When you place a loved one in a nursing home, the intention is to ensure that they will receive the quality of care needed to ensure they can live a happy, healthy life in a way that would be impossible in another type of facility or on their own. However, this is often not the case. Negligence and even outright abuse of the elderly within nursing homes can have devastating consequences, up to and including death. The term “wrongful death” means that someone has died due to the actions, conduct or behavior of another individual or an agency or organization, and it is being associated all too often with nursing homes in the US.
What Is Considered Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes?
While it is natural that some residents will die while living in a nursing home, too many of these deaths are not due to natural causes, or the result of an existing disease. They’re due to neglect, or outright abuse by the staff members at the facility. In fact, a significant number of cases involve misconduct, and could have been avoided completely.
A few examples of the rise in instances of wrongful death in nursing homes include a recent lawsuit filed in Fresno, California stating that a nursing home staffer beat a woman in the head with a showerhead to silence her because she’d fallen and broken both of her wrists.
Another example is the lawsuit brought by the family of an 81-year-old man who died in a New Hampshire nursing home from complications arising from sepsis due to bedsores he developed because staff members did not turn him properly.
Another lawsuit filed against a Mason City nursing home claims that a resident attempting to leave the facility caused an alarm to go off, and fell a set of concrete stairs, bashing his head. The alarm was reset, and no staff members checked the cause. As a result, the man died of his injuries. In Chicago, a lawsuit has been filed against a nursing home for lack of proper care being provided to a resident. Allegedly, the facility failed to provide care for bone fractures, bedsores and “other conditions which contributed to her death.”
In all of these instances, staff at the nursing home are being accused of negligence at the very least, and in some cases, direct physical abuse of the resident, such as the woman allegedly beaten to death with a showerhead.
It is vital that you know the signs of abuse and neglect and watches for them at all times. No nursing home or care facility is immune to negligence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and other potential causes of harm to your loved one.
Who Can Be Part of Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
The laws in each state governing participation in a wrongful death lawsuit vary considerably. It is crucial to consult with an experienced attorney in your state before making any decision. However, most individuals with a vested interest in the individual’s life have some grounds to file such a suit. These can include:
Immediate Family: Anyone considered “immediate family” has grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes spouses and children, as well as parents of an unmarried child.
Other Family Members: Some states allow wrongful death lawsuits to be brought by more distance family members, including parents, grandparents, and siblings. However, this usually does not extend to more distant relations, such as aunts, uncles or cousins.
Financial Dependents: In most cases, any financial dependents can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home in question. This can also apply to life partners, as well as to common law spouses. Some states allow anyone who suffered financially from the individual’s death to bring such a lawsuit.
What to Do If Your Loved One Has Died
If your loved one has died while in the care of a nursing home and you suspect negligence or abuse, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced attorney. With the right legal assistance, you can not only gain closure but also hold the nursing home accountable for the actions of the staff responsible for providing care to your loved one.