Bucks County Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
When you place your elderly loved one into a nursing home, you expect they will receive quality medical care and be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Sadly, neglect and abuse are a serious problem in many care facilities in Bucks County, and throughout Pennsylvania and the United States. If you suspect your spouse, parent, or elderly relative is being mistreated or receiving poor quality care, you deserve to seek justice and fair compensation for the suffering your family has wrongfully endured.
The Bucks County nursing home lawyers at Wieand Law Firm LLC provide aggressive legal representation for abused and neglected nursing home residents and their family members. We are proud to serve communities throughout the county including but not limited to Bensalem, Doylestown, Langhorne, Newtown, Quakertown, and Yardley. To arrange for a completely free and private case evaluation, call us at (215) 666-7777 today.
Telltale Signs of Nursing Home Neglect – Falls, Bedsores, Weight Loss and more
Abuse occurs when a facility staff member deliberately and intentionally inflicts cruel treatment upon a resident. Abuse may be physical, sexual, mental, or financial, or may be a combination of one or more forms. By contrast, neglect occurs when a facility fails to meet the accepted state and federal standards of care and provides sub-par, inadequate services which result in harm to a resident. While carelessness or negligence may not be deliberately malicious like abuse, the effects can be just as devastating.
Unfortunately, both nursing home neglect and abuse are known to be vastly under-reported by the people who experience them, for a variety of reasons. Seniors may fear the repercussions of speaking out, or may simply be too ill or heavily medicated to recognize or remember experiencing mistreatment or neglect. Therefore, it is critically important to be vigilant and proactive if you notice or suspect any signs of mistreatment. Even something as simple as a bad gut feeling may be worth investigating for the sake of the safety and health of your loved one.
However, in order to recognize red flags for nursing home neglect and elder abuse, you need to know what to look for. Some of the more common forms of abuse and their warning signs might include:
- Falls — The CDC cites falls as the number one cause of death and nonfatal injury for people aged 65 and older. Falls can cause severe bruising, internal bleeding, and bone fractures, which oftentimes necessitate traumatic and invasive surgeries to repair. Nursing home residents who have difficulty walking must be provided with walkers, canes, and/or careful supervision.
- Bed Sores — Also known as pressure ulcers, bed sores form when care facility staff fail to take basic preventative measures such as regularly changing bed sheets and periodically shifting immobile residents to relieve and redistribute pressure. Bed sores typically develop on bony areas of the body, such as hips, heels, and ankles.
- Amputation — The American Diabetes Association reports that more than one quarter of the elderly population (aged 65 or older) has diabetes. Diabetes can cause extremely poor circulation, and if left untreated, can advance to the point of necessitating the amputation of a limb. If a facility is negligent in its monitoring of a diabetic resident and allows the disease to advance — or if facility staff commit medical malpractice and an amputation wound becomes infected — you should consult with a nursing home neglect lawyer immediately.
- Weight Loss — Significant weight loss may be a sign of malnutrition or dehydration.
Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights in Pennsylvania
The rights of long-term care facility residents in Pennsylvania are protected by both federal and state law. Pennsylvania’s statute pertaining to assisted living facilities provides a list of specific rights that all residents are entitled to. These rights are:
- The right to be treated with respect and dignity
- Protection against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, ancestry, disability, or religious creed
- Protection from neglect, abandonment, financial exploitation and all forms of abuse
- The right to receive information addressing the rules of the facility and be given written notice 30 days prior to the implementation of a new rule
- The right to send and receive mail
- Access to a telephone to make private phone calls
- The right to practice or choose not to practice any faith or religion
- Access to the local ombudsman and the right to communicate privately with that individual
- The right to access, review, and request corrections to the resident’s record shall be given to the resident, designated person, and other individuals provided that the resident gives written approval
- Freedom from restraints
- The right to use a system to protect the resident’s money and property
- The right to choose a primary care physician
- As long as it is operating with a license, the resident has a right to remain in the facility
- Privacy of oneself and the resident’s possession
- Privacy during changing, dressing, bathing and medical procedures
- The right to file appeals, complaints or grievances against any individual or entity and the right to recommend policy changes without retaliation, intimidation or threat of discharge
- The right to have visitors at any time so long as the visitation does not negatively impose on other residents
- Freedom of association and private communication with family, friends, attorney, or other persons
- The right to enter and exit the facility in accordance with policies and procedures
- The right to relocate to another facility and the right to receive assistance from the facility in relocating
- The right to furnish the resident’s room and the right to have clothes and other possessions
- The right to clean, seasonal clothing that may not be shared with other residents
- Access to healthcare services
- The right to receive services provided for in the facility’s contract with the resident
- The right to utilize the facility’s internal and external procedures to appeal involuntary discharge
Liability for Nursing Home Injuries
When a resident suffers harm as a result of nursing home abuse, establishing liability is the first step towards seeking compensation for injuries. Liability for nursing home negligence is often established on one or more of the following grounds:
- Negligent hiring and retention of staff
- Negligent personal care and supervision
- Negligent selection and/or maintenance of facility equipment
- Negligent maintenance of the facility premises
To succeed on a theory of negligence, a victim must show that four essential elements existed. These elements are as follows:
- The nursing home staff or owner owed a legal duty of care to the resident;
- The nursing home staff or owner breached the legal duty of care that was owed;
- The resident suffered harm that was caused by the breach; and
- The conduct of the nursing home staff or owner caused the resident to suffer damages.
Damages for Nursing Home Injuries
If a victim succeeds in proving liability on a negligence claim, the resident may be awarded damages for injuries and other losses. There are two kinds of damages that a victim can recover: compensatory and punitive damages. The purpose of compensatory damages is to make the plaintiff “whole.” Compensatory damages are divided into 2 subcategories: economic and nonecomonic. Economic damages may include the following:
- Present and future medical expenses
- Present and future lost earnings
- Property damage
- Wrongful death damages
Noneconomic damages may include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Punitive damages are awarded in cases where a court finds that a defendant’s conduct was intentional or so egregious that it shocks the conscience. The purpose behind an award of punitive damages is to punish the defendant so that others will be deterred from committing similar acts in the future.
Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In extreme cases, abuse and neglect can cause or lead to wrongful death. Under Pennsylvania law, death may be considered wrongful if it was caused by “the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another,” and if that death also results in damages to the decedent’s survivors. In other words, in order for a legal claim to be successful, the death:
- Must have been caused by another party’s incompetence, recklessness, or criminal act.
- Must result in financial losses to the surviving spouse and/or family members.
If these elements are both present, you may have a strong legal claim to compensation. An experienced attorney can help examine the details of the situation and evaluate which steps you should take next. If you are alleging wrongful death, you may sue to recover losses including but not limited to:
- Loss of services, including the value of chores and tasks performed around the home.
- Loss of value as a parent, such as providing guidance and care services for dependent children.
- Costs related to funeral, burial, and medical care.
In addition to a wrongful death action, you may also wish to bring a survival action. A survival action seeks to compensate the pain and suffering of the decedent him- or herself, while wrongful death actions are used to compensate the decedent’s survivors, such as spouse and/or children.
However, it’s very important to remember that both wrongful death and survival actions are subject to a strict two-year time limit known as the statute of limitations. If you fail to file a claim within two years your case may be barred by the statute of limitations. Note that personal injury lawsuits not involving death are also subject to the same two-year time limit, though in some instances the discovery rule may be used to extend the normal deadline.
To speak with an experienced nursing home lawyer about a nursing home injury claim, call the Wieand Law Firm LLC at (215) 666-7777.
Disclosure: The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The Wieand Law Firm is based in Philadelphia, PA. We serve clients throughout all of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.