Drug and alcohol rehab treatment centers occupy a unique place in the American healthcare system. While they are not quite hospitals, they do offer crucial in-patient care to people in need of medical assistance. However, they are not regulated like hospitals at all, even though there is a serious possibility for their patients to get hurt by the treatment or negligence of the center's staff.
As a result, when rehab center patients get hurt, their legal rights are not always clear. The personal injury lawyers at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian delve into some of the most common injuries that can happen at drug and alcohol rehab treatment centers and your legal rights if one of those situations happened to you.
Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers in the United States
Drug and alcohol rehab centers have been getting dragged into the limelight by the opioid crisis. As more and more people have become addicted to life-threatening drugs and the attitude towards their plight has changed from seeing drug addiction as a crime to seeing it as a disease, more and more rehab facilities have been opening in the U.S. At the beginning of 2018, an estimated 14,500 rehab facilities were running in the country.
An interesting issue to note, though, is that the number of rehab facilities in the U.S. has to be estimated because “rehab” is so poorly defined that almost any organization that claims to help addicted people recover from their condition could be counted. With no clear idea of what the word “rehab” means, it should come as no surprise that the government has no clear standards of what is supposed to happen during “rehab,” or that addiction treatment plans that patients rely on to get healthy are often ad hoc ideas that have little to no scientific support.
There are also questions about the ability of rehab programs to help people overcome drug or alcohol addiction. While the vast majority of drug and alcohol rehab programs claim that they help over 80 percent of their patients beat their addiction, very few of those programs actually monitor their past patient's drug or alcohol use after they leave. Needless to say, without bothering to see whether their patients are still sober or if they have relapsed, programs have no feasible way of knowing their success rate. Even of the rehab programs that do track patients after graduation, most programs follow up with past patients with a simple phone call. Because whatever the patient says during that phone call is what gets reported, and because patients are likely to be embarrassed to admit that they have relapsed, whatever success rate a rehab program claims to have is almost guaranteed to be overblown.
These practices are rampant in the drug and alcohol rehab business because there is no government oversight. Many states allow anyone to open a rehab facility – there are no permits or licenses required, and founders of rehab centers do not need to know anything about the process of addiction recovery. Many rehab center founders are recovered addicts, themselves, and have no scientific understanding of how addiction happens or what the best practices are in addiction recovery.
The Many Injuries You Can Suffer at Drug or Alcohol Rehab
With so little regulation and a wild west approach to treatment where there is no standard plan, it should also come as no surprise that many people who go to alcohol or drug rehab treatment centers end up getting seriously hurt. In some cases, they get hurt by the treatment that they receive for their addiction.
- The center's doctors prescribe addiction medication that interacts in dangerous and potentially fatal ways with the patient's existing medications.
- The patient suffers withdrawal symptoms from not taking the drugs or alcohol they have become dependent on, and the rehab center fails to give them the care they need.
- A patient is allowed to relapse in a rehab facility in an attempt to show that they have control over their recovery, but the incident leads to a terrible accident caused by the patient's inebriation.
In others, the reckless or downright inappropriate actions of staff members or other patients can result in serious injuries.
- Forceful attempts by staff members to make patients attend program events.
- Neglectful care that leads to relapse or other injuries.
- Sexual abuse.
- Assaults by other patients at the rehab facility.
In still others, the injuries are just a result of an accident.
- A patient slips and falls on a wet floor.
- A therapeutic program goes wrong and someone gets hurt.
- There is a car accident on the way to an off-site program event.
Some of these injuries can be the result of negligence. Others are intentional or even criminal conduct. All of them can lead to serious injuries that you did not deserve and that you often could not avoid.
Premises Liability Injuries
One of the accidental injuries that you can suffer at a drug or alcohol rehab treatment facility is a premises liability injury. Colloquially known as “slip and fall” injuries, they can happen whenever the rehab facility leaves a dangerous condition unfixed and without a warning. If you trip or slip and fall and get hurt, you could be entitled to compensation.
Common situations that lead to premises liability in rehab facilities include
- slipping on a wet floor,
- tripping on broken stairs, or
- falling through a broken railing.
Because so many of the patients in drug or alcohol treatment centers are going through serious medical treatment, their ability to notice or avoid these potentially dangerous situations can be diminished. That reduced capacity to avoid a danger is far from unexpected for the treatment center, making it reasonable for rehab facilities to take extra precaution to keep their patients safe.
Assaults by Other Rehab Patients
Drug and alcohol rehab treatment facilities house and care for numerous recovering addicts every day. There will always be some interaction between patients at the facility, some of whom are going to be having a hard time overcoming their addiction. Because the potential for conflict – and even violence – is completely foreseeable, rehab centers should be held responsible for allowing one patient to hurt another one.
Even in circumstances where it seems like there was little that the rehab center could have done to prevent violence and the injuries that came from it, an investigation can quickly reveal important decisions that the rehab center made that put people at risk. Whether it was a decision to house more than one person to a room or to give patients free rein to explore the facility, when those decisions and internal policies can lead to foreseeable problems, the rehab facility should be held accountable for what happened.
Inadequate Medical Services
Addiction treatment is not easy for someone to go through. The medical complications of recovering from addiction should not be taken lightly, especially by a rehab facility that claims it can help addicts recover and that are making money doing it. Patients frequently go through withdrawal and often come to the facility with existing medical needs that need attention.
Yet addiction treatment centers are often found to be woefully under-equipped to provide the care that their patients need on a regular basis. When this happens, the patient can suffer serious injuries when their immediate needs are gone unmet. Not only are victims powerless to stop this, but they are also often blindsided by the treatment center's ineptitude – patients go to drug or alcohol rehab facilities to get the help they need, not lose the medical care that they could have gotten had they not gone.
Abusive Care By Staff Members
Perhaps one of the most shocking causes of injuries suffered by rehab patients in recent years has been a disturbing trend of staff members at rehab facilities assaulting the patients under their care.
In some cases, this can come in the form of staffers being far too rough on patients. While staff members might have to get physical with patients in order to break up a fight that could lead to far more severe injuries, staff members at many rehab facilities have shown a marked tendency for using force on patients for other, less important reasons. In some instances, staff members at drug or alcohol rehab treatment centers have used so much force on patients that the victims have suffered broken bones – all because they refused to take part in rehab center programs or events.
Worse, the vulnerability of rehab patients make them susceptible to sexual abuse and sexual assault by staff members who want to take advantage of the power imbalance that they are enjoying over the patients. Numerous situations have come to light of rehab staffers sexually assaulting dozens of patients under their care.
In situations like these, the rehab facility can be held liable for the injuries that their staffers cause through vicarious liability.
The Standard of Care for Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facilities
Unfortunately, because there are so few regulations that dictate the kind of minimal care that rehab facilities have to provide, the law only recognizes a vague legal standard of care for them: Rehab centers have to provide a reasonable standard of care for their patients.
What amounts to care that is “reasonable” is not easy to say without a deep dive into the specifics of what happened in a given case. Worse, proving that the care provided by the rehab facility was “unreasonable” can be difficult to do because the rehab center is going to have control of much of the evidence that will go towards showing that they should be held liable. The practical necessity of a strong and independent investigation by a legal professional on the victim's side cannot be understated.
Compensation for an Injury at a Rehab Facility
If you have been hurt while at a rehab facility, you may have legal recourse to compensation to cover the costs of what you have been put through. After all, when you were not the one responsible for your injuries and could have done little or nothing to prevent them, it would be immensely unfair for you to also pay for the costs of your losses out of your own pocket.
By filing a personal injury lawsuit, you stand to recover compensation for your:
- Medical expenses related to your recovery
- Foreseeable medical expenses for the future medical care necessary to treat your injuries
- Wages lost during your recovery
- Any negative impact on your ability to earn a living in the future
- Physical pain and mental suffering
In some cases, the rehab facility's conduct could have been so bad that you can receive punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the defendant for their egregious conduct, even though it would go far beyond what you need to be fully compensated for your losses. Punitive damages can be awarded if, for example, the rehab facility knew that one of its staffers had a criminal background that included sexual offenses, but hired them anyway and then covered up their sexual misconduct while they were on the job.
Gilman & Bedigian Represent Those Hurt at Rehab Centers
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian strive to legally represent people who have been hurt in a variety of situations, including those who have been hurt at drug or alcohol rehab treatment centers. These centers are where recovering addicts should receive the medical care and treatment that they need to overcome the dependencies that they have developed, not additional problems because the facility and its staffers could not be bothered to treat their patients properly.
With the advocacy of the lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian, you can invoke your rights and fight for the compensation you need and deserve if you have been hurt by someone's negligent, reckless, or even intentional conduct at a drug or alcohol rehab treatment facility. Contact them online to get your case started and fight for the compensation you need to recover from a setback that you did not deserve.