Can you sue a nursing home for negligence?

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Apr 22,2022

If you’re one of the many Americans tasked with being an advocate for a loved one in a nursing home, you might find yourself struggling for answers. Nursing homes are unfamiliar territory for many, and the pandemic exposed issues in Indiana nursing homes with staffing, oversight, and accountability. Even before the pandemic, Indiana struggled to maintain quality eldercare, ranking 48th in several studies and dead last according to the AARP. If you feel a loved one has suffered in the care of a nursing home, you may be here looking to find the answer to “Can you sue for nursing home negligence?”

In short, yes, you can sue for nursing home negligence. More than 1.4 million Americans live in one of the US’s 15,000+ Medicare or Medicaid-certified nursing home facilities. All these nursing homes and long-term care facilities are, in fact, in relationships with their patient-residents— relationships that legally hold them to certain standards of care. 

If they fail to deliver that standard of care–and a nursing home resident is harmed physically, emotionally, or even financially–there may be a legal negligence case. It’s not easy to spot nursing home neglect signs or know what to do if you suspect nursing home neglect. According to the National Center on Elder Care Abuse, the five common types of nursing home abuse are physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.

If you’re not present at the nursing home, it’s impossible to know what’s going on all the time. There are steps you can take as the loved one of a nursing home resident who might be facing neglect. First, know what to look for—some of the most common indicators of negligence in a nursing home situation include: 

  • They seem depressed, confused, or withdrawn. 
  • They are isolated from friends and family.
  • They have unexplained bruises, burns, or scars. 
  • They appear dirty, underfed, dehydrated, over-or under-medicated, or not receiving care for medical problems. 
  • They have bed sores or other preventable conditions. 
  • You have noticed recent changes in banking or spending patterns.

Do you know your loved one’s medication regimen? Negligence in nursing homes can also take the form of prescription drug errors, including:

  • Prescribing the wrong drug or wrong dosage/frequency. 
  • Prescribing a drug that interacts poorly with other medications. 
  • Improper guidance with medication or monitoring its effects.
  • Prescribing medication that doesn’t account for the resident’s physical condition.

Second, know your rights as a patient or the loved one of a patient. If you are wondering if you have a potential negligence claim, consult the “four Ds” of medical negligence:

  • Duty of care. Did the medical provider owe a duty commitment to the patient? In other words, was there a relationship?
  • Dereliction of that duty. Did the medical provider violate the standard of care? Did they commit malpractice?  
  • Direct causation. If so, did that negligence cause (or contribute to) damages?   
  • Damages. If so, can you prove those damages (medical bills, lost wages, funeral & burial costs, e.g.) incurred by the negligence?

Both the nursing home facility and the individual care providers are responsible for nursing home neglect. It’s up to the facilities to follow state and federal standards and to hire and train qualified individuals to deliver the best care possible. It’s also up to the facility to provide a clean, adequately staffed, and safe setting as free of accident hazards as possible for residents. 

Favorable nursing home lawsuit settlements often result from careful fact-finding, meticulous record-keeping, and teamwork. You can assist your attorney by maintaining records of any correspondence with the facility. If you can visit your loved one regularly, keep a journal with times and dates of all care. Check-in on their medication regimen. If you monitor a suspected case of ongoing abuse, you are the first line of defense for your loved one. Lastly, try to be patient – nursing home negligence lawsuits can take many months or even several years to resolve.

TIPS TO FOLLOW IF YOU SUSPECT NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE

  • Talk with other families. Have they witnessed rough behavior or seen similar injuries or signs of abuse? 
  • File a formal report with a facility administrator or owner. Depending on what you’ve seen or documented, you may need to file a report with local authorities. 
  • Install a camera in their room. Cameras may not be allowed in your facility. 
  • Visit regularly. If you can, it’s an absolute must and makes nursing home staff more accountable. 
  • Move your loved one. If you fear for your loved one’s safety, it may be the best bet to move them to a different setting. 
  • Document everything. If your documentation points towards abuse, contact Adult Protective Services or the police.

How can you prove nursing home negligence? As you can imagine, it takes diligence as family members. It’s not always easy to determine what went wrong and who is to blame. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like a mountain of work and a series of complex bureaucracies. An experienced personal injury attorney can do the heavy lifting. Contact an attorney versed in Indiana malpractice laws and experienced in successfully defending medical negligence, nursing home negligence cases, and malpractice cases. It’s helpful to find a legal team backed by healthcare experts because these cases are often complex, contentious, and lean upon expert testimony.

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