You may have entrusted the care of your loved one to a nursing home. However, when this trust is violated and your loved one is subjected to abuse and neglect, seeking justice becomes paramount.

If you or a loved one has experienced the anguish of nursing home abuse, you can seek legal redress. In California, there are legal avenues available to hold accountable those responsible for such reprehensible actions.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse refers to any harmful behavior or action perpetrated against a resident of a nursing home. Nursing home abuse can take various forms, including the following:

  • Physical abuse — This is the intentional use of force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. This may involve slapping, hitting, pushing, restraining, or using inappropriate medication or restraints.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse — Emotional or psychological abuse is the infliction of mental anguish, distress, or fear. It may be through verbal insults, threats, intimidation, isolation, humiliation, or other forms of emotional manipulation.
  • Sexual abuse — Sexual abuse involves any form of non-consensual sexual activity. It may include rape, molestation, unwanted touching, or coercion of residents who are unable to give consent due to cognitive impairment, disability, or other vulnerabilities.
  • Neglect — Here, the resident may be denied adequate care and attention to meet their basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, hygiene, medical care, and assistance with activities of daily living.
  • Financial abuse — This is the unauthorized use of the funds, assets, or property of the resident for the benefit of the caregiver, facility staff, or other third parties. It may involve theft, fraud, coercion, forgery, or undue influence.
  • Violation of rights — This is the denial or infringement of the rights of residents guaranteed by law, including the right to dignity, privacy, autonomy, informed consent, visitation, communication, and participation in decisions regarding their care.
  • Medical negligence — This is the failure to provide appropriate medical treatment, leading to harm or worsening of the resident’s health.

Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse

How can you identify nursing home abuse? Here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, cuts, fractures, or burns, especially if they occur repeatedly or seem inconsistent with the resident’s medical condition or explanations provided by the staff.
  • Changes in behavior or mood, such as withdrawal, depression, anxiety, fearfulness, agitation, or sudden outbursts of anger. This may indicate emotional or psychological abuse.
  • Sudden weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, or unexplained decline in health status. These could be signs of neglect or inadequate care.
  • Poor hygiene, including dirty clothing, unwashed hair, body odor, or untreated medical conditions.
  • Social withdrawal or isolation from family and friends, restrictions on visitation, or reluctance to speak openly about their experiences. These suggest possible manipulation or control by their caregivers.
  • Financial discrepancies, such as missing money, unauthorized withdrawals, changes in legal documents, or sudden transfers of assets. These indicate potential financial exploitation.
  • Unexplained changes in medication regimens, overmedication, or undermedication. These may result from improper administration or misuse of medication.
  • Evidence of restraint use, such as marks on wrists or ankles from restraints or reports of excessive use of physical or chemical restraints without appropriate justification or consent.
  • Bedsores, infections, or other preventable medical complications. These may indicate inadequate monitoring or neglect of residents’ health needs.
  • Fearful or evasive behavior when asked about their care or living conditions, reluctance to speak in the presence of staff, or signs of communication barriers, such as language barriers or cognitive impairment.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

Once you suspect nursing home abuse, trust your instincts and report it immediately. You can explore the following avenues when reporting nursing home abuse:

The Nursing Home Administration

This is the first avenue you should explore once you suspect nursing home abuse. Ensure you inform the nursing home administration about your concerns.

You can speak with the facility administrator, director of nursing, or other senior staff members. Provide specific details about the suspected abuse and request immediate action to address the situation.

Ensure you keep records of all communication with the nursing home administration regarding the abuse. These records may be valuable if further action is needed to address the situation.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a government-funded program that works to protect the rights and quality of life of residents in long-term care facilities. You can easily locate this program in your area by visiting their official website. Alternatively, you can call 1-800-510-2020 for guidance.

Once you have located the program, you can file your complaint. When filing your complaint, ensure you provide detailed information about the nature of the abuse, including dates, times, and any evidence or documentation you may have.

Once the complaint is received, an ombudsman will investigate the abuse allegations. They will try to resolve the issue in collaboration with the nursing home administration, law enforcement, regulators and other stakeholders.

Adult Protective Services (APS)

The Adult Protective Services (APS) is a government agency tasked with investigating and intervening in cases of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of vulnerable adults, including residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. APS workers are trained professionals who assess risk, provide assistance, and coordinate services to protect adults in need of protection.

Each county in California has an APS agency. To report nursing home abuse, you can call 1-833-401-0832. Once you dial this number, you will be prompted to enter your 5-digit zip code. Then, you will be automatically connected to the APS agency in your county, where you will file your complaint.

Be prepared to provide detailed information about the alleged abuse, including the name of the nursing home, the name of the resident involved, and specific details or evidence of the abuse or neglect. Once your complaint is received, APS will assess the situation to determine the risk level and appropriate course of action. This may involve interviewing the resident, gathering information from caregivers and witnesses, and conducting on-site visits to the nursing home.

Law Enforcement

Reporting nursing home abuse to law enforcement is essential when the abuse involves criminal behavior, such as physical assault, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, or other illegal activities. To report the abuse to law enforcement, simply call 911.

Ensure you provide as much information as possible about the suspected abuse, including the nature of the abuse, the names of the individuals involved, and any evidence or documentation you may have collected. Law enforcement officers will use the information you provided to investigate abuse claims.

You may also be asked to file a formal police report detailing the incidents of abuse and providing any relevant evidence or witness statements. Ensure you cooperate fully with law enforcement during their investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, the California Prosecution Department may institute criminal charges against the perpetrator.

Seeking Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse

If you or your loved one have experienced nursing home abuse, you will want to be compensated. However, you may be wondering about the process of pursuing compensation.

The first step you should take is to seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer experienced in nursing home abuse cases. An attorney can assess your situation, advise you on your rights, and help you understand your legal options for seeking compensation.

Then, with the help of your attorney, you should gather all the evidence you may need to pursue your claim. This may include medical records, injury photographs, complaints filed with the nursing home, and any other relevant documentation demonstrating the abuse.

You should also identify the parties that may be liable for the abuse. These parties may include the nursing home facility, individual staff members, contractors, or other entities responsible for the care and safety of residents.

Once you have collected all the available evidence, your attorney will issue a formal demand letter to the liable party. The purpose of the demand letter is to formally demand from the liable party just compensation owed to you.

Your lawyer will come up with a suitable amount of money that may include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other damages incurred due to the incident. Additionally, the demand letter will outline the legal basis for your claim and provide a deadline for the liable party to respond.

In most cases, upon receiving the demand letter, the liable party or their insurance company will reach out with a settlement offer. Typically, this settlement offer does not reflect the just compensation you deserve. In that case, your lawyer will negotiate with the liable party or their insurance company to try to come to an agreement.

Do not make the mistake of trying to negotiate with an insurance company yourself. Insurance companies are in the business of making profits — they do not care whether or not the compensation you receive is fair and just.

In most cases, they will claim to have your best interests at heart while simultaneously working to minimize their financial liability. Without legal representation, you may inadvertently accept a settlement far below the true value of your claim.

An experienced attorney will skillfully negotiate on your behalf. They will leverage their knowledge of the law and the intricacies of insurance company tactics to secure the maximum compensation you deserve.

If the negotiations fail to result in a fair settlement, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit against the responsible parties. Your attorney will prepare and file the necessary legal documents and represent you in court proceedings.

What Kind of Compensation Can You Receive?

In nursing home abuse cases, the court may award different categories of damages to the victim. These damages can be categorized into three main types:

Special Damages

The primary purpose of economic or special damages is to compensate the victim for losses quantifiable monetarily. To be awarded special damages, you must provide sufficient evidence showing the extent of your loss in monetary terms. Special damages can cover the following:

  • Lost income — Victims may be entitled to compensation for any lost wages or income if they were unable to work due to the abuse-related injuries.
  • Medical expenses — Special damages cover the victim’s medical costs resulting from the abuse, including hospitalization, surgeries, medication, therapy, and rehabilitation.
  • Property damage — If the abuse resulted in damage to the victim’s personal property or belongings, such as assistive devices or personal effects, special damages may cover the cost of repair or replacement.
  • Other economic losses — Special damages can also include reimbursement for any other financial losses incurred as a direct result of the abuse, such as transportation expenses for medical appointments or home modifications to accommodate injuries.

General Damages

Non-economic or general damages cover losses that are not quantifiable monetarily, including the following:

  • Suffering and pain — General damages compensate the victim for physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life due to the abuse.
  • Loss of consortium — If the abuse resulted in the deterioration of the victim’s relationship with their spouse or family members, general damages may include compensation for loss of affection, companionship, and support.
  • Diminished quality of life — General damages can offer compensation for the negative impact the abuse has had on the victim’s overall quality of life, including limitations on activities, hobbies, and social interactions due to physical or emotional injuries.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded. The primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their egregious conduct and deter similar misconduct in the future.

These damages are typically reserved for cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly malicious, intentional, or reckless, such as cases involving willful abuse, gross negligence, or fraud. The amount of punitive damages awarded typically varies based on the severity of the defendant’s misconduct, their financial resources, and other relevant factors.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Nursing Home Abuse

Losing a loved one due to nursing home abuse can be a devastating experience. In that case, to pursue compensation, you may be required to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.

Your lawyer will assist you in preparing and filing the necessary legal documents and representing your interests in court. If successful, you may receive compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of financial support, loss of companionship and consortium, and emotional pain and suffering resulting from your loved one’s death.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

There are several steps you can take to prevent nursing home abuse and ensure the safety and well-being of your loved one. First, stay involved and visit your loved one frequently. Your presence can provide emotional support, deter potential abusers, and help you stay informed about your loved one’s care and living conditions.

Build a positive relationship with the staff members and caregivers at the nursing home. Communicate openly, ask questions about your loved one’s care, and express any concerns or preferences regarding their wellbeing.

During visits, observe your loved one’s physical and emotional state and the interactions between residents and staff. Look for any signs showing abuse or neglect, such as behavioral changes, unexplained injuries, or inadequate care. Report your concerns to the administration.

Ensure you maintain open communication with your loved one and encourage them to voice any concerns or complaints they may have about their care or living conditions. Listen attentively to their feedback and act to address any issues promptly.

Furthermore, educate your loved one about their rights as a resident of the nursing home, including their right to dignity, privacy, autonomy, and freedom from abuse or neglect. Empower them to assert their rights and seek assistance if they experience mistreatment.

You should also be proactive in ensuring your loved one’s needs are well cared for. Work collaboratively with the caregivers to ensure your loved one receives personalized, respectful, and compassionate care that meets their needs.

Participate in care planning meetings and decision-making processes regarding your loved one’s care, treatment, and services. Stay informed about their care plan, medication regimen, and any changes in their health status, and provide input as needed to ensure their well-being.

Finally, stay informed about nursing home best practices for preventing abuse and promoting resident safety. Educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of abuse, and the steps you can take to protect your loved one from harm.

Find a California Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

As a victim of nursing home abuse, you have legal options available to seek justice for the harm you have suffered. Whether through filing a lawsuit, pursuing settlements, or engaging with regulatory agencies or law enforcement, you can hold accountable those responsible for your mistreatment and ensure your rights are protected.

At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we could help you if you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse. Contact us for a confidential consultation. Our team of personal injury lawyers in California will help you explore the legal options available. Call us at 800-492-6718 today.