When your loved one needs full-time care, you take your time, and you make a careful decision. Unfortunately, even if you research every nursing home in Morgantown, you may not uncover any obvious problems. Most families recognize the warning signs only after they notice their loved one’s bruises, dehydration, and other forms of neglect and abuse.
A nursing home’s staff, training, supervision, and management problems often become issues for residents in their care. The nursing home constitutes the primary responsible party no matter who commits the negligent act.
Negligent Nursing Homes Must Pay
At Wagoner Desai, PLLC, we have worked hard in the past to make negligent people take responsibility for injuring our clients and their loved ones. We have relied on our energy, effort, and our law firm’s resources to accomplish this goal.
Our nursing home negligence cases have often involved multiple injuries and complex legal issues. Proving legal liability has required skillful investigation and an understanding of how nursing homes operate. We have approached each investigation with diplomacy and discretion.
We have identified the responsible parties, documented the evidence, and placed them on notice of our intent to recover damages. In resolving our clients’ damage claims, we have usually worked with insurance companies and their attorneys.
Our attorneys have recognized the importance of spending time with our clients. We have witnessed, first hand, how their injuries can affect their families. These personal interactions we have with our clients motivate us to produce the best possible results.
Our Firm’s Results
When responsible parties in the past have cooperated, we have settled claims informally to avoid litigation’s inherent stresses. Our attorneys have aggressively negotiated our clients’ cases. We have also relied on mediation and other alternative dispute resolution forums that simplified the process.
Despite our efforts, we’ve understood that litigation can prove inevitable. That’s why we have evaluated our evidence and planned our strategies early in our case management process. When necessary, we have presented our evidence in court and let a jury and judge render a decision.
As each injury involves unique circumstances, we have never predicted a case’s outcome. We’ve always promised to work hard for our clients. We believe our case results demonstrate our dedication, including a $600,000 settlement for nursing home malpractice when our client sustained pressure ulcers/bedsores in a nursing home.
Nursing Home Negligence in Morgantown
Recent U.S. Census data shows that 10.2 percent of Morgantown’s 30,549 population is 65 or older. While many elderly residents lead active, independent lives, others require daily medical and personal care.
Nursing homes help fill this need by managing care responsibilities for busy families. Nursing homes supply all of an aging resident’s daily needs, but these facilities don’t always provide the appropriate level of care. In some instances, that lack of care degrades into ongoing, systematic abuse.
West Virginia’s Office of Health Facility Licensure & Certification lists four nursing homes in Morgantown, with 382 available resident beds. As Medicare has certified all four nursing homes for benefits, it conducts random compliance surveys (site inspections) and investigates resident complaints.
Each facility has a history of complaints and issues that involve circumstances ranging from patient’s rights to infection control. As nursing homes have an appeal process for adverse findings, these on-the-record incidents cause few problems.
Why Nursing Home Negligence Occurs
Nursing home facilities must comply with West Virginia and Federal law concerning nursing homes. If a nursing home has received Medicare certification, it must also meet Medicare’s guidelines for rights and protections in a nursing home. Medicare reinforces federal guidelines and regulations through monitoring, random surveys, and surveys based on complaints.
Research has shown that negligent acts usually reflect ongoing staffing, supervision, and management problems.
Unfortunately, enforcement authorities rarely witness these day-to-day operational issues.
- Hiring unqualified staff
- Inappropriate or inadequate training
- Inadequate patient monitoring
- Inadequate resident to care staff ratios
- Lack of safety procedures
- Poorly executed hydration and nutrition protocols
When the Department of Justice studied nursing home abuse, it published the study, An Examination of Resident Abuse in Assisted Living Facilities. Researchers found that abusers most often targeted victims with cognitive, physical, and behavioral impairments. Residents with Alzheimer’s, physical disabilities, and other conditions often can’t recognize abusive treatment. Even when these individuals recognize the abuse, they can’t always communicate their concerns.
Types of Injuries Caused by Nursing Home Abuse
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, Elder Abuse Surveillance, established the uniform elder abuse definitions that many agencies now use. The CDC conducted surveillance in traditional care environments and documented the results. The CDC characterized injuries and harm based on the way they disrupt senior health outcomes.
Often, abused nursing home residents continue experiencing these types of harm until a family member discovers the problem.
- Physical: Abused elders deal with minor injuries, such as lacerations, burns, and abrasions. They also experience fractures, organ damage, and sometimes fatal injuries. Care deficiencies allow continuous overmedication, bedsores, malnutrition, and dehydration. The study also found rare instances of sexual abuse.
- Cognitive: Seniors experience deteriorating memory, problem-solving issues, and other cognitive losses.
- Emotional: Abuse victims experience changes in emotional perception, expression, and regulation difficulties.
- Social: Elders undergo changes in personal and family relationships, roles, and social interactions.
- Financial: Financial abuse occurs in a variety of ways. Seniors in physically abusive situations often incur additional medical bills due to their injuries. Financial abuse often generates increased financial obligations while reducing income and assets.
Who Bears Responsibility for Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing homes provide 24-hour housing and care for residents. These facilities control residents’ meals, leisure time, and everything else they do. Administrators hire, train, and supervise staff who sometimes neglect or abuse residents. Facilities may hire or subcontract medical personnel who overlook or ignore visible injury signs. This unique situation prevents nursing homes from avoiding liability for resident injuries.
As with other negligence situations, an injured resident must prove the nursing home’s responsibility based on traditional negligence standards.
Plaintiffs in these types of cases must prove:
- The nursing home owed its residents a duty of care to protect them from harm.
- The nursing home breached that duty.
- The breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries/harm.
- The breach directly caused the plaintiff’s damages.
Based on these standards, nursing homes have clear liability for their residents’ injuries.
What Damages Can an Injured Person Recover?
Nursing home negligence settlements usually include economic damages, non-economic damages, and sometimes punitive damages.
This portion of a settlement includes medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses from the injury date through settlement. If an injured person requires future treatment, an economic expert determines the value of those costs for settlement purposes.
Economic damages include:
- Doctor bills
- In-patient hospital costs
- Physical and psychological therapy
- Prosthetics and mobility equipment
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Funeral and burial expenses
This element of a settlement considers the injured person’s pain, emotional, and psychological damages.
Non-economic damages often include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of spousal relationship
- Emotional and psychological damages
- Diminished family relationships
- Lost bodily functions
- Scars and disfigurement
- Wrongful death
West Virginia law authorizes punitive damages when a court finds a nursing home’s conduct willful or in reckless disregard of the lawful rights of the resident.
We Can Help When Nursing Homes Defend Negligence Cases
When mounting a defense, nursing homes, their insurers, and attorneys have several issues in their favor.
Nursing homes control their residents, their negligent employees, and any knowledge about negligent treatment or abuse. If management doesn’t notice such behavior, document it, or report it as required, the facility avoids taking responsibility. It also avoids criminal penalties associated with these actions. Absolute control ends once a resident seeks medical treatment outside of the facility and when the family notices and reports abuse.
Once an insurer and defense attorney begin handling a negligence case on the nursing home’s behalf, the defense still hinges on proof. Plaintiffs must prove that the nursing home caused their injuries. Sadly, the responsible parties often retain and control most of the relevant evidence.
Residents as Witnesses
Some residents become targets because they have existing cognitive disorders or disabilities. These individuals don’t always understand or even recall what happened to them. Sometimes, they can’t testify on their own behalf. This gives nursing homes a defense advantage.
Nursing home attorneys plead affirmative defenses, hoping the jury renders a defense verdict or awards a low damage amount.
Sometimes, non-employee medical professionals provide contractual services. Some subcontracts include hold-harmless and indemnification agreements. These provisions don’t necessarily eliminate liability for either party. Nursing homes and contract medical professionals often share or transfer liability based on these types of arrangements.
At Wagoner Desai, PLLC, we have consistently relied on preparation to overcome defense challenges. We have developed our case presentation strategies as early as possible. Our attorneys have entered negotiations, mediations, and trials fully prepared to confront defendants, insurers, and their attorneys.
Morgantown Nursing Home Negligence FAQ
Negligence is a common form of elder abuse in nursing homes. Despite growing sensitization and stringent regulations to curb the vice, the World Health Organization predicts a continued increase in the trend. The population is aging rapidly, resulting in an increased number of people requiring nursing care. WHO reports that people aged 60 years and above will reach two billion by the year 2050.
In a recent year, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act (EAPPA) came into effect.
Among other things, the legislation sought to:
- Increase data collection on abuse
- Increase training of federal prosecutors and investigators
- Establish an elderly justice coordinator
- Increase penalties for perpetrators of elder abuse.
Following the passing of the act, several federal agencies collect data on elder abuse on an ongoing basis. For instance, the National Adult Mistreatment Report System (NAMRS), data collected from 30 states, showed that neglect was the highest type of elder abuse at 29.4 percent.
Nonetheless, if your loved one has been a victim of negligence in a Morgantown nursing home, you can pursue justice for them and have them compensated for the wrongs meted against them. Below we have summed up several frequently asked questions to equip you with more information on the subject. Let’s dive in.
What Actions Amount to Negligence in a Nursing Home?
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), negligence in a nursing home fails to meet an elder’s basic needs, leading to physical or mental harm. The needs constitute water, food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and essential medical care.
That said, the most common causes of negligence in a nursing home include:
- Inadequate staffing – Understaffing affects the care quality immensely. Usually, overworked employees might fail to provide the necessary care and attention needed by the residents.
- Poor staff training – Compassion for the elderly is an essential quality among caregivers. However, if the staff gets overwhelmed by the demands of their job, they might get stressed and easily project frustration onto residents. That’s why training on professionalism and the minimum acceptable service standards is vital. Failing to prioritize training raises the risk of negligence within the institution.
Some of the practices that amount to negligence include:
- Overlooking safety standards when attending to residents
- Neglecting facility upkeep
- Ignoring residents’ requests for help
- Failing to provide medical care
- Abandoning residents who require assistance with activities of daily living, etc.
What Are the Signs of Neglect in a Morgantown Nursing Home?
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize if your loved one is being neglected. In this case, you should be more vigilant whenever you visit to pick any signs of mistreatment or laxity on staff members. For instance, if the staff tends to ignore the elders’ requests for assistance, it can affect them immensely (mentally and emotionally). Sadly, you might not discover this unless you pay extra attention.
Nonetheless, some forms of neglect are easy to spot. Possible giveaways include signs such as:
- Bruises, broken bones, and other unexplained injuries
- Bad hygiene
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- Unkempt living conditions
- Depressive mood
- Personality changes
Are Morgantown Nursing Homes Liable for Resident Accidents?
Yes, nursing homes are legally liable for residents’ accidents. Essentially, they ought to supervise the residents and also keep the premises safe. If your elderly loved one gets injured from a fall or any other type of accident, you can seek compensation.
What Are the Most Common Nursing Home Injuries?
Nursing home residents may sustain injuries from various causes. However, the most common ones are accidents and negligence.
Injuries resulting from these include:
- Brain and spinal injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Bedrail injuries
Is there a Difference Between Nursing Home Negligence and Nursing Home Abuse?
Yes. Nursing home negligence is a form of abuse that occurs when a nursing facility fails, either intentionally or accidentally, to fulfill obligations related to the care for residents.
On the other hand, nursing home abuse is an umbrella term involving different types of maltreatment such as neglect, financial exploitation, physical abuse, abandonment, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, etc.
What Are Examples of Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing home negligence takes many forms.
The five main types include:
- Medical neglect – This is one of the most severe types of negligence, as it’s potentially life-threatening. For instance, if caregivers refuse or forget to give the residents medication, that amounts to medical neglect. They might also fail to administer the proper dosage or swap the medication, thereby endangering the resident’s life.
- Hygienic neglect – This is common among patients who require help with activities of daily living such as bathing, using the bathroom, dressing, etc. If a staff member refuses to assist a resident in performing these tasks, they can develop complications such as bedsores, dental problems, etc.
- Emotional neglect – This happens when the resident is denied permission to interact with other residents or receive visitors. In some cases, the isolation may be unintentional. For instance, if a facility forgets to provide assistive devices such as walkers, wheelchairs, etc., to persons with mobility issues, they may not have the means to move around and interact with fellow residents.
- Nutrition neglect – This is an extreme form of negligence, which in most cases is intentional. For instance, a caregiver might withhold food from a resident to punish them or force cooperation.
- Living conditions neglect – Essentially, a nursing home should maintain a clean and safe environment for its residents. Neglecting to do so exposes the residents to both physical and emotional harm.
Can I Sue a Morgantown Nursing Home for Neglect?
Yes. If the nursing home neglects your loved one where they live, you can sue them.
However, you must have sufficient evidence to prove:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
What Is the Statute of Limitation for Nursing Home Negligence?
The limit for filing a nursing home negligence claim varies from state to state. Usually, it ranges between one and six years, with most states’ being two or three years. In West Virginia, the statute of limitations is two years.
However, there may be exceptions to the deadlines. To get state-specific information, ensure you consult your lawyer.
Whenever we take our loved ones to nursing homes, we expect them to receive the best care possible and lead happy and dignified lives. However, it’s not unusual to come across issues of negligence. If you suspect a nursing home has neglected your loved one, it’s always advisable to move swiftly and protect their rights. As you do that, ensure you engage a lawyer experienced in nursing home negligence claims to counsel you and provide legal help where necessary.
Contact Wagoner Desai, PLLC
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a residential care facility, a nursing home negligence attorney can help protect your legal rights. These inherently complicated cases require thorough investigations, detailed legal analyses, and comprehensive injury evaluations.
At Wagoner Desai, PLLC, our lawyers have met these complicated challenges and recovered damages for our injured clients.
Call us at (304) 470-2056 for your free legal consultation, or leave a detailed message on our online contact page. Let us determine if we can help you.
Wagoner Desai, PLLC
265 High Street, 3rd Floor
Citizens Bank Building
Morgantown, WV 26505