Maine Nursing Home Neglect Laws

Cap on Damages

In Maine, negligence and medical malpractice claimants are entitled to recover compensatory and punitive damages.   A claimants recoverable losses include:

  1. Pecuniary losses.
  2. Loss of comfort.
  3. Loss of society.
  4. Loss of companionship.
  5. Emotional distress.
  6. Medical, surgical, hospital care, and funeral expenses, for the benefit of the estate.

However, noneconomic damages in wrongful death actions are capped at $500,000 for loss of comfort, society and companionship; punitive damages not to exceed $250,000.

Attorneys Fees

In Maine, and throughout US, most nursing home neglect and abuse cases are taken on a contingent fee basis. The law requires that a contingent fee agreement must be in a writing, signed by the client and state the method by which the fee is to be determined. This should include the percentage that are due to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal. It must also delineate litigation and other expenses that will be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted on the net or gross award. Further, the agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be liable whether or not the client is the prevailing party.

In an action for professional negligence, an attorney cannot collect contingent fees in excess of:

  • 33 1/3 percent of the first $100,000;
  • 25 percent of the next $100,000; and
  • 20 percent of any amount above $200,000.

The court may review the reasonableness of the attorney’s fee and authorize a larger percentage if warranted.

Statute of Limitations

Negligence claims for personal injuries against healthcare providers and medical practitioners must be brought within 3 years. Lawsuits for wrongful death must be filed within 2 years of the date of death.

Eliot, Maine lake trees

Regulation of Maine Elder Care Facilities

Elderly persons residing in Maine residential care and assisted living facilities have certain rights which are guaranteed by state and federal law. Residents retain their rights as citizens when they move into a long term care facility.

Chapter 110-44 provides regulations governing the licensing and functioning of skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities. The state of Maine regulates, among other things, nursing home licenses, contracts with residents, residents’ property and finances, personnel, nursing care and services and dietary services. Additionally, it explicitly provides a “bill of rights” guaranteed to all nursing home resident.

The backbone of the residents right statute provides that all residents have the right to a “dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility.” Nursing home facilities in Maine must protect and promote the rights of each resident, including:

  • the right to proper medical treatment in accordance with industry standards of care
  • the right to exercise their rights as a citizen of the US
  • right to be free from interference, coercion, discrimination or reprisal in exercising their rights
  • the right to be informed in a language he/she understands of their rights orally and in writing
  • the right to free choice in choosing a physician and pharmacy
  • the right to be informed and participate in their care planning and treatment
  • the right to file a grievance or complaint
  • the right to retain and use personal possessions
  • the right to remain in the facility barring exceptional circumstances

Enforcement of Nursing Home Regulations

The Maine State Department of Health and Human Services investigates consumer complaints and enforces nursing home regulations.   Facilities must submit to regular and unannounced inspection surveys and complaint investigations in order to qualify for and maintain a license.  If the investigation determines that there was a safety violation, the Department of Health will issue a citation. The nursing home must correct the problem or it may suffer penalties including fines of up to $10,000 a day for the worst violations.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.  The legal statutes, laws and procedures contained in this article may not be current and may have been revised since the time of publication or contain errors. An attorney can provide legal guidance only after reviewing the details of your individual case.

Image via Flickr via N. Houlihan

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