It is an unfortunate fact that many nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not hire or retain sufficient numbers of qualified nurses and aides to care for the frail and elderly residents in their custody. All too often, staffing deficiencies are the result of efforts by providers to increase profits by cutting payroll costs. Insufficient or inadequately trained nursing staff can result in a wide array of negative resident outcomes, including malnutrition, dehydration, bed sores, contractures, bruises, and falls and other accidents.
Nursing home and assisted living facility cases are vastly different than the typical negligence or medical malpractice lawsuit and require not only a deep understanding of how these entities operate, but also of the complex federal and state regulations that govern their activities. I have almost 30 years of experience both defending and prosecuting long-term care providers.Â While I have achieved great success in taking nursing home and assisted living cases to trial or arbitration, I am especially proud of my track record in getting suits settled early in the litigation process and without undue burden or expense to my clients.
If you have any concerns about the care that your loved one is receiving in a nursing home or assisted living facility, please donâ€™t hesitate to contact me for a free consultation.
How can I determine if a nursing home has a history of understaffing or other problems?
You can check a nursing homeâ€™s past performance by looking up its score in the Medicare programâ€™s â€œFive Starâ€ rating system, which can be accessed by searching for â€œNursing Home Compareâ€ on the Medicare.gov website. This website also has summaries of recent surveys of the facility. Nursing home surveys are conducted on a regular basis in accordance with federal and state nursing home regulations. The most recent nursing home survey reports are also required by law to be made available for inspection at the nursing home.
How can I preserve my right to sue the nursing home if it does something wrong?
You should be careful to review all of the paperwork that you or your loved one filled out upon admission to the facility. This paperwork often will include an agreement to arbitrate any disputes with the facility and to waive the right to sue in court.Â It is advisable to consult with an attorney before signing this important legal document.Â If a signed arbitration agreement is on file and you are contemplating a legal action against the facility, you should consult with an attorney to determine your available rights and options.
What signs of neglect should I look for?
You should look for:
â€“ Signs of disorientation and decline in your loved one following admission to a nursing home. At times, facilities will overmedicate residents with pain or antianxiety medications in order to make them easier to manage.Â This can lead to a rapid deterioration in the residentâ€™s overall mental and physical functioning ability.
â€“ Bruises, skin tears, and lacerations. These may be the result of physical altercations with other residents due to lack of supervision, or due to rough handling by care staff, especially when one aide is trying to perform a task meant for two or more aides.Â These injuries also may be evidence of falls that are taking place in the facility due to insufficient supervision or the failure to adopt preventive measures.
â€“ Weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration.Â This may result when the care staff is not making the necessary effort to assist the resident with dining, or is not responding to requests for water or snacks.
â€“ Incontinent behaviors. Residents may become increasingly incontinent if they do not receive the timely assistance necessary to go to the toilet. In many situations, this occurs because of delays on the part of the care staff in responding to call lights. In some facilities, the staff may simply place residents in adult diapers in order to avoid having to assist them to the bathroom.
â€“ Development of pressure ulcers.Â These may result when the resident is left in one position in his or her bed or chair for long periods of time, or when pressure-relieving measures such as pillows, cushions, and air mattresses are not in place.Â The risk of developing pressure ulcers greatly increases when incontinent residents are left in a wet or soiled condition for long periods of time.
Who can I talk to at the nursing home about potential problems?
You should talk to persons at all levels, from the aides who provide routine care to the nurses who oversee them, to the facilityâ€™s Director of Nursing and Administrator or Executive Director. It is not at all uncommon for one caregiver, when asked, to confide to a residentâ€™s family member his or her concerns about the actions or attitudes of another caregiver.
When should I talk to an attorney?
As soon as you begin to have concerns about the care that your loved one is receiving in a nursing home, it makes sense to discuss those concerns with an attorney. The attorney not only can advise you as to whether you or your loved one might have a lawsuit against the facility, but can also refer you to state ombudsmen and other officials who can investigate its practices and act to prevent harm to other residents.
What if it looks like I have a case?
You will want to explore with your attorney what your goals are in pursuing litigation. In many cases, the claimantâ€™s primary interest is in obtaining a fair measure of compensation for his or her loss while at the same time bringing closure to a difficult episode. In those cases, every effort should be made to evaluate the case early on and to engage in meaningful settlement negotiations before dedicating substantial time, effort and expense to the litigation process.Â In cases where the provider is not prepared to make a fair settlement offer, the claimant must be confident that his or her attorney has the capability and commitment to take the matter to trial or arbitration, and the ability to achieve the best possible outcome in the process.
What will it cost me?
You will not pay anything toward the prosecution of your case unless there is a recovery in it. In the event you receive payment as a result of a settlement, trial verdict, or arbitration award, then expenses incurred in the course of litigation, such as expert witness fees, deposition transcript costs, and the like will be paid from the payment amount. Your payment obligation will never exceed the amount of your recovery, so you do not have any risk of incurring out-of-pocket expenses.