New Jersey Residents’ Rights
The residents of New Jersey elder care facilities, such as assisted living programs and nursing homes, are guaranteed certain rights under state and federal law. It is important for family members to have a basic understanding of these rights in order to help take effective action against negligence, abuse, financial exploitation, and other issues.
If you believe any of the legal rights explained on this page are being violated, or if you think your elderly loved one is being mistreated or neglected by their caregivers, call nursing home abuse lawyer Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 to arrange a free and private case evaluation. Don’t wait until the situation escalates: call today to start exploring some of your family’s legal options.
Legal Rights for Senior Citizens in New Jersey
In addition to the quality-of-care requirements provided under federal law, which are collectively known as the FNHRA (Federal Nursing Home Reform Act), New Jersey has also enacted a residents’ rights law (N.J.A.C. § 8:36-4.1) with its own set of strict requirements. The provisions of N.J.A.C. § 8:36-4.1 apply to nursing homes, assisted living programs and facilities, and comprehensive personal care homes alike.
Under the law, each assisted living provider must post and distribute a statement of resident rights which all residents can easily access. You can view the complete list of these laws and regulations at the New Jersey Administrative Code.
The basic purpose of this legislation is to promote and protect the rights, health, and safety of senior citizens who receive assistance or medical treatment from professional caregivers. For example, elderly residents have the right to be informed and make decisions about their care. They have the right to privacy, and to be treated with dignity and respect. We will explore these rights and others in greater depth below.
The Right to Safety and Quality Medical Care
New Jersey nursing home residents have the right to receive proper and timely medical care. When medical care is deliberately withheld, or when a home is simply under-staffed and employees cannot attend to all residents’ basic health needs, the home or facility at fault may be considered negligent. Negligence is an important component of medical malpractice claims, and indeed all personal injury and wrongful death claims.
In broad terms, negligence essentially means a failure to meet legal duties and industry standards, such as failure to manage and monitor an illness, failure to sterilize medical equipment, or failure to give a resident the correct prescription medication. If negligence or intentional abuse results in serious injury or death to a resident, that resident and/or their family may be able to file a lawsuit and obtain compensation for their losses and hardships.
Under the law, New Jersey nursing home and assisted living residents have the right to:
- Be free from physical and mental abuse and/or neglect.
- Receive care in accordance with the resident’s individualized health care plan.
- Receive a level of care that addresses the resident’s changing physical and psychosocial status.
- Be treated with respect, courtesy, consideration and dignity.
- Choose a physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant.
- Appeal an involuntary discharge.
- Participate in planning his or her own medical treatment and care.
- Be free from chemical and physical restraints.
- Live in safe and clean conditions in a facility that does not admit more residents than it can safely accommodate.
- Participate in private and intimate physical and social interaction with other people.
- Voice complaints without being threatened or punished.
A nursing home’s admissions contract may not seek to limit the rights afforded to residents by law.
Filing a Lawsuit Against a New Jersey Nursing Home
The money awarded plaintiffs in a settlement or lawsuit is called damages. Punitive damages can be ordered to punish the defendant, while compensatory damages are purely to reimburse the plaintiff. New Jersey limits awards of punitive damages to $350,000, or five times the amount of compensatory damages. Public entities are generally immune from liability. However, they can be found liable for injuries caused by individual employees in the course and scope of their employment.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to how long plaintiffs have to bring a legal claim after an accident. In general, the New Jersey statute of limitations on negligence claims for personal injury and wrongful death is two years, beginning with the date of death or injury.
Contingent Fee Agreements
In New Jersey, an attorney’s contingent fees for actions stemming from tortious conduct generally cannot exceed the following limits:
- 33 1/3% on the first $750,000 recovered.
- 30% on the next $750,000 recovered.
- 25% on the next $750,000 recovered.
- 20% on the next $750,000 recovered.
Amounts recovered in excess of the above require application to the court for reasonable fee. Contingent fee agreements made for the benefit of a minor or mentally incapacitated person are subject to the above limits, except that settlements amounts made before trial cannot exceed 25%.
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you have questions or concerns about residents’ rights, you can contact New Jersey’s long term care ombudsman or local department on aging. If you believe that a resident’s rights were violated, you should speak up and address the issue with his or her care providers. If speaking with the facility’s nursing staff and administration does not solve the problem, you should file a formal complaint with State of New Jersey Department of Health.
When a violation of a resident’s rights results in serious injury or death, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights and potential options and strategies. Nursing home abuse attorney Brent Wieand offers free initial consultations, and you will never be charged a fee unless you are awarded compensation through an award or settlement. To speak privately with Brent, call (800) 481-5206 today.