One of the least appreciated dangers of drug or alcohol rehab is the potential for contracting an infectious disease. People who are recovering from addiction often have compromised immune systems from the physical trauma that their addiction has put their body through. As a result, patients in a rehab facility are more likely to catch someone else's disease because of their weakened immune system and are also more likely to be surrounded by people who have contagious and potentially life-altering ailments.
If you do catch a disease during your time at a rehab center, you may have legal options and are bound to have pressing questions about what you can do.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian answer some of the most common questions they get about the situation.
If I Got Infected With a Disease at Rehab, Is There Anything That Can Be Done?
Yes. While time cannot be turned backwards, you can make sure you are compensated for your ailment. Filing a personal injury lawsuit against the rehab center is the best way to make sure you recover the compensation you need to treat your disease in the future, and that you deserve to receive for being put through such a difficult ordeal.
Is It Reasonable to Expect a Rehab Center to Have Prevented This From Happening?
Absolutely. Drug and alcohol rehab centers – especially inpatient facilities that keep patients for months at a time – should know that their patients are coming from difficult pasts. Particularly in drug rehab centers, it is completely foreseeable that many of the patients have infectious and life-threatening diseases like HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis. Because rehab centers should be aware of the dangers and are in the best position to control a patient's environment, it is completely reasonable to expect them to take the necessary precautions to keep patients safe from infectious diseases. Looking at it from the other perspective, not expecting these precautions out of a rehab center would endanger thousands of patients who are in a bad position to help themselves.
What Kind of Evidence Is Needed to Hold a Rehab Center Accountable?
The exact nature of the evidence that is necessary to prove that a rehab center failed to protect you from an infectious disease always depends on the circumstances of the case. However, you will have to show that you were not infected with the disease when you first started going to the rehab facility.
Other common types of evidence that are used in these cases are internal policies that the rehab center uses for cleaning the facility and for disposing of potentially hazardous waste. Evidence that other people have gotten infected with diseases at the facility is not as damning as one might imagine, though: personal injury cases require you to show that your fate was caused by the rehab center, making the experiences of others less relevant.
What Steps Do Rehab Centers Need to Take to Prevent Patients from Getting Sick?
Rehab centers have a legal duty to take “reasonable steps” to ensure their patients are kept free from foreseeable harms like infectious diseases. What constitutes “reasonable steps,” though, is not defined by the law. Rather, the context and the circumstances of each case dictate what the rehab center was legally required to do. Factors like whether the center provided inpatient care or just outpatient care, whether the center catered its therapy to those at heightened risks for carrying infectious diseases, and even the details of the therapeutic programs the facility offered can all help to determine what the rehab facility needed to do.
What Kind of Compensation Would Help Me Recover?
A successful personal injury claim would recover financial compensation that is meant to cover the costs of the medical expenses associated with treating the disease you contracted at the rehab facility. These expenses can become staggering over the long term, so recovering compensation to cover these costs is crucial.
In addition to financial compensation for your medical expenses, a successful personal injury case would also recover wages that were lost and any reduced earning capacity you have suffered from the disease, as well as compensation for the pain and suffering you have been put through.
How Can an Attorney Help?
An attorney can help you with the experience and insight that they bring to developing your side of the story. Lawsuits against rehab centers are especially difficult claims to make because most of the evidence is under the control of the facility – things like internal policies, surveillance video, staff and personnel records, and patient information. Getting access to that evidence is rarely easy, and often requires forcing the court to take action to prevent it from disappearing. Attorneys who represent clients in lawsuits against rehab centers know what kinds of information these facilities keep, how they hide it to protect themselves from lawsuits, and the best ways to gain access to it.
Throughout this process, an attorney can represent you in settlement negotiations with the rehab center with the experience necessary to tell if a settlement offer is adequate or not. Should the case make it to trial, an attorney's familiarity with the courtroom often becomes a victim's best ally in their fight to recover the compensation they need and deserve.
The Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
If you or someone you love has been infected with a disease while at a rehab center, you should seriously consider taking legal action against the rehab center. They have legal obligations to uphold, and keeping their patients safe from foreseeable harm like an infectious disease is one of them. When they fail to uphold their legal duties, they should be held accountable – both to compensate the victim and to force them to take their legal responsibilities more seriously, in the future.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help make this happen. Contact them online if you have been infected with a terrible disease at a rehab center and want to invoke your legal rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.