Seeing a friend or family member move to a nursing home or other long-term care facility can be difficult. The senior loved one may feel a loss of independence. Family members, who often prefer to have the loved one at home, may feel guilt, but face the reality that the senior, due to illness, disease, age, or injury, needs a level of care that can no longer be provided at home. Both parties may find solace in the understanding that the nursing home is equipped to assist with daily activities of living, which improves the senior individual’s quality of life.
We place immense trust in these long-term care facilities. We expect them to treat our loved ones with the dignity, kindness, and respect they deserve. We also expect them to provide services with the appropriate level of care and skill. When nursing homes and their employees violate this trust by acting negligently – or even worse – abusively, they must be held accountable. This article will discuss some tips for proving nursing home neglect or abuse.
Proving Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse: 3 Important Steps
1. Watch for signs of abuse or neglect.
Unfortunately, in a time when more elderly citizens than ever need long-term care, statistics demonstrate that incidences of abuse and neglect continue to increase. It’s important to watch carefully for common signs of nursing home neglect or abuse, which can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Common signs can include but are not limited to:
- Broken bones, bruises, or burns
- Personal hygiene issues
- New or untreated medical conditions
- Other unexplained injuries
- Significant personality or mood changes
If you see any of the signs listed above and believe abuse or neglect may exist, start investigating.
2. Obtain records.
Proving nursing home neglect is unlikely if you can’t provide documentation to back up your claims. This means you will need to keep careful records and understand how to obtain them from the nursing home and other institutions.
If the nursing home involved receives Medicare or Medicaid, the procedure for obtaining a resident’s records is generally simplified. In more difficult circumstances, an attorney can assist.
Review the records and look for irregularities. Be aware that these records may contain legal, medical, and other jargon making them difficult for the average person to completely understand. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you.
3. Hire a lawyer to investigate and take advantage of “discovery” tools.
Ultimately, proving nursing home neglect or abuse requires a preponderance of evidence. This means that rather than proving neglect or abuse beyond reasonable doubt, as is required in a criminal case, the claimant only has to prove that neglect or abuse is more likely to have occurred than not (i.e., there is more than a 50% chance that the neglect or abuse happened). With this legal standard in mind, an attorney can help you prepare your case.
Experienced lawyers in nursing home liability cases can obtain, review, and understand nursing home records. Attorneys can also help interview witnesses and conduct in-depth investigations.
Perhaps most importantly, should a lawsuit be appropriate, lawyers are experienced with the procedures the law permits a litigant to use to discover the facts related to a dispute. These procedures are referred to by the law as rules of “discovery.” Below, we’ll discuss a few of these discovery rules.
- Depositions: Depositions are a method by which a party may obtain and preserve sworn oral testimony from any witness (or party) prior to trial. Typically, the victim’s attorney schedules a time and place to question the witness. A court reporter attends and records all the answers. This procedure can be invaluable in obtaining information for a case. For example, the victim’s attorney may choose to depose employees and other residents at the nursing home.
- Interrogatories and requests for documents: Discovery procedures also permit a party to send written questions to an opposing party, which must be answered under oath. Additionally, the law provides methods, including subpoena, by which a party can obtain documents from another party. While these procedures can provide useful information, complicated rules exist concerning what information is privileged, or otherwise protected from disclosure. On some occasions, the lawyers disagree and a judge must make the final decision.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, call us with questions about your case or for a free consultation. Our experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys can help you better understand the fundamentals of proving nursing home neglect or abuse. While we are thankful for the good nursing homes that assist our elderly population, we are equally passionate about holding responsible those nursing homes that do not meet the standard of care demanded by the law.