Generally, nursing home lawsuits fall into two categories: nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. Personal injury and wrongful death occur as a result of physical assault, pressure sores, falls, delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment of acute medical conditions, malnutrition, dehydration, medication errors and elopement resulting in death due to drowning, freezing or a pedestrian accident. Often, consideration of damages is complicated by the fact that the injury victim is elderly with a limited life expectancy, no loss of earning capacity and, sometimes, significant dementia. For a nursing home negligence lawyer, proving damages and obtaining full compensation can be a challenge.
When nursing home negligence or abuse results in a serious personal injury, like a hip fracture, intracerebral hemorrhage (brain bleed), dislocation or other severe orthopedic injury, or severe disability resulting from delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment of a stroke, economic losses can be calculated through an audit of medical expenses, both past and future. Past medical expenses are based on the medical bills incurred as a result of the personal injury. Future medical expenses can be estimated by an expert in case management or life care planning. Future costs of care can be significant when the injured party’s injuries result in permanent disability and long-term care needs.
In addition to economic losses, a nursing home abuse lawyer will seek compensation for noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of usual activities. Often, when a nursing home resident continues to reside in a nursing home setting after sustaining a personal injury, the nursing home will not document ongoing complaints of pain. By contrast, in a hospital setting, pain is often treated as a “fifth vital sign,” which is evaluated at set intervals during the course of the hospitalization or when a patient brings attention to their pain and seeks relief. Some evidence of pain is intuitive, such as with a pressure sore or fracture. Family members are also useful sources of information about pain and suffering. In addition, nursing home staff can be useful eyewitnesses to a patient’s pain and suffering, particularly when prompted with medication administration records showing that the patient required substantial amounts of pain medication during the course of their stay.
When nursing home abuse or nursing home negligence results in wrongful death, additional damages arise by virtue of the harm suffered by the deceased individual’s surviving beneficiaries. The surviving spouse and children, in particular, suffer grief and loss of companionship, which is compensable. For these survivors, grief is particularly profound when they are robbed of their loved one’s final few years. In addition, survivors often experience profound guilt as a result of their family member’s death caused by abuse or neglect. Grief experts can be useful in explaining the pathological nature of grieving when a wrongful death occurs due to nursing home negligence or abuse.
In addition to compensatory damages, many nursing home lawsuits give rise to punitive damages. A nursing home lawyer in Cleveland, OH will want to review representations made by the skilled nursing facility at the time of admission about the quality of care and specialized services. In addition, a staffing audit is required to see whether it complies with federal and state law as well as acceptable industry standards. When a nursing home misrepresents its capabilities or fails to properly staff its facility, and this conscious disregard of their resident’s safety results in several personal injury or wrongful death, punitive damages are a consideration.
Thanks to Mishkind & Kulwicki Law Co. for their insight into nursing home abuse and damages to include in a lawsuit.