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How to Prove Negligence In Your Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

Nursing Home Neglect

The South Carolina code defines “Neglect” as the “failure of a caregiver to provide the care, goods, or services necessary to maintain the health or safety of a vulnerable adult.” This failure to provide includes inadequate nutrition, clothing, housing, supervision (if needed), medical services and medicine in accordance with treatment plan.  The South Carolina code also recognizes that neglect may consist of repeated conduct or a single incident that has resulted in serious physical or psychological harm, or substantial risk of death. S.C. Code. Ann. § 34-35-5.

Proving Negligence In Your Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

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.

Signs of Neglect:

  1. Bed Sores

Bedsores, also known as decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores can usually be prevented by frequently turning the patient and using a higher quality mattresses with overlays.  Bedsores begin as a red sore on the skin. If left untreated, the sore breaks the skin. Over time, if proper steps are not taken, the wound increases in size and in depth.  Eventually, the wound becomes so deep that it may reach down to the bone and become infected.

2) Unexplained Injuries

Falls are another common problem encountered by the elderly in nursing homes. In some cases, patients may not be properly secured into wheelchairs and fall or slip out. Patients are also left in their beds without rails to protect them. When left unattended by the staff, these patients fall, often receiving lacerations, abrasions, bone fractures, disfigurement and even head injuries.

3) Malnutrition

Malnutrition and dehydration slows down healing and can worsen existing health problems. Over time, malnutrition and dehydration lead to severe complications and may result in the death of the patient. In some cases, patients with special dietary requirements are deprived of the nutrition they need to survive. In other cases, patients who have lost the ability to feed themselves are left with food in front of them but no one to help them reach it.

Investigate and Take Action

In addition to reporting your concerns to Adult Protective Services, consider having your loved one examined by a trusted doctor who has some history with the individual or your family and will review medical records including medication and dosing. Finally, you may want to make immediate arrangements to move the resident, not waiting for APS to complete an investigation. Take pictures, and document everything that would help prove your case.

 

Though every first step begins with Adult Protect Services, South Carolina also has hotlines set up so you can immediately speak with a person within the Department of Social Services who will be or has access to those trained in emergency care.

  • Private or foster homes: 803-898-7318
  • Richland county long-term care facilities: 803-734-9900
  • Long-term care facilities outside Richland County: 800-868-9095

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.

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.

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