Legal Ramifications for Elder Abuse or Neglect
Abuse and neglect in nursing homes is a serious problem, but it is not a new problem. The Institute of Medicine conducted a study at the request of Congress in 1986 finding that nursing home residents were not only receiving inadequate care in many cases but also subject to neglect or abuse. The study provided the impetus for federal reforms, such as the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. Nevertheless, abuse and neglect still take place in nursing homes, and research suggests that it may be underreported.
If you discover signs that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you may not know what to do. However, the law is on the side of you and your loved one, and there are legal consequences for those who carry out abuse or neglect against nursing home residents.
Depending on the nature and seriousness of the offense, the perpetrator(s) of abuse and neglect may be prosecuted on criminal charges. Possible charges include battery, hate crimes, assault, harassment, rape, or, if it gets to that point, manslaughter or involuntary homicide.
If you have reason to believe that your loved one has been the victim of a crime, it is your responsibility to report it to the proper authorities as soon as possible. At that point, the authorities have a responsibility to conduct an investigation and press charges if there is sufficient evidence that a crime has taken place.
Negligence on the part of a nursing home facility and/or its employees may lead to civil lawsuits. The following behaviors on the part of the nursing home may be grounds for a civil suit:
- Failure to provide adequate medical treatment
- Negligent hiring
- Failure to maintain adequate health and safety policies
- Negligent supervision
- Failure to keep the premises free from hazards or maintain safety
Similarly, individual employees who injure a resident through negligence or incompetence may be subject to a civil lawsuit. If a staff member has stolen from your loved one, that could be either a civil or criminal offense, and it may be possible to sue the attendant to recover the property.
Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations that applies to civil matters of abuse or neglect. It varies by state, but in many instances, it is between two to three years of the time that you discover the abuse or should reasonably have discovered it. You cannot file a civil lawsuit later if you fail to act within that time frame.
Nursing home abuse or neglect is a bewildering situation for both you and your loved one. One of our nursing home abuse lawyer can explain your legal options. Contact our office to set up a consultation.