Wrongful Death as a Result of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse
Many of us have elderly loved ones living in nursing homes. Oftentimes, the best option to care for the elderly or disabled is for them to reside in a place where round-the-clock care is available. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents die each year as a result of abuse or neglect.
Wrongful death occurs when a patient dies as a direct fault of an individual or group of individuals. This may include nurses, caretakers, or owners of a nursing home. Conditions leading up to wrongful death in nursing homes can include:
- Wandering and lack of supervision
- Malnutrition and Dehydration
- Use of excessive restraints – either chemical or physical
- Serious infections
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Neglect of basic needs
- Medication errors
Examples of Wrongful Death
One example of wrongful death is James Davis, a stroke victim who died in 2002 from an infection. Davis was 62 years old and had suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side. During one year in a nursing home, he fell 9 times, one of which fractured his hip. Less than a month after hip replacement surgery, he fell again due to the side rails not being up on his bed. His hip split open and the wound became infected when it was not kept clean by the staff.
A second example comes from a Queens, NY nursing home. After surgery for a hernia repair and bowel resection, and elderly resident suffered a stroke which paralyzed her arms and throat. She needed a tracheotomy tube to breathe. After a month in the hospital, she was moved to a nursing home for further care.
The morning after her transfer, she went into respiratory distress and died. It was found that the nursing home staff failed to properly insert her breathing tube and it became dislodged so she could not breathe. Because they failed to monitor her properly, the staff did not know that the woman was in distress for many hours.
Nursing homes have an obligation to make sure that their facility is safe and that all falls and infections that can be prevented are prevented. They must monitor patients regularly and make sure their needs are met. Often, conditions may arise due to improperly trained staff, poor operational oversight, or lack of a sufficient number of employees to care for the number of residents. If proper standards of care are followed, most of these conditions are preventable.
Determining Fault with Wrongful Death
In order to determine whether a death was caused by negligence on the part of a nursing home can require a significant amount of skilled investigation. Wrongful death cases are usually filed by a family member or person close to the deceased party. In some states, there are limitations on who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
Sometimes when a nursing home is at fault, they will try to cover up their error. Cause of death may be listed simply as “heart failure” when the failure was a direct result of malnutrition or infection. Because many residents of nursing home deaths are elderly, there is not the same type of response as if a young person had died.
Many locales do not have the funds to investigate every death, and may be apprehensive to pay for autopsies or investigations. It is important to remember that you can request an autopsy be performed. In some cases, you can pay for the procedure yourself if the local government is unable to fund it. Because many natural deaths do occur in nursing homes, police may miss clues or information that may be important.
The amount of damages recovered in wrongful death suits is not always straightforward. The jury or judge will determine the amount after a verdict is rendered. Damages usually consist of medical bills, burial and funeral expenses, and lost wages and pain and suffering of the survivors. Discuss all of your options with an experienced Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer.
The grief we experience at the loss of a loved one can be greatly compounded when their death was preventable. If you think that your family member may have died as a result of errors made in their facility, it is time to find a Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer who can help. Filing a medical malpractice suit for nursing home abuse can be complicated. A good attorney will be able to help make the process as easy as possible.