Drug rehab centers are notoriously under-regulated and unsupervised. With so little oversight, accidents, abuse, and injuries that are suffered within their walls rarely get reported to the outside world except as isolated anecdotes from victims who think they are anomalies. With so few repercussions from these incidents, drug rehab centers feel little need to correct what can be systemic patterns of conduct by their staffers or internal policies that routinely end up with patients getting hurt.
When that happens, the victims deserve to be compensated for their losses. Drug rehab facilities are supposed to be where people get the medical care and attention that they need to overcome their addiction, not be put at risk of an injury or subjected to abuse because the treatment center could not be bothered to keep them safe.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian work to legally represent those who have been hurt and recover the compensation they deserve.
The Problem of Abuse at Drug Rehab Centers
Drug rehab centers are filled with people who are looking for the medical care and therapy that they need to overcome serious addiction problems. Since the opioid crisis, drug rehab centers have been filled to the brim, and more and more centers are being opened every week to meet the huge demand.
Precisely because the people who go to drug rehab centers need urgent and tactful care and because they are often in a fragile emotional and sometimes even physical state when they check into a rehab facility, rehab patients are also very vulnerable people. At this particular point in their life, they have come to a rehab facility because they realize that they need help to overcome a huge obstacle in their life. That is not an easy thing to realize or to follow through on, and the daily struggle to overcome addiction is difficult to overstate.
This means that drug rehab patients are especially prone to being abused. This abuse most often comes in one of three ways:
- Physical Abuse. Staff members or other patients at the rehab facility take out their pent up frustration on someone in a physically violent fashion.
- Negligent Abuse. Staff members can ignore or fail to care for someone at the rehab facility who needs medical care. When taken to extremes, the lack of care can be life-threatening if the patient needs sudden attention.
- Sexual Abuse. Staff members or other patients can take advantage of drug rehab patients who are in a vulnerable state of mind and who are emotionally unstable from their attempts to overcome their addiction.
Stories of each of these types of abuse are rampant, despite the fact that most of the incidents are likely to go unreported. Whether the abuse was negligent or intentional, together with whether the perpetrator was a member of the rehab center's staff or one of the other patients, can make a huge difference in a personal injury case stemming from abuse at a drug rehab center.
Holding the Drug Center Responsible for Its Employees' Negligence
A key component of a lawsuit against a drug rehab center stemming from injuries suffered at the hands of the center's staff is implicating the center in the lawsuit. Practically speaking, the staff member that hurt you is probably not going to have the funds to pay the costs of a verdict out of their own pocket. Even though they were the ones who hurt you, directly, winning a personal injury lawsuit against them is not going to get you very far. Even if you prove your case, you are very likely going to be left with little to show for it.
There is a legal doctrine, though, that you can make use of if you have been hurt by a staffer at a drug rehab center: Respondeat superior.
Respondeat superior, a Latin phrase for “let the boss answer,” is a legal concept that holds employers strictly liable for the negligent conduct of their employees. So long as the employee was on-the-clock at the time of their conduct and they were acting within the scope of their employment, respondeat superior stretches liability for the costs of their negligence through to their employer.
The idea behind respondeat superior is that it is the employer who benefits the most from their workers being on the clock, so they should be held liable for the foreseeable negative consequences of their work, including their negligence.
Of course, this could only apply to your case if you were hurt by a staffer's negligence, not their intentional conduct. While some forms of abuse do come in the form of negligence, the vast majority is intentional or even criminal. In those cases, stretching liability through the staff member and to the drug rehab center is more difficult. However, it can still be done.
Negligent Hiring Can Stretch Liability to a Rehab Center for Intentional Abuse
If you were hurt by the intentional conduct of a drug rehab center's staff member, it can actually be even more difficult to recover the compensation that you need and deserve to recover from your injuries. When the staffer was acting outside the scope of their employment – something that is almost guaranteed if they were sexually abusive towards you at the rehab center – the law sees that as a reason to separate the employer from the employee's conduct.
While this might make logical sense – the employer is less connected to the employee's intentional deviations from their job description – it comes at a serious price for those who ended up getting hurt by the employee's intentional acts: It puts victims in a position where they may have to rely exclusively on the staffer to cover the costs of their losses.
There is one way to get around this problem, though: If the victim can show that the drug rehab center negligently hired the staffer that intentionally abused them, then liability for their losses can be stretched through to the center's deeper pockets. If successful, the odds that the victim will see a verdict completely covered can increase dramatically.
Proving that the drug rehab center negligently hired someone often requires offering proof that the staffer had a history of doing abusive or dangerous things similar to what they did to you. If you were sexually abused at a drug rehab center, this would involve showing that the staffer:
- Had a criminal history that included convictions or credible accusations of sexual abuse or sexual assault,
- Had a file of complaints at the rehab center for sexually abusive behavior,
- Was facing disciplinary action for sexually abusive conduct, or
- Had been fired from a previous job for sexual misconduct.
By providing this kind of evidence, you can show that the drug rehab center should never have hired this particular staff member because of how foreseeable it was that they would do such a thing, again. The law recognizes this as a way of implicating an employer for the intentional conduct of their employees because of the employer's role in creating the situation that led to your injuries: By bringing such a person onto the roster, the employer put innocent people into serious and completely foreseeable risk, and deserves to be held accountable.
Abuse By Other Rehab Patients
It can also be difficult to impute liability to the rehab center when the abuse was committed by other patients at the rehab facility. However, there are still ways that victims can show that the rehab center was negligent or acted in ways that drastically increased the odds that they would get hurt.
One potential avenue for liability is to show that the rehab center's policies created needless opportunities for rehab patients to get abused by others at the facility. Because of the emotional turmoil that every rehab patient goes through at some point during their stay at a drug rehab center, facilities should take care to ensure everyone is kept safe from other patients. Deliberately allowing patients unrestrained or unsupervised access to one another can be a recipe for disaster – a disaster that the rehab center should be held accountable for creating.
Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
The decision to go to drug rehab is not a small one that is easily made. Worrying about the potential for abuse at a drug rehab center should not be a part of that decision. Instead, the only concern should be the facility's ability to help you overcome the drug addiction that you are suffering from.
Unfortunately, abuse happens at these centers. Some of it comes from the other people who are struggling with their own addiction. Some of it comes from the staffers who are there to protect you and to ensure you get the care you need. None of it is your fault, so you deserve to be compensated for the pain and suffering that you have been put through.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can legally represent you in and out of court, invoke your rights, and fight on your behalf. Contact them online to get started on your case.