Nursing Home Injuries That Call for Legal Action

by on Apr. 15, 2019

Civil & Human Rights Elder Law 

Summary: When we place our loved ones in nursing homes or adult living facilities, we expect them to be cared for in a safe, clean and professional environment. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and incidents of injuries, neglect, or even abuse of the elderly in nursing homes occur all too frequently.

Nursing Home AbuseWhen we place our loved ones in nursing homes or adult living facilities, we expect them to be cared for in a safe, clean and professional environment. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and incidents of injuries, neglect, or even abuse of the elderly in nursing homes occur all too frequently.

 

Nursing homes and other assisted living facilities are required by federal and Pennsylvania law to provide and uphold appropriate standards of care that include a safe environment with adequate supervision, care and assistance. There may be times when injuries to patients may be unavoidable -- for example, if bones riddled by osteoporosis shatter unexpectedly and cause a fall.  However, any unexplainable injuries should be cause for concern.

 

If the complaint is serious and injuries occur due to poor care, abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to seek compensation by taking legal action against an individual or a facility that has been negligent or done deliberate damage to your loved one. However, your case must be handled properly to both protect your loved one and to ensure you get the settlement deserved; make sure you seek the advice of a Pennsylvania personal injury attorney experienced in nursing home injury cases.

 

Pennsylvania Nursing Home Problems

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently announced the results of its 2018 nursing home inspections that were conducted to ensure that owners and operators are providing proper patient care and that building safety standards are being met. The results showed there is much to criticize: after conducting 4,716 surveys at Pennsylvania nursing homes, the department had to issue 169 sanctions and finalize civil penalties totaling more than $2.3 million.

 

Anyone who suspects neglect or abuse at a nursing home can contact the Department of Health and file a complaint that will trigger an investigation by state nursing home surveyors or inspectors. If a violation is found, the state may issue fines or take further actions—including removing patients from the facility if there is a safety threat.  If violations go unreported, danger to residents will continue and may result in serious injury or death.

 

When Injuries Warrant Legal Action

 

In addition to reporting violations to the state, there are times when injuries may warrant taking legal action.  Possibilities include the following:

 

Nursing Home Neglect

Neglect may involve indifference or inactivity toward the patient by staff who ignore the medical, physical, and emotional needs of the patient. If a nursing facility does not provide the required standard of care and a resident is injured, the facility may be found negligent.

 

Signs of neglect may include:

 

  • Weight loss that is sudden and severe, usually due to a lack of proper nutrition or dehydration due to water loss.
  • Bedsores resulting from excess pressure placed on various parts of the body, often due to the patient’s being immobile and not being turned properly at regular intervals.
  • Skin injuries such as bruises, open wounds, or lacerations.
  • Medication errors from being given too little, too much or the wrong medication. Signs might be involuntary muscle movements, lethargy, seizures, or even death.
  • Poor hygiene from unwashed bodies, unchanged dressings, orthopedic devices, or personal clothing.
  • Infections that are not properly treated.

 

Nursing Home Abuse

 

Nursing home abuse involves the intentional infliction of harm on the part of the caregiver that results in a physical or mental injury. Abuse may rise to the level of criminal conduct and may take the form of:

  • Physical Abuse -- any type of battery and assault that usually leaves evidence such as bruises and lacerations. May include illegal use of chemical and physical restraints, and unreasonable confinement.
  • Mental and Emotional Abuse – such as belittling, embarrassing, threatening, or yelling at the resident, or ignoring their needs.
  • Sexual Abuse -- engaging in sexual attacks or sexual intercourse without the resident’s consent.

 

Common Injuries

 

The following are injuries that may lead to legal action:

  • Spinal injuries, concussions and head injuries, often resulting from falls or being dropped
  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Infections, most commonly from severe and neglected bedsores or poor hygiene.

 

Taking Legal Action

 

The Pennsylvania Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) protects elderly individuals and makes elder abuse and neglect illegal in Pennsylvania. In 1997, the Pennsylvania legislature mandated the reporting of abuse on the elderly and care-dependent adults.

 

All unexplained injuries are cause for concern. If the problem is severe and cannot be resolved by voicing concerns to a supervisor or administrator at the facility, you may need the help of a local advocacy network, Pennsylvania Nursing Home Ombudsmen, Department of Health, or the local police.

 

Upon review of the material, the Department of Health will issue a report that will rule on whether the complaint is substantiated. If a violation is found, the state may issue fines or take further actions—including removal of patients from the facility if there is a safety threat. If the complaint is serious and has resulted in injury, you may have a civil case against the nursing facility.

 

If you suspect that your loved one has been harmed in a nursing facility due to abuse, neglect or lack of meeting a standard of care in a compassionate and professional manner, you should report the problem immediately and talk to an elder abuse attorney about whether you have cause for legal action.

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