Legal Claims Against Nursing Homes

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With the decreasing numbers of non-profit, assisted living organizations available to the public, individuals are forced to consider alternate care options for their loved ones. These options include nursing homes that operate based on profits. Unfortunately, these facilities are often either understaffed or staffed by unqualified employees, and abuse against the elderly residents of these homes is not uncommon. As a result, a growing number of neglect and abuse cases are being filed annually against nursing homes in this country. If you are considering contacting an attorney specializing in elderly neglect and abuse, there are some important steps you must follow:

Before making accusations or contacting a lawyer, you must assess the situation. Record any instances and observations you feel are suspicious. One of the most common legal claims is related to negligence. For example, if you observe ulcers, pressure sores, or extreme weight loss as a result of malnutrition, the nursing home may be held liable. Other instances that should be documented include medical errors, such as overdosing medications, forgetting to administer prescriptions, or failing to contact family members in the event of a medical emergency.

Staffing is another area to observe when visiting your family member. Nursing homes must adhere to strict staffing ratios in order to be in compliance with federal regulations. If the nursing home appears understaffed, overcrowded, or nursing aides are not properly trained or screened prior to hiring, legal action must be taken. Finally, always document and photograph evidence of abuse. Broken bones, infections, bruises, cuts, and any other signs of physical, mental, verbal, or sexual abuse should be recorded. A paper trail ensures that legal action can be taken.

Before a formal investigation can occur, you must file a complaint with your local licensing and district offices. Be sure to make copies of all documents. At this point, it is also useful to make other contacts. For example, you may want to contact your state senator, as he or she is responsible for creating laws concerning nursing homes. Research other agencies in your area that handle elder abuse and neglect cases. Make as many contacts as possible with organizations and individuals relevant to your case.

After complaints are filed, an investigation will follow. In most states, you have the right to locate your own investigator and attend the facility. This is a matter that you need to discuss with your lawyer. Your attorney can also provide resources for locating an investigator who is suitable for the case. If evidence of abuse or any other malpractice is found when investigation occurs, the nursing home will be held liable, and you and your attorney can then formally sue the establishment.

If findings suggest that no abuse or neglect has occurred, you have the right to appeal. Approximately one month before the appeal date, you can submit a written request for a conference with your local district manager. At this point, you can also meet with representatives from the nursing home to discuss the matter. If you are unhappy with results, you can request more formal meetings with an appeals department representative. Your attorney is qualified to instruct you on further actions that should take place.

If your family member is experiencing abuse or neglect, legal action must occur. There is a growing awareness of the malpractices occurring in nursing homes. The federal government is enforcing more strict regulations as a result of this behavior. Regardless of age, all citizens are granted civil rights, and nursing homes should be held accountable for providing insufficient care. It is important for you to understand the proper procedure that must take place in order to seek justice your family member deserves.


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