Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawyer for Cleveland, Akron, Canton & Ohio

Losing a family member is never easy, but when the loss is due to negligence that could have been prevented, or even abuse, such loss is particularly hard.

As a nursing home wrongful death lawyer, I and my firm seek justice for family members.  Legal action for a wrongful death can not only bring peace of mind that the irresponsible party is held accountable, it may also prevent other families from having the same experience.

Was Constitutes Nursing Home Negligence?  

Nursing home negligence means that the nursing home had a legal duty to provide proper care to a resident, that the nursing home breached this in some manner, and that such breach resulted in injury or death to the resident.  Negligence can include something that the nursing home did (like give the wrong medication to a resident), or something that they failed to do (such as providing assistance in walking or moving to a resident who medically should not be allowed to walk unattended).

While this may sound like “legalese,” a couple of additional examples may be helpful.

Examples of Nursing Home Negligence – Pressure Sores and Choking

If a resident was bedridden and needed ongoing care to be repositioned so that they would not get bedsores or pressure sores but the nursing home failed to turn the resident in a timely manner, the nursing home would be liable for causing bedsore/pressure sore injuries.  If the resident subsequently died from sepsis caused by the bedsores or pressure sores, the nursing home could be liable for the resident’s death.

Similarly, if a nursing home failed to determine that a resident should not be given solid food because of the resident’s difficulty in swallowing following a stroke, the nursing home may be liable if solid food was provided and the resident choked and died.

Is the Nursing Home Liable for a Wrongful Death?  How Experts are Critical in Holding Nursing Homes Liable

In the example above, the fact that a resident died in a nursing home from choking does not automatically make the nursing home liable.  At trial, experts (such as physicians) are required to carefully assess a resident’s medical records to determine their current medical conditions and limitations prior to being injured, and to offer their opinion on the degree and level of care that should have been provided based upon such conditions.

In a choking case, a resident may have suffered from a stroke, which may have affected the resident’s muscles required for chewing and swallowing solid food.  The resident may have an assessment which concluded that the resident should only be given non-solid food because of their inability to swallow solid food, and the associated risk of choking.  Alternatively, an assessment following a stroke may have been medically dictated, but never undertaken.

The expert thus establishes the standard of care required based upon the resident’s physical conditions and limitations, as well as other action that should have been taken by the nursing home (such as the assessment after the stroke).  At trial, once these standards are established, the next steps are to show how the nursing home failed to meet these standards, and that the resident was injured (or died) as a result.

How Many Residents are Injured or Die as the Result of Nursing Home Negligence?

As of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) stated that there were more than 15,600 nursing homes in the US, and more than 1.7 million licensed beds.  Over 69% of such nursing homes were owned by for-profit companies.[1]

The number of residents who are injured and who lose their lives each year due to nursing home negligence is not known, although likely the number is in the thousands or tens of thousands.  This uncertainty is primarily due to determinations not being made as to whether injury or death was the result of negligence or non-negligent events.  Falls, choking, and even bed sores and pressure sores can all occur due to negligence or non-negligent circumstances.  The only thing clear is that nursing home injury and death caused by negligence is vastly under-reported.

What are Frequent Causes of Nursing Home Wrongful Death?

Frequent nursing home injury and wrongful death occur as the result of:

  • Falls
  • Pressure ulcers, or bed sores
  • Sepsis due to the improper treatment of infections
  • Abuse
  • Physical and sexual assault
  • Choking
  • Malnourishment
  • Dehydration
  • Wandering and elopement (leaving a nursing home unattended)
  • Prescription or medication errors
  • Other factors

Often, residents may not die from the initial injury, but rather from subsequent complications.  As a example, a bedsore or pressure sore can develop into sepsis, a life-threatening blood condition.  A resident suffering a fall can sustain broken bones, which can cause a chain of other injuries that can ultimately lead to death.  An unfortunate reality is that seniors cannot recover from injuries nearly as well as they could when younger, especially when infections and other complications occur.

The Callous Response from Nursing Homes – “The Person Was Going to Die Anyway”

Many nursing homes implicitly convey the impression that family members should not try to hold them accountable for the loss of a loved one since their loved one likely would not have lived much longer.  Regardless of whether the resident would likely have lived for one more year (or even one more month), they still did not deserve to have their life cut short by wrongful acts or omissions.

Why Should We Consider Litigation?  It Won’t Bring Back Our Mother (or Father)?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to bring back your mother, father, or other loved one.  What I and my firm can do is to seek justice on behalf of your loved one, and to send negligent nursing homes a message that they will be held to account for their actions.

Over the numerous cases of injury and wrongful death that I have handled, there is one commonality to almost all injuries and wrongful death – the decision by nursing homes to put profits before resident care and safety.  This must stop.  Litigation and payments to injured residents and the families who have lost a loved on are often the only way to get nursing homes to change their unsafe practices.

If your loved one was injured or died as the result of some aspect of nursing home negligence, it is very possible that someone else suffered the same injuries (or also died) as a result of the same negligence at the same facility, or perhaps even at a nearby nursing home.  Litigation sends a strong message to nursing homes that injuries and death due to their negligence will no longer be tolerated, excused, or overlooked.  By bringing a lawsuit, hopefully no other families will have to suffer what your family and your loved one have endured.

How Nursing Homes May Put Profits Over Resident Welfare

Putting profits over residents is usually manifested in several ways:

  • Nursing Home Understaffing. Understaffing occurs when there is not sufficient staff to handle all of the needs of residents, when such needs occur.  For instance, bedridden residents must be turned at certain time intervals to prevent bedsores.  When there is not enough nurses or nurse aides to turn residents when they need to be turned, residents may not be turned for hours or days later, during which time bedsores may develop.

 

  • Under-trained staff. In seeking higher profits, many nursing homes will “push down” care to the lowest-trained staff member.  This is because staff with higher training, such as registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) must be paid more than lesser-trained staff, such as certified nursing assistants (or CNAs).  As a result, care that should be undertaken by those who have more training are delegated to lesser-trained staff, who may not have the required training and experience .

 

  • Other Cost– Nursing homes should be secure so that those residents with memory problems do not simply walk out of the facility, and get injured.  Such security often requires electronic locks, video surveillance, and staffing.  Many nursing homes try to save money by not employing these features, resulting in injury and sometimes death to residents who leave nursing homes unattended.

What Nursing Homes May Count on in Cases of Wrongful Death to Escape Liability

In many cases in which a nursing home resident dies as the result of negligence, the survivors of the deceased are often their adult children.  Often, it is these same children who have helped select the nursing home for their mother or father.

A nursing home may want the children of the deceased resident to feel guilty for their part in selecting the nursing home in the first place, or feel that their parent’s death would not have occurred if they had instead cared for their parent at their home.  It’s important to recognize that this guilt is sometimes the reason why families are reluctant to bring a wrongful death case.

You should not feel guilty for either of these reasons.  In nearly all cases, placing a loved one in a nursing home is best for the resident, usually because a family may not have the time, resources, or expertise to properly care for their loved one.  Instead, the needs of the loved one require more resources and expertise than most families can provide. Further nursing homes hold themselves out as experts in caring for the elderly.

Second, by accepting a resident, nursing homes legally agree to fully and properly care for that person, including whatever care the person may require.  The failure to provide adequate care and safety is their fault – not yours.

If you have lost a loved one, of if a loved one has been injured, I would invite you to call me for a free consultation to learn about your options and how I can help.

I and my firm accept cases on a contingency fee basis, and the firm typically advances all costs of litigation (these costs are then deducted from settlement proceeds or trial awards).

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/nursing-home-care.htm