Proving Neglect in an Elder Abuse Lawsuit
In nursing homes, neglect generally means that the facility is providing substandard care to one or more of its residents. Nursing homes can be convicted of negligence if three things are found to be true. First, the plaintiff must show that a particular duty was owed to the plaintiff. For example, nursing homes have the duty to provide reasonably a clean living environment, basic medical care, and nutrition. Secondly, the plaintiff must show that the particular duty in question was not met. This can be done through photographs, videos, eyewitness testimonies, and medical records, among other documents and evidence. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty directly caused the plaintiff's injuries.
The third step is usually the most contentious part of a lawsuit. Proving that the nursing home had a duty of care and failed to meet that duty can be relatively straight forward. However, sometimes the defense will argue that the plaintiff's injuries were not caused by this breach in duty. They might argue, for example, that a resident's sudden weight loss was attributable to a health condition rather than neglect. Or they might say that a fall was caused by the resident's medication or personal clumsiness, rather than by the facility's lack of supervision and staff presence. These defenses should be foreseen by an experienced personal injury attorney and exposed as false.
When to Consider an Elder Neglect Lawsuit
If you suspect that a loved one is being mistreated, it can be difficult to know when to take definitive action. Suspicions, especially if you cannot confirm them, can be maddening, and you may be concerned that you are blowing the situation out of proportion. There are some scenarios, however, that warrant investigation and concern. Some possible signs that legal action might be a good option for you in a case of neglect include
- When your loved one is in danger of becoming or has already become ill due to a lack of cleanliness in their living facility, food, or water.
- If a resident shows signs of the onset of depression or anxiety or displays new destructive behaviors such as self-harm, aggression, or social withdrawal.
- When your loved one loses weight suddenly or without reasonable cause.
- If you feel that your loved one is in danger of any kind from staff, other residents, or environmental hazards.
- If your loved one expresses that they feel scared, lonely, and/or neglected by the staff and speaks to you about specific instances.
- When you notice that your loved one is not receiving their medication or other necessary medical attention in a timely manner or medication is forgotten or skipped.
If unaddressed, many of these situations can lead to serious health concerns, injuries, or even death. Recognizing patterns and signs of neglect may save your loved one's life, but taking action is a vital part of that process. If you believe there is a good chance of neglect, an experienced elder abuse attorney can help you evaluate the situation and advise you how to move forward with your loved one's health and safety in mind.
Neglect and Other Forms of Abuse
If any form of intentional abuse is occurring at a nursing home, neglect is almost always going on simultaneously. While abuse can and does occur in well supervised and organized facilities, a failure to provide basic care and attention to residents often lead to an environment where abuse is likely to occur. For example, if a resident not being checked on periodically, other residents might be more likely to take advantage of them and commit physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. If a resident is not given proper nutrition or taken to the bathroom frequently, they are more likely to experience falls, as they are weak and may try to perform tasks on their own. Instances of abuse rarely occur on their own. That is why neglect can be an important warning sign for toxic situations, and legal investigations can provide the tools to help reveal patterns within a facility.
Statute of Limitations in Cases of Neglect
A statute of limitation sets the amount of time after a certain crime or action has taken place within which a lawsuit can be filed. They are designed to protect defendants from claims for something that occurred a long time in the past. The reasoning is that defendants might have disposed of relevant evidence and that plaintiffs with a valid cause of action usually take action fairly promptly. For this reason, it is important to file quickly if you believe that you have a case for neglect. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a civil case against elder abuse and/or wrongful death is 2 years. In Maryland, plaintiffs have 3 years to file such a suit.
Damages for Elder Neglect Lawsuits
Compensation in elder neglect lawsuits can range widely, but there are many different kinds of damages that can be collected if the case is presented thoroughly. If the victim of neglect suffered injuries or needed medical attention due to the nursing home's actions, they will likely be compensated for the expense of that care. They might also be reimbursed for counseling or physical therapy, rehoming fees or the cost of in-home care, any lasting medical issues, and prescription medications. Damages might also include compensation for emotional distress and trauma, which can be considerable in elder abuse and neglect cases. In wrongful death cases, the victim's family can sue for loss of companionship.
Legal Assistance for Elderly Victims of Neglect
Bringing an elder abuse lawsuit can be a serious and difficult step, but it can be easier with the help of an experienced and trusted attorney. Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian work with their clients to provide individualized support and the attention that each case deserves. To consult with them about your situation for no initial fee, call them today at 800.529.6162 or contact them through their online form. They take cases in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and D.C.