Elder Abuse Lawyer in Southern California
Elderly persons may be unable to communicate that they have been abused because of fear of being abused further, fear that no one will believe their story or even lack of knowledge because they may be subdued and not actually remember the abuse. Numerous abuse cases go unreported because people may simply shrug off signs of abuse thinking that it could not occur with someone that they love.
Typical Signs of Elder Abuse & Neglect
Numerous arguments between the elder and the possible abuser or the number of arguments increasing between them. Changes in the behavior of the elder including being withdrawn, uninterested in activities that previously interested them, lack of emotion, or general negative mood changes.
- Excessive nervousness or not wanting to talk in front of their caretaker
- The caretaker not allowing you to see them alone
- More than the prescribed amount of medication being taken or explained amounts of medications being given
- Improper clothing for time of year
- Broken glasses or torn clothing
- Unexplainable bruises or marks
- Bed sores / pressure ulcers
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Sudden weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration
Overview of Elder Abuse
Sadly, when people age, they become more vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation. Some older people opt to move into nursing homes or long term care facilities to ensure that they are well cared for, and will be protected from the effects of their deteriorating physical and/or mental conditions. In these settings, however, older people are sometimes actually physically and/or psychologically harmed by the negligent or intentional acts of their caregivers.
Many people in the U.S. discount the feelings and rights of the elderly because they associate aging with physiological, psychological and social disability; however, this attitude is unwarranted and unfair. Senior citizens should be allowed to live out their lives free from pain, suffering and distress caused by the negligence or abuse of others. One could argue they have an even stronger right to live in peace and comfort than any other segment of society, given the contributions they have made to society over their many years.
In institutional settings, several factors have been shown to contribute to the abuse or neglect of residents, including: poorly qualified and inadequately trained staff; staff with a history of violence; inadequate numbers of staff; the isolation of residents; and, the known reluctance of residents to report abuse out of embarrassment or fear.
For all of these reasons, it is both an honor and a challenge for our Orange County nursing home abuse lawyers to represent the elderly in personal injury litigation. Specifically, these cases present the challenge of overcoming a tendency on the part of others, including care giver and even physicians, to discount an elderly person's injuries and the diminished quality of life that results from them. With our attorneys' thorough investigation and effective presentation of the losses sustained by an elderly client, however, injured senior citizens can be fully compensated.
Rights of Nursing Home Residents
Nursing homes have been defined as private institutions that furnish shelter, feeding and care for sick, aged or infirmed persons. They are not strictly considered hospitals, in that they do not necessarily render actual medical treatment, but may be considered hospitals for certain purposes, depending on various statutes that may govern their operation.
Nursing home residents have the following important rights:
- Residents have the right to see family members, ombudspersons or other resident advocates, physicians, service providers, and representatives of the state and federal government.
- Residents may keep and use their personal possessions and clothing unless doing so would endanger health and safety.
- Residents have the right to apply for and receive Medicare and Medicaid benefits and cannot be asked to leave a home because they receive such benefits. A nursing home must treat all individuals the same, regardless of whether they are private payers or Medicare or Medicaid recipients.
- Residents have the right to keep their clinical and personal records confidential.
- Residents are entitled to lists of what services are paid by Medicare and Medicaid and the additional services for which the residents will be charged, plus the fees for those services.
- Residents have the right to choose their own personal physician.
- Residents have the right to be fully informed about their medical care.
- Residents have the right to participate in the planning of their care and treatment. Nursing home residents have the right to refuse treatment.
- Residents have the right to be free from mental and physical abuse.
- Residents cannot be kept apart from other residents against their will.
- Residents cannot be tied down or given drugs to restrain them if restraint is not necessary to treat their medical symptoms.
- Residents have the right to raise grievances and have them resolved quickly.
- Residents may participate in social, religious, and community activities to the extent that they do not interfere with the rights of other residents.
- Residents cannot be required to deposit their personal funds with the nursing home, and if they request that the home manage their funds, the home must do so according to state and federal recordkeeping requirements.
- Residents have the right to privacy, including in their rooms, medical treatment, communications, visits, and meetings with family and resident groups.
- Residents have the right to review their medical records within twenty-four hours of making a request.
- Residents have the right to review the most recent state inspection report relating to the home.
- Residents must be given notice before their room or roommate is changed, and residents can refuse the transfer if the purpose is to move them from a Medicare bed to a Medicaid bed or vice versa.
- Residents have the right to stay in the nursing home and can only be removed if it is necessary for the resident's welfare, the resident no longer needs the facility's services, it is necessary to prevent harm to the health or safety of others in the facility, the resident fails to pay after reasonable notice, or the facility ceases to operate.
- Residents and their representatives have the right to thirty days' notice of a proposed transfer or discharge, and they have the right to appeal. Before transferring residents for hospitalization or therapy, the nursing home must inform them of the length of time that their beds will be held open for their return, called the "bedhold period." Nursing home residents returning from a hospital or therapeutic leave after expiration of the bedhold period have the right to be readmitted as soon as the first semiprivate bed becomes available.
- Residents must be informed of their rights upon admission, and must be given their rights in writing if so requested.
If you have questions about your rights or the rights of a loved one, contact an experienced Southern California area elder abuse lawyer.
Civil Actions Against Nursing Homes
The liability of a nursing home owner or employees can result from negligent personal supervision and care, negligent hiring and retention of employees, negligent maintenance of the premises, and negligent selection or maintenance of equipment. Other common law theories of recovery in addition to negligence may be pursued as well. For example, a nursing home resident who has been abused can pursue damages for assault and battery. Probably the most common theory of recovery against nursing homes, however, is negligence. A nursing home, or its owner or proprietor, can be held liable for negligence if the injured party can prove that:
- The nursing home's owner or employees breached a duty of care owed to the injured person;
- The person's injury was caused by this breach; and
- The nursing home owner's or employee's conduct caused the injury
Statutory Standard of Care in Nursing Homes
Many states have enacted statutes or regulations that establish certain minimum standards of care for private nursing homes. Even if a nursing home can show it complied with minimum licensing standards, it may still be liable for a resident's injuries. For these reasons, it is important to have Southern California elder abuse lawyers research the applicable standard of care, licensing requirements and other regulations in your area.
Nursing Home Breach of Contract
Usually, a nursing home will enter into a contract with a resident, in which it sets out what services it will provide and the cost of those services. If the perceived abuse or neglect of the nursing home or its employees is contrary to promises made in the contract regarding the care of residents, the nursing home can be sued under a breach of contract theory. Many contracts require only that the home provide such services as are "reasonably necessary" for the resident's wellbeing, but even under this standard, a nursing home could be found negligent if it failed to meet the basic needs of a resident.
If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, it is important that you seek legal advice from a qualified Orange County elder abuse lawyer. An experienced attorney can advise you on the best way to protect your rights and recover the compensation your loved one needs and deserves. Many nursing homes are part of large corporations that have attorneys working around the clock on their behalf. For this reason, it is important that you have a competent legal team working for you.
Contact an Orange County Elder Abuse Lawyer
Spray, Gould & Bowers LLP has been representing the legal needs of Southern Californians since 1925. We are proud to serve our community with aggressive legal action performed to the highest of ethical standards. Clients always come first at Spray, Gould & Bowers LLP. You won't receive generic advice when you contact one of our Southern California nursing home abuse lawyers. Instead, you will receive attentive service aimed at helping you find the best legal strategy for your particular situation. Over the years, our attorneys have established a solid reputation among area judges and attorneys. Put our experience, reputation and skill to work for you.
Contact an elder abuse lawyer from Spray, Gould & Bowers LLP to discuss your particular situation.