Negligence at Nursing Homes

Establishing Negligence For Your Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit in South Carolina

When a South Carolina nursing home or patient care facility places profit over adequate care, whether due to inadequate supervision, under-staffing, or otherwise, and your loved one is injured or killed as a result, the nursing home should be held responsible for your losses. In a case where a resident dies because of the nursing home’s negligence, it is not necessary to prove that the resident would have survived if not for the negligence. If the facility accelerated the resident’s death at all, it may be liable for the death, and if the negligence caused the resident additional pain and suffering, the nursing home can be liable to the resident’s estate for mental suffering.  The Strom Law Firm, LLC has been fighting negligence at nursing homes for over 15 years, and we can help you build a case of negligence. Call today for a free consultation 803.252.4800.

Expert Testimony

A plaintiff suing a nursing home may need to offer expert medical testimony about what is or is not a proper practice, treatment or procedure in a given situation, unless the lack of care or skill by the nursing home is so apparent that the average person would comprehend it based on his or her common knowledge and experience. For instance, if a nursing home administrator is alleged to have failed to exercise care with respect to maintaining the nursing home facility, that issue will likely not require expert testimony, whereas a nurse’s treatment of a patient’s condition might.

Expert testimony can help establish the standard of professional care against which the conduct of a defendant nursing home should be measured. This testimony will also help establish that the resident’s injuries were the result of the nursing home’s failure to exercise the appropriate care.

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 well-being, but even under this standard, a nursing home can be found negligent if it failed to meet the basic needs of a resident.

Make Sure Elder Facility Has Burden of Proof

If an injured resident does not know exactly what caused his or her injury, but it is the type of injury that would not have occurred without negligence on the part of the nursing home, his or her attorney may invoke a legal doctrine known as “res ipsa loquitur,” which places the burden on the nursing home to show that it was not negligent.

This doctrine might be successfully invoked, for example, in a case where a bedridden resident is injured by the use, or failure of, a medical instrument operated only by nursing home staff, and which does not ordinarily injure patients.

Exercising Reasonable Care

Nursing home operators are under a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injury to their patients, and the reasonableness of the care is assessed relative to the patient’s physical and mental condition. A nursing home has a duty to safeguard residents from the foreseeable consequences of their various physical and mental impairment(s), which includes taking reasonable precautions to protect those who are unable to protect themselves.

In most states, there is not a duty to have a one-to-one nurse/patient ratio or provide 24-hour monitoring of residents.

Nonetheless, a nursing home must consider each resident’s physical and mental condition, and formulate an appropriate standard of care for each resident.

If there is a known danger the resident may encounter due to his or her condition, the nursing home must do what is reasonably possible to prevent foreseeable injury to the resident. This includes protecting residents from hazards that may either cause them to injure themselves or be injured by others, including other residents.

A contract between a nursing home and a resident may affect the duty of care owed to the resident. If a contract requires only that the home provide such services as are “reasonably necessary” for the resident’s well-being, courts often hold the duty owed the same as that owed under the common law for that jurisdiction. Some courts hold private nursing homes to the same standard of care applied to private hospitals.

Special Knowledge

Where a nursing home has knowledge of special facts relative to certain residents, liability for failing to respond appropriately to such information may be imposed. For example, where nursing homes have had knowledge of violent or aggressive behavior of patients who later attacked other residents, they have been found liable for their failure to protect the other residents and/or supervise the violent residents.

The following are additional examples of cases when the failure to respond appropriately to certain facts resulted in nursing home liability:

  • Where a nursing home knew a resident was subject to occasional dizzy spells, the home was liable for an injury caused by a fall;
  • Where a resident was a smoker, had the use of only one hand, and was otherwise immobile, his death from burns sustained when his clothing caught fire was attributable to the nursing home’s negligence;
  • Where a resident who had recently had cataract surgery fell down a stairway, the nursing home was found liable;
  • Where a resident suffered from cerebral arteriosclerosis and senile psychosis, the nursing home was found liable for injuries caused by resident’s leap or fall from window

Call Today for a Free Nursing Home Abuse Consultation

If you suspect that an elderly relative has been the victim of physical abuse or negligence at their care facility or that their “mysterious” falling accident was no accident at all – give us a call today for a free consultation to see how we can help. During the free consultation, we will discuss your situation and help you decide the best way to proceed.

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