Attorneys Handling Nursing Home Negligence Cases in Orlando and Throughout Florida
The decision to place an elderly relative in a nursing home or other care facility is one no family makes lightly. Your loved one’s health, safety, and happiness in their golden years are at stake, so it is important to find a place where their needs can be met.
Unfortunately, many seniors suffer serious injuries and even die due to abuse and neglect in nursing homes. As a state with a prominent aged population, Florida has a tragically high rate of negligence and misconduct in facilities entrusted with the care of the elderly.
If you or your elderly loved one suffered mistreatment at the hands of a caregiver, please call (407) 712-7300 today for a free consultation with Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter. Our Orlando nursing home abuse lawyers serve clients in Tampa, Miami, and throughout Florida.
What Is Neglect in a Nursing Home?
Neglect is the failure of nursing home staff to provide reasonable care for residents. Most cases of neglect are the result of issues such as:
- Overworked staff
- Poorly trained, under-qualified, or inexperienced staff
- Insufficient supervision of staff
- Residents who isolate themselves
- Residents isolated by staff members
- Residents who are incapable of or afraid to report neglect
Nursing home neglect may be physical, emotional, and/or medical.
Physical Neglect in Nursing Homes
Bedsores are perhaps the most serious sign of nursing home neglect. Known medically as decubitus pressure ulcers, bedsores occur when an individual confined to bed is left lying in the same place for too long. The pressure on the skin causes sores to form. Over time, the bedsore may penetrate the skin and affect underlying tissue.
Our attorneys have seen tragic nursing home abuse and neglect cases where bedsores have become infected, endangering the health and lives of residents.
Physical neglect can take on a number of other forms as well, including:
- Failure to provide adequate nutrition
- Failure to provide adequate hydration
- Failure to assist residents with personal hygiene needs, including bathing, grooming, using the bathroom, and laundering clothes
- Failure to clean residents’ living quarters and other areas of the facility
- Inadequate supervision, resulting in injuries from falls, choking on food or drink, and residents wandering away from the property
The neglect of the staff may impact the safety not only of the residents but of the property itself. This can increase the risk of hazards we see in other types of premises liability claims, including faulty handrails, ripped and uneven carpeting, poor lighting, unsafe stairs, defective elevators, cracked pavement, and more.
Emotional Neglect in Nursing Homes
Like anybody, seniors need to have more than their basic needs met to have a good quality of life. Residents of nursing homes may suffer from medical issues or take medications that make them feel anxious or depressed. Others may withdraw because they don’t get along with the other residents or miss their family and living independently.
Whatever the case, nursing home staff have a duty to supervise the residents for self-isolating and other behavioral issues. They have a responsibility to listen to residents who are unhappy and take appropriate action.
Emotional neglect doesn’t just affect a senior’s state of mind. It might make it possible for abuse to go unchecked.
Medical Neglect in Nursing Homes
One of the major responsibilities of nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other facilities is to provide care for elderly residents with medical issues. Unfortunately, inexperienced and untrained staff are often given these important responsibilities, resulting in serious lapses of care.
Neglect often involves issues with medication such as:
- Failure to provide residents with the correct medication
- Failure to provide residents with the prescribed dose of medication
- Failure to ensure residents take their medication
- Delayed or irregular administration of medications
With inadequate supervision, residents may also suffer from a wide range of undetected medical issues. Undiagnosed infections, illnesses, injuries, and emergencies such as a heart attack or stroke may become life-threatening if the staff is neglectful.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Neglect in a nursing home or other care facility is generally the result of negligence rather than active misconduct. Abuse, on the other hand, is almost always an intentional act of wrongdoing. In addition to civil liability for facilities and the members of staff engaged in the abuse, criminal charges may be brought against abusers.
Abuse in a nursing home may be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and/or medical in nature.
Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes
Nobody of any age should have to endure being physically assaulted by a caregiver. Unfortunately, in Orlando and other areas of Florida, physical abuse of nursing home residents happens every day.
If you or your elderly loved one has been hit, kicked, choked, shoved, spat upon, or suffered any other form of physical harm at the hands of staff members in a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer in Orlando today to discuss your rights.
Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Many senior citizens have had to live through hard times. In their later years, they should not have to suffer the indignity of harassment or abuse, or be forced to live in fear in a nursing home.
Emotional abuse is often verbal, with nursing home workers subjecting residents to:
- Demeaning comments about a resident’s appearance, physical capabilities, etc.
- Racist, sexist, ageist, and other types of prejudiced remarks
- Threats of violence
The line between abusive words and abusive actions is very thin. Abusers may become emboldened over time and begin subjecting residents to other forms of mistreatment. They may also seek to isolate victimized seniors from their family, friends, and other residents.
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Seniors in nursing homes may suffer sexual harassment, abuse, and/or assault from staff members as well as other residents. Sadly, the most vulnerable residents (such as those with physical or cognitive impairments) tend to be the most victimized.
Sexual abuse in a nursing home or other care facility can take on a number of different forms:
- Sexual comments
- Unwanted touching or kissing
- Forcing the resident to remove clothing
- Forcing the resident to view pornographic images or videos
If your loved one is subjected to sexual abuse or assault in a nursing home, he or she may appear withdrawn or afraid to be around certain residents or members of staff. By the same token, certain staff members may refuse to leave your loved one alone with you. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are another possible sign of sexual abuse.
Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes
The elderly often live on a very fixed income. They depend on Social Security checks, retirement benefits, and personal savings to pay for medical care and other necessities. In spite of their limited means, seniors may still be abused and exploited financially by nursing home staff.
Theft of money and personal belongings is one form of financial abuse. Other, more insidious examples include:
- Accessing and taking money from your loved one’s bank account
- Using your loved one’s credit card or debit card
- Identity theft
- Assets signed over to a caregiver
- Changes to your loved one’s will naming the caregiver as a beneficiary
Unscrupulous nursing home staff often prey upon residents with cognitive disabilities to achieve financial gain. Seniors with conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are particularly at risk for abuse and exploitation of their finances and assets.
Medical Abuse in Nursing Homes
Elderly residents of nursing homes and other facilities often have a range of medical needs. Although failing to meet these needs is often the result of neglect – such as inadequate staffing, poor training, and other issues – extreme instances of negligence in attending to a resident’s medical requirements may constitute abuse.
Intentionally ignoring, isolating, or refusing to get medical attention for a resident who is sick or injured is one form of caregiver abuse. Others include withholding or denying medication to punish residents or make them more compliant, or using medications as a form of “chemical restraint.”
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect?
The key to detecting and preventing nursing home neglect and abuse is diligence on the part of the resident’s family. Regular visits enable you not only to spend time with your elderly loved one and check up on them but to watch out for potential signs of negligence in the facility.
That said, nursing home abuse and neglect is not always easy to identify, especially if residents are afraid to come forward. For your loved one’s safety, look out for the following signs of neglect and abuse:
- Severe weight loss and malnutrition
- Inattentive staff who fail to answer call lights
- Poor hygiene
- Torn, soiled, and/or bloodied clothing
- Unsanitary facility
- Fractures resulting from falls
- Infections and sepsis
- Bruises and other unexplained injuries
- Negligent security on the premises
- Attacks by staff and other patients
- Missing money
- Theft of personal property
- Lack of communication from nursing home staff
- Illegal restraints
- Anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and other behavioral changes
- Missing medication or lapses in medication
- Worsening of medical conditions
If you suspect nursing home negligence, consider it an emergency. Neglect or abuse can cause a resident’s health to decline quickly and irreversibly and may lead to the death of your loved one. Malnutrition, dehydration, infections, and accidents can be deadly for anyone, and are even riskier for a person who is not being closely monitored or is being mistreated.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Abuse?
Florida law requires that claims for damages in cases involving nursing home abuse or neglect must be brought within 2 years. This gives you and your family very little time to take legal action.
We have primarily discussed nursing homes, but you can file a claim against any facility that qualifies as a “residential adult care facility” under Florida law within this 2-year statute of limitations. Examples of long-term care facilities include:
- Assisted-living facilities
- Board and care homes
- Adult family-care homes
If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, it is crucial to consult an attorney as soon as possible. Claims against long-term care facilities take time to build, and you do not want to lose the opportunity to seek justice for your family.
How Do I File a Claim Against a Nursing Home?
Your nursing home abuse lawyer will begin by fully investigating your case. This involves:
- Establishing the duties of the care facility toward your loved one (generally through review of the contract signed with the nursing home)
- Reviewing medical records documenting the abuse or neglect
- Interviewing witnesses, such as residents and members of staff, who witnessed the abuse or neglect
- Visiting the facility to look for and document dangerous conditions
- Examining equipment used in your loved one’s care
- If defective equipment such as a malfunctioning lift contributed to your loved one’s injuries, you may be able to recover compensation through a product liability claim.
- Requesting records from the nursing home that cover your loved one’s care – review of these documents by experts may uncover evidence of abuse or neglect
If negligence or misconduct in a nursing home resulted in your loved one’s injuries, our lawyers can file a claim on your behalf. Your case may be resolved through settlement negotiations, or the matter may have to go to trial for you to achieve fair compensation.
Our attorneys can also advise you how to proceed with filing a complaint against the nursing home. The Agency for Health Care Administration handles complaints in Florida against nursing homes and other care facilities.
Forced Arbitration in Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases
During the initial case review, your attorney will discuss your legal options. You may be required to resolve your dispute via arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit.
Historically, many nursing homes and other care facilities required applicants to sign arbitration agreements as part of the admission paperwork. Nursing homes are no longer allowed to force prospective residents to sign arbitration agreements before admission, but facilities can enter into pre-dispute arbitration agreements. In effect, you and/or your loved one may have signed an arbitration agreement without realizing it.
Arbitration proceedings take place behind closed doors, enabling facilities to keep abuse and neglect out of the public eye. There is also an enormous imbalance of power between residents and the nursing home; most agreements give facilities the right to select the jurisdiction and the arbitrator(s) who hears the dispute, reducing your chances for a fair recovery.
Our nursing home abuse lawyers will fully review the admission documents to determine how to proceed with your claim. Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter can assist you with filing a lawsuit or with arbitration proceedings.
How Much Is a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Case Worth?
The amount of compensation you can recover in a nursing home negligence case depends on the specific losses you and your family have sustained. Damages in a nursing home abuse or neglect claim may include:
- Medical expenses: Seniors may require extensive medical treatment to restore their health after abuse or neglect. You may be entitled to compensation for both the current medical bills and the expected costs of further treatments.
- Out-of-pocket costs: You and your loved ones may also be entitled to compensation for other expenditures connected with neglect or abuse. These damages may include the cost associated with travel to and from appointments with doctors and therapists, home healthcare services, personal mobility devices, moving your loved one to your home or another facility, etc.
- Pain and suffering: Physical pain and/or mental distress are common among survivors of abuse and neglect. Although pain and suffering may not have an exact dollar value, you deserve compensation for the ongoing impact the ordeal has on your life or that of your loved one.
- Punitive damages: A jury or judge may award punitive damages in a nursing home abuse or neglect claim if the defendant’s actions constitute “intentional misconduct or gross negligence” (as defined by Florida law). Your lawyer can advise you whether or not punitive damages may be recoverable if your case goes to trial.
If your loved one died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you and your family may be able to recover damages via a wrongful death claim. You may be entitled to compensation for the following losses:
- End-of-life medical expenses and palliative care
- Funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of benefits and inheritance
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages may also be recoverable in a nursing home wrongful death case.
Recovering Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Florida law requires nursing homes to “Maintain general and professional liability insurance coverage that is in force at all times.” The law does not, however, set a statutory minimum for the amount of required insurance coverage.
As a result, many nursing homes are woefully underinsured. In the most egregious circumstances, facilities have no insurance coverage to compensate victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Many attorneys and law firms in Florida limit their focus on nursing home abuse cases because of these insurance issues. However, Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter has a reputation for persisting on behalf of clients in nursing home negligence claims.
The owners of Florida nursing homes and other care facilities know that our lawyers will not stop until we collect on behalf of our clients. With this in mind, they are often willing to negotiate with our team.
How Can I Choose the Right Nursing Home for My Loved One?
Unfortunately, abuse and neglect can happen in any nursing home. However, one of the best ways to keep your loved one safe is to evaluate each facility closely before making a decision.
As always, consider the individual needs, preferences, and desires of your loved one and evaluate the facility’s ability to meet those requirements. Base your decision on your personal visits and observations, word-of-mouth referrals from friends or other relatives, written materials from the facility owner, and state and federal agency websites such as the Florida Nursing Home Guide and Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website.
The following considerations and questions may help to guide you in choosing a nursing home for your loved one:
- Location: Visitors are important! Is the facility conveniently located for frequent visits from family and friends?
- Ambience: Is the atmosphere welcoming and attractive?
- Staff: Observe staff interactions with the residents. Do caregivers show respect and a positive attitude toward residents and others?
- Activities: Look over the activity calendar for the week or month and ask about the programs available. Are residents encouraged to participate?
- Religion: Are religious services held on the premises? What individualized arrangements can be made for residents to worship?
- Rooms: Request to visit a typical room and ask these questions:
- Does the living space suit the needs of the resident?
- How are roommates selected?
- How are private items stored or secured?
- What is the policy for residents having a private telephone?
- What is the policy for decorating rooms with personal items?
- Dining: Observe mealtime at the facility:
- How is the menu managed weekly and monthly?
- What arrangements will be made if residents are unable to eat in the dining room?
- What is the practice for special dining or menu requests?
- Are snacks provided?
- Are private dining areas available when family and friends are visiting?
- Care planning:
- How are residents and families encouraged to participate in developing their care plan?
- Does the facility provide services for terminally ill residents and their families?
- What special programs (Alzheimer’s, AIDS, subacute care) does the facility offer?
- Are other medical professionals (dentists, podiatrists, optometrists) available?
- Does the facility have an arrangement with a nearby hospital?
- Will a bed be available after hospitalization?
- How are prescription drugs ordered?
- Are therapy programs provided (physical, occupational, speech, pathologist)?
- Costs: Are all the services the resident requires covered in the basic charge?
- Request a list of specific services not covered in the basic rate. Some facilities have schedules covering therapies, beautician services, barbers, specialty foods, personal laundry, etc.
- Patient Rights/Autonomy:
- What are the patient’s rights and responsibilities?
- When are restraining devices recommended and why?
- Does the facility have a Resident Council?
- Does the facility have a Family Council in which you can participate?
- Licensure and Certification:
- If needed by the resident, is the facility certified to provide Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage?
- Is the latest state survey report available for review?
- Does the facility have a formal quality assurance program?
- Your Role: If you are helping to select a long-term care facility for a loved one, are you:
- Involving this person in the process?
- Prepared to ease the resident’s transition to the nursing facility by being with them on admission day and staying several hours to get them settled?
- Ready to visit the resident frequently and encourage family and friends to make similar visits?
Finally, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities should try to be like a community where residents can feel comfortable, find familiar faces, and build relationships just like they enjoyed in their own homes. By planning ahead, you can ensure that your loved one will be provided with the highest quality of care and quality of life.
Contact Our Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Today
We expect nursing homes, assisted-living centers, and other facilities to take good care of our elderly loved ones. Unfortunately, neglect and abuse are a common threat to our seniors, resulting in serious injury, illness, and even death.
The lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have over a century of combined legal experience assisting clients with complex nursing home abuse and neglect cases. Our team is professional, honest, and persistent, and we can help you hold negligent caregivers accountable.
Please call (407) 712-7300 today for a free case evaluation. Our nursing home abuse attorneys serve clients in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and throughout Florida.