Nursing Home Abuse

Elder Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

Abuse of older adults is one of the most under-reported social problems in the United States. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse throughout their life, with studies suggesting that a majority of these go unreported.  Abuse of our elders is not limited to nursing homes.  We have obtained substantial recoveries for victims of abuse and neglect in intensive care units, skilled nursing facilities, in home care, and transport services.

What is Elder Abuse?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, elder abuse is defined as an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. Elder abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • General Negligence
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Financial Exploitation
  • Abandonment / Isolation

When abuse occurs in an institution, such as a nursing home, an assisted-living community, or a long-term care facility, it can be harder for victims or families to know that abuse is occurring – and even harder to get help.  This is especially true where the patient has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Of the various types, the most common kind of elder abuse in nursing homes is neglect, which often results in serious physical injuries.

The Wetherington Law Firm accepts nursing home abuse and neglect cases nationwide.  Our team focuses on cases with broken bones, stage 3 bed sores, stage 4 bed sores, sexual assault, and falls resulting in serious injury or death.  Despite having more “obvious” injuries, these cases are much harder to pursue and obtain full compensation.  And we handle these cases exclusively on contingency, which means that we advance all expenses and you do not pay anything unless and until we win.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer If You Suspect Elder Abuse or Neglect

Nursing home abuse lawsuits are extremely expensive to litigate, frequently requiring testimony of numerous medical experts and countless hours of deposition testimony.  For a case to be viable, the patient must show that significant damages resulted from an injury received due to the incompetence of the nursing home staff.

Simply raising the possibility of a legal claim is enough to sound alarms at most nursing home facilities.  Many nursing homes have a division called “risk management.”  The role of risk management is to protect the nursing home from legal claims.  If your complaint has merit – they will typically hire legal counsel to help deny or minimize instances of misconduct. It is vital you obtain support from your own attorney that advocates on your or your family member’s behalf and gets the compensation that is deserved.

The Wetherington Law Firm has the experience and financial resources needed to prove your case and obtain full compensation for your injuries.  Every client receives a dedicated team of lawyers and support staff.  We do not farm our cases out to inexperienced lawyers and/or case managers.  We know that clients trust us to do everything possible to obtain full value for their injuries.  We take that responsibility seriously.  You can read the reviews of our satisfied clients here.  When you hire us, you can expect us to take the following steps immediately:

  • Obtain the Medical Providers from all Providers
  • Review the Medical Records with an Expert in the Applicable Field
  • Gather Photographic or Video Evidence if Available
  • Interview Witnesses
  • Request Reports or Records About the State of the Nursing Home
  • Identify all Insurance Policies
  • Identify all Possible Defendants
  • Develop the Evidence Necessary to Determine the Correct Standard of Care for Each Defendant
  • Keep you informed every step of the way

Is Elder Abuse a Form of Medical Malpractice?

Where the injury to an elderly person was the result of a lapse in professional judgment by a medical professional, a claim for medical malpractice is appropriate.  Medical malpractice is a special form of negligence.  It is sometimes referred to as medical incompetence or medical negligence.  To recover for personal injuries in a medical malpractice suit, the injured person or their family must establish the basic elements of a tort:

  1. The existence of a duty to act a certain way;
  2. The failure to perform that duty;
  3. Actual injuries; and
  4. Proof that the injuries were proximately caused by the failure to perform a legal duty.

Georgia recognizes that medical professionals owe a duty to use that degree of care and skill ordinarily employed by the profession generally under similar conditions and like surrounding circumstances.

In Georgia, medical professionals enjoy a presumption that their services were performed in an skillful manner. The person claiming an injury may overcome this legal presumption by introducing evidence that the physician (or other medical professionals) did not treat the patient in an ordinarily skillful manner.

In order for the victim or their family to show that the medical professional’s negligence caused someone’s injury, the victim or their family must present expert testimony.  Expert testimony means that another medical professional in the same or a similar practice area must review the facts and determine that there was a deviation of the standard of care.

Who Can You File Suit Against for Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?

Where there is proof that elder abuse occured, there are several potential parties that you can recover money from.  Although the specifics vary by state and this is a complicated area of law, the following parties must be considered:

 

The Individual Nurses Involved in the Care and Treatment

These are the individuals who are directly responsible for taking care of a patient.  As the first line of defense, the nurses are responsible for day to day and minute to minute care of our loved ones.  Where a nurse fails to comply with the applicable standard of care, he or she may be directly responsible for the injuries caused.

 

The Doctor(s) Responsible for the Patient

The plan of care for an elderly patient is generally established and monitored by a professional doctor.  Where that doctor fails to put an appropriate plan in place or fails to change the plan as circumstances merit, he or she may be legally responsible for damages.  Even where a nurse performs the actual negligent act or omission, if the nurse was acting under the direction of a doctor, the doctor will be responsible.

 

The Nursing Home

If a negligent nurse or doctor is an employee of a nursing home, the nursing home itself is typically responsible for the damages caused by the employee.  Whether a person is an employee is a more complicated legal question than it may appear.  Typically, nurses and support staff are nursing home employees.  As long as the employee is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, the injured person or their family can usually sue the nursing home for resulting damages. For example, if a nurse employed by a nursing home fails to rotate a patient and the patient develops stage four bed sores, the nursing home can be sued.

However, there are several exceptions to this general rule.  For example, if a doctor makes a mistake and injures a patient while working in a nursing home, the nursing home will not be liable for the doctor’s mistake unless the doctor is an employee which is uncommon.  Similarly, if a nursing home employee commits malpractice while under a doctor’s supervision, the victim or their family can file suit against the doctor, but the nursing home may not be responsible.

This is an area of law that is extremely complicated and nursing homes intentionally make the question difficult to answer.  This is why every nursing home abuse case requires the careful review by an experienced attorney, like Matt Wetherington.

What Damages Can a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Recover?

The main public policy purpose for tort law is compensation. Compensatory damages are money damages awarded to compensate you. The system is not perfect. Life, limb, and freedom from pain cannot be restored. However, compensatory damages are a means of attempting to place you in the same relative position that you were in before the loss with money.  Compensatory damages are categorized as either general damages or special damages.

 

You Can Recover “General” Damages After Being a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse of Neglect

General damages are “non-economic” losses, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or mental anguish, all of which have no specific, itemized value.  The monetary value of general damage is determined by the jury, and jury verdicts are not consistent.  A broken ankle in one courtroom could be worth $10,000 in pain and suffering.  In another courtroom, it could be worth $100,000.  Matt Wetherington tried a case in Fulton County that resulted in a $2.8 million verdict for a broken ankle.  You can read about that case here.  However, it is important to know that jury verdicts and settlements vary widely, even for the exact same injury.  The variance is due to the individual plaintiff, the jurors at the trial, and the effectiveness of the injured person’s attorney.

 

You Can Recover “Special” Damages After Being a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse of Neglect

Special damages are “economic” losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or the cost of hiring household help, all of which do have a specific itemized value and can be more easily determined or calculated on a simple mathematical basis – once you have obtained the necessary records to prove that the expenses were incurred.  It is important to note that only medical expenses “proximately caused” by the neglect or abuse can be recovered.  If you would like to learn more about how proximate cause is determined, click here.  For simplicity sake, you should know that proximate cause is often highly contested.

 

If the Abuse or Neglect Results in a Death, Special Rules Apply

When nursing home abuse or neglect results in a death, the case turns into a wrongful death claim, instead of a personal injury claim.  To learn more about wrongful death claims, click here.

The Wetherington Law Firm Has Recovered Millions for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Our attorneys are highly skilled in the area of medical malpractice and nursing home standard of care.  Nursing home cases are very expensive to pursue and require a detailed medical knowledge and network of medical professionals.  In many cases, settlement is not possible until a judge rules that the proper defendants have been named, the claims asserted are valid, and there is enough evidence to proceed forward to a jury trial.  By that point, it is too late to fix problems in the case.  It is important that you start with an attorney that has the experience and resources necessary to put your case in the best position possible.  Our attorneys have obtained record breaking verdicts.

How to Hire the Best Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers in Atlanta

Hiring a medical malpractice lawyer is one of the most important financial decisions you can ever make.  There are a number of attorneys who hold themselves out as “experts” who have never tried a case to verdict or even settled a claim involving medical malpractice.  It is important that you ask any prospective attorney about his or her experience with medical malpractice lawsuits, specifically with regard to the medical specialty at issue in your case.

Call or email us today for a free consultation.  If we accept your case, it will be on contingency.  That means that you do not pay anything up front and only pay us if we win your case.  If we do not accept your case, we will help you find a lawyer who can.  We generally only accept cases involving significant injuries.  However, we know many good medical malpractice attorneys and will make sure that you do not have to search around for someone to accept your case.

We are currently evaluating nursing home abuse and neglect cases in the following areas:

 

Nursing Home Neglect

Elder neglect is broad and can be the result of many actions or inactions. Neglect can be the failure to meet essential needs like food, hygiene, medical care, and shelter; the failure to protect the elder from harm or unsafe environments; or emotional isolation. Some warning signs of neglect include bedsores, falls, and elopement.

 

Bedsores

Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue that result from prolonged pressure on the skin. They are typically very painful and can cause serious complications such as infections and life-threatening issues. Areas most susceptible to bedsores are the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone.

People most at risk of developing bedsores are those with a medical condition that limits their ability to change positions or those who spend most of their time in a bed or chair. It is vital that this individual is moved and repositioned often to avoid these from happening. It is also necessary for skin to be kept clean and dry and to be inspected daily. Should your loved one mention pain or swelling, or you notice redness or drainage, it is crucial to seek medical attention right away and then look further into the possibility of neglect.

 

Falls

According to recent reports from the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injuries and death in people ages 65 and older in the U.S. While falls among older adults do occur accidentally, falls that happen in nursing homes are often preventable given that the correct equipment and attention is put into place. Unfortunately, things like slippery floors, improper footwear, floor obstacles, and issues such as lack of bedrails are seen quite often in facilities.

It is important to note that even if the fall could not have been prevented, how the nursing home responds to the incident can also be viewed as neglect, for example, if the resident is left on the ground for some time before assistance is offered by staff.

 

Elopement

According to state law, nursing homes must take adequate measures to reasonably prevent foreseeable harm to residents, including the possibility of wandering off, known as elopement. In order for the incident to qualify as foreseeable, the facility must have had notice that the resident might wander and lacked putting the proper preventative safety measures in place.

Nursing homes owe specific duties of care to elderly residents as well as their family members who have given them their trust. Should injury, emotional distress, or death occur, it is well within your right to seek compensation.

You Can Make a Lasting Difference in the Lives of Others by Hiring the Wetherington Law Firm

Obtaining full and complete compensation for our clients is the most important service we provide to our clients.  Protecting the general public and making sure that other people are protected is part of obtaining justice.  We frequently work with law enforcement, local government officials, state legislators, and federal agencies to understand the root cause of dangerous conditions.  This often leads to uncovering dangerous trends or patterns of behavior that must be changed.  Many of our clients have chosen not to be defined by their injuries, and instead choose to serve as a beacon of hope to others.  Whether through legislation, refusing to settle unless changes or made, or simply sharing their story, our client’s efforts have helped save MILLIONS of people from serious injury or death.  If you can help prevent even one other person from being hurt or injured by the same problem, it will help make every day of your recovery a little bit better.  We care about you as a person and will work with you however you want to help make the world a safer and better place.  Call us now to get started.

If you suspect nursing home abuse, call or email for a free consultation.

The Wetherington Law Firm accepts nursing home abuse and neglect cases nationwide. Our firm has the experience and financial resources needed to prove your case and obtain full compensation.  Every client receives a dedicated team of lawyers and support staff.  We know that clients trust us to do everything possible to obtain full value for their injuries.  We take that responsibility seriously.  Get in touch with us right now by using the box below.

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Why Hire Us?

Reputation matters. Our firm only pursues high value, meritorious lawsuits. The insurance companies may not like us, but they respect the work we do and results we obtain for our clients. When a case moves into litigation, the defense attorneys know that we have properly investigated the claims, know the applicable law, and are preparing the case for trial.

There is no risk when hiring our firm.

We do not charge attorney fees for obtaining property damage or medical payment coverage for our clients. Other firms charge for this service.

We have saved our clients millions simply by negotiating medical bills and fighting invalid medical liens.

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