Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases
If a family member has died in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you may be suffering through the trauma of losing a loved one as well as knowing that the death was preventable. We support Maryland families who have lost loved ones due to the negligence or intentional acts by those who work at these facilities. If you believe your loved one’s death could have been caused by the wrongful acts of a Maryland facility, we may be able to help.
“Wrongful death” is the term used for a legal action that can be filed by immediate family members of the deceased (normally the deceased’s spouse, children and parents). The lawsuit would claim that the death of the loved one occurred due to one or multiple intentional and/or negligent acts by the defendant(s). The damages sought would be to compensate family members for the emotional and economic harm done due to the death. Plaintiffs have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
That is to recover damages for the pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost earnings of the person who died. The Personal Representative of the estate could file this lawsuit to recover these damages.
The plaintiff in a wrongful death case has the burden of proving the intentional and/or negligent acts(s) by defendant(s), while they cared for or were responsible for the safety of a resident and that act caused the death of the family member.
If that can be shown, damages can be awarded at trial or be part of a settlement agreement.
- Non-economic damages can cover mental anguish, grief, loss of companionship, pain and suffering.
- Economic damages include the lost income and household services for a spouse and if a parent is the one who died, damages can cover losses up to the time the child reaches the age of majority.
- There is no set figure for the value of a wrongful death case. Each one is unique based on a number of issues that impact the case’s value, including the person’s life expectancy, their health, how the death occurred, how long the spouses were married and if there were any separations. Maryland however, does have a cap or limit non-economic damages.
- If the death was caused by an intentional act (assault, battery, rape or other crime), punitive damages (meant to punish the defendant for his or her acts) might be awarded as well. These damages are generally very difficult to obtain.
There are many situations that could lead to a wrongful death lawsuit involving a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Note: A power of attorney or guardianship is no longer valid after death.
About 1,800 older adults living in nursing homes die each year due to fall-related injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Common, preventable causes of these falls include:
- Wet floors, bad lighting, improper bed height and improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs.
- Side-effects of some medications can increase the risk of falls. Drugs impacting the central nervous system (including sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs) are particularly hazardous. The risk of falling is much higher during the three days after any change in these medications.
- Moving from one place to another, poor foot care, poorly fitting shoes and improper or incorrect use of walking aids.
- Improper assessments, care plans and preventive interventions.
These situations can happen due to medication mistakes, under-staffing or poor training resulting in insufficient oversight of the resident, wrong equipment being used or simple neglect.
Rates of nursing home infections are increasing, according to a study by the Columbia University School of Nursing. The study, which tracked infections in U.S. nursing homes over a five-year period, found higher infection rates for pneumonia, urinary tract infections, viral hepatitis, septicemia, wound infections and multiple drug-resistant organisms.
Many seniors have multiple health problems, take many medications and have suppressed immune systems making them more vulnerable to infections. Potentially deadly infections can be difficult to treat if they’re not spotted early due to negligent nursing home staff. Infections can be caused by bedsores, unwashed hands, insufficiently cleaned facilities, poor catheter care and unclean medical instruments.
Malnutrition and dehydration
From 35% to 85% of those in long-term care facilities experience malnutrition, according to an article in the Journal of Nursing. A study in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing found that 31% of nursing home residents showed signs of dehydration.
Weakened by not enough food or liquids, seniors can quickly spiral downhill. They are more susceptible to infections, overall weakness and falling. Staff may not be properly trained to notice these problems or address them. Residents may also be the victim of uncaring staff who can’t bother to help residents eat or drink, or there simply may not be enough staff to help residents properly.
A survey of family members with loved ones in Michigan nursing homes showed 24.3% of respondents reported at least one incident of physical abuse. The results were published in the Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect.
Common forms physical abuse of the elderly can include striking, kicking, shaking, pinching, sexual assault and even burning. Those who can’t effectively communicate are especially at risk. Bruising or other injuries may be blamed on falls. In addition to these intentional acts, the facility and its employees may be found negligent for not preventing the attack or not detecting it early enough to prevent the death of the resident.
The estimated number of deaths in the U.S. due to medical mistakes range from about 100,000 to 440,000 Americans each year. How many of those mistakes occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is unknown.
Doctors in these facilities often work part-time; they may be semi-retired or unable to have a more profitable practice. Malpractice by any health care professional, including doctors, specialists, pharmacists, psychiatrists, nurses and CNA’s, could be the basis of a medical malpractice suit. Medical malpractice can include a failure to properly diagnose or treat a condition, medication mistakes or failure to order appropriate tests.