based on the theory of negligence. Depending on the factual situation, some negligence claims may include negligent hiring of employees, building and/or equipment maintenance or neglect in resident care. If your loved one has been injured by a staff member, you (or your relative) may also have claims of assault and battery.
Both state and federal statutes exist that protect nursing home residents against abuse, neglect and other forms of mistreatment. Forms of abuse may be physical or mental in nature and may be discovered in different ways. Neglect is usually the failure to provide an individual with basic needs such as clothing, food, shelter and medical care. Mistreatment may also be nonphysical in nature, such as an employee taking advantage of a resident and stealing, or taking control of his or her finances. These types of occurrences have become more common in recent years. For this reason, state and federal statues were created to provide protections and rights for care facility residents.
Some rights and protections that nursing home residents should possess are financial information and control of their own finances (unless incapacitated); medical knowledge and control over health care decisions; the right to socialize/communicate with doctors, visitors, other residents and participate in activities of their choosing; and the right to be fully informed of the administrative process in their facility and able to participate when they choose. Most jurisdictions have a Patient’s Bill of Rights that will describe specific rights each patient is entitled to while living in a care facility. If your loved one has been denied any of his or her rights, abused, neglected or exploited, he or she (or another individual on the injured person’s behalf) may have a claim for damages.
When bringing a claim for injuries sustained in a nursing home facility, you must be able to prove a personal injury case to the court. Elements that must be proven would include the establishment of a legal duty owed by the defendant (often the nursing home) to the resident and a breach of this duty. It must also be shown that the breach caused the injury that your loved one (the victim) suffered and that the injury did in fact occur. Furthermore, in such a case, additional damages may be proven such as mental pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement, malicious conduct by an employee or loss of quality of life. Depending on the facts of your case and the jurisdiction the court is in, you may also be able to ask for punitive damages. Punitive damages go beyond compensatory damages, which are generally the type of damages received in personal injury cases. If the court (judge or jury) awards punitive damages, they are intended to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and not to compensate the complainant (the injured party or a relative on his or her behalf) for injuries sustained.