Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Approximately 1 in 10 American senior citizens have experienced some form of elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging. It is believed up to 5 million elders are abused each year, but only 1 in 14 cases are ever reported to authorities. Social isolation and mental impairments like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease make elders more vulnerable to physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse. The ramifications are severe: abused seniors have a 300% increased risk of death.
There are serious legal implications when the abuser is a paid nursing home representative. It is your right to seek assistance from your state’s long-term care ombudsman. You may need the support of a nursing home abuse lawyer if your questions and concerns do not receive immediate attention from state officials.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
The term “elder abuse” takes different forms, including:
- Physical abuse – Inflicting physical pain upon an adult over 60 years old.
- Sexual abuse – Making sexual contact with a senior who does not want it or cannot consent.
- Emotional abuse – Verbally assaulting, threatening, harassing, or intimidating an older adult.
- Confinement – Restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for necessary medical reasons.
- Passive neglect – Failing to provide life’s necessities: food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
- Willful deprivation – Intentionally depriving medication, medical care, shelter, food, therapy, or help.
- Financial abuse – Misusing, stealing, or withholding another adult’s financial resources.
Elder abuse can be committed by nursing home staff members or by other residents living in the facility.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Warning signs of nursing home abuse may include:
- Physical Abuse – Abrasions, Broken Bones, Bruises, Burns, Pressure Marks
- Neglect – Bedsores, Poor Hygiene, Unattended Medical Needs, Unusual Weight Loss
- Sexual Abuse – Agitation, Bruising, Bleeding, Depression, Drugged Behavior, Hygiene Changes, Inappropriate Comments, Isolation, New Difficulty Standing or Walking, Stained or Torn Bedding
- Emotional Abuse – Argumentativeness, Fearfulness, Mood Disorders, Sudden Change in Alertness or Sociability, Unusual Depression, Withdrawal from Activities
- Financial Abuse – Sudden Changes in Financial Situations, Bounced Checks, New Accounts Opened
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse?
Call 9-1-1 if your loved one is in immediate, life-threatening danger. If your loved one is in a nursing home, call your state Long-Term Care Ombudsman at once. This person is your advocate and has the power to intervene.
You may also contact a local Adult Protective Services office or the police department for assistance. After you contact APS, a caseworker will make in-person contact within 10 days. The caseworker will ask questions to aid in the investigation, support the victim in coping with the aftermath of abuse, provide resources for medical care and counseling, and seek the least invasive solution. Temporary shelter, in-home services, or other interventions can be arranged through APS.
Do I Need a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney?
The law allows two different paths to justice for victims of nursing home abuse. Criminal litigation is initiated by filing a police report and asking to “press charges.” The defendant in criminal court is the abuser him or herself. If there is sufficient evidence, the State District Attorney may agree to represent the case in court. Your abused loved one may be called as a witness to a crime committed against “the state.” The end result could be jail time, fines payable to the state, probation, or registration as a sex offender (for cases of sexual abuse).
You may file a civil lawsuit instead of pressing criminal charges, or in addition to pressing criminal charges. The civil litigation process begins by contacting a civil personal injury attorney for a consultation and case review. Why would you opt for this path of seeking justice? Here are a few considerations:
- Civil cases provide an alternate path to justice beyond jail time for the perpetrator. Civil cases may succeed even if the D.A. did not accept your case, or the D.A. accepted your case but failed to secure jail time for the defendant. The standard of evidence in civil court is based on “a preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that you only have to prove that your version of events was “51% or more likely to have happened.” In criminal court, you must prove your case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is more like “90% or more likely to have happened.”
- Civil cases allow for an expanded scope of liability beyond the perpetrator. What about the facility that allowed an abusive nursing home staff member access to continue hurting a victim? Did the nursing home exercise due diligence in hiring? Did they provide sufficient training and supervision? Did they respond appropriately when you presented administrators with your concern? Is there a past history of abuse in the facility? Civil court allows you to hold third parties liable, including the nursing home itself, staff administrators who turned a blind eye to your concerns, transportation service providers or sub-contractors, and mandatory reporters who failed to notify law enforcement. Hurting them financially sends a strong message to spur change.
- Civil cases allow individuals and their families to seek compensation for losses. The end result of civil litigation is financial compensation to cover: past, present, and future medical expenses; lost wages; emotional pain and suffering; and (in the worst cases) wrongful death, burial, and funeral expenses. You may sue on your loved one’s behalf and potentially recover some compensation for yourself if the abuse caused you significant emotional distress and financial hardship due to lost time off work to provide care to your abused love one. Nursing homes are better insured to cover your family’s financial losses related to the abuse and provide for the best future care.
Where to Find a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney?
Finding a nursing home abuse attorney can be challenging. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if you win, so they must be very confident in the facts surrounding your case in order to take the gamble.
The Legal Helpers provide free client-attorney pairings. Our free claim reviews take a matter of seconds. We will match you with top-rated local attorneys whose experience matches your field of interest.
These cases can be complex, with the opposing side hiring a team of attorneys to protect their nursing home facility’s reputation and their financial interests. Find a winning nursing abuse lawyer for your best chance at securing maximum compensation for your family’s losses.