Personal Injury in Assisted Living Centers

February 13, 2019 @ 3:59 pm

personal injury in nursing homes and assisted living centers blog photo

Nursing home injuries represent the dark side of caring for the elderly and disabled. We’d all like to think that we’ve found the perfect place where a family member can recuperate or get the assisted living and medical attention they need.

After all, assisted living centers and nursing homes are designed and staffed expressly to care for people who are unable to care for themselves. Their employees are supposed to help patients with daily tasks and work to keep them mentally sharp and alert, medically stable and healthy, and physically clean and comfortable.

Unfortunately, the very fact that nursing home patients and assisted living residents already suffer from illnesses, chronic conditions and disabilities means that deaths and injuries in these facilities tend to go unquestioned and uninvestigated. Worse, the suffering caused by the long-term care facility’s negligence continues, unpunished because family members either don’t recognize the neglect and abuse or don’t know what to do about it.

Negligence in Louisiana Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Home Injuries

Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals mandate that residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a right to a dignified existence. In addition, it specifies a number of standards of care:

  • Residents are supposed to be free from all forms of abuse, and they are supposed to receive the care and medical treatments that they need.
  • Corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion and physical and chemical restraints for discipline or convenience are prohibited.
  • Facilities are to protect and promote the rights of each resident.
  • Beyond that, facilities have the legal responsibility of providing a safe environment free of hazards.

Types of Negligence in Assisted Living Facilities

Negligence can take a number of different forms, including some of the following scenarios:

  • Medical malpractice or medical negligence is when medical professionals fail to exercise the level of care and skill expected of comparable healthcare colleagues. Harm results from medical treatment, mistreatment or non-treatment.
  • Negligence of a nonmedical employee at a facility who fails to exercise the level of care and skill expected of a reasonable person. Harm results because of workers’ carelessness or disregard for the resident.
  • Negligence of a facility in violating a statute or regulation, when harm has resulted because the facility treats or handles a resident in a way that is counter to policy or against the law.
  • Premises liability is when a facility fails to maintain a safe place for residents to live. Harm results because a facility knowingly creates or allows a hazard to remain on the property by either doing something—action—or not doing something—inaction.
  • Negligent hiring is when a facility fails to employ only competent, qualified employees. Harm results because employees at the facility may not have the proper accreditations, degrees, experience or background clearances required for their positions.

How To Identify Negligence in Long-Term Care Facilities

Family members may see injuries or problematic conditions that a resident or patient sustains yet fail to recognize them as signs of mistreatment or negligence. Family visits are often only for limited time frames or in selective settings, and illnesses or disabilities may prevent facility residents from revealing injuries for what they really are.

  • Meanwhile, the resident may be suffering with bed sores or repeated falls, fractures or head injuries. You may notice that they have wounds, bruises, cuts or welts in various stages of healing. They may suffer from frequent infections due to poor personal hygiene and unsanitary conditions. Dehydration, weight loss, weakness, loss of mobility and malnutrition are also causes for concern.
  • Behavior often changes as a result of neglect or abuse. The resident may be reluctant to speak when staff members are present. They may isolate themselves or withdraw from social interaction, become depressed, emotionally agitated or non communicative. They may avoid human touch, adopt coping behaviors like rocking and sucking, or wander off and attempt to leave.

In worst-case scenarios, death is the result. It may be sudden and unexplained or the result of weeks, months or years of neglect.

How To Build a Nursing Home Injury Negligence Case

Family members need to be aware that negligence can come in many forms— from physicians, caretakers and facility employees. Facilities may delay notifying the family of illnesses or injuries. Physicians may fail to treat a condition, or caretakers may seek to punish difficult patients through neglect. Abuse such as hitting, slapping, pinching, choking, theft or threats may come from not only staff but also other residents. However, if staff members knowingly allow such a situation to continue, this can constitute negligence in and of itself.

To prove negligence in many circumstances, you must be able to demonstrate:

  1. that the facility failed to provide the standard of care it owed to the resident,
  2. that the resident suffered an injury or damage, and
  3. that the damage that the resident suffered was the result of the facility’s failure to provide a reasonable standard of care.

Thorough documentation of the negligence is essential. Any verbal, written or graphic material regarding the suspected negligence should be kept as evidence and can include any number of sources:

  • Photographs should show the full extent of the actual injuries, the resident’s bodily condition and any substandard conditions in the facility. You should also photograph any medications given or prescribed to the resident.
  • Medical records from all appropriate healthcare providers offer a patient’s previous and current medical history, diagnoses, assessments, treatments and medications.
  • Injury incident reports are important elements in following medical paper trails. Both the resident and the staff involved in an incident must provide accounts of what happened.
  • Personal observations and those of other family members should accurately describe the resident’s physical, mental and emotional condition as well as the facility’s condition and employees’ levels of professionalism. Be sure to include dates, times, names and other details for credibility.
  • Interviews and discussions with staff as well as the resident regarding specific instances of neglect or abuse should be thoroughly documented with written notes. Again, include full details, noting dates and times if possible.

If you suspect that a family member has suffered injury or loss of life due to negligence, protect your family from further abuse and damage. Let the legal experts at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik help you assess your options with a free consultation. Visit our website, or call 1-800-356-6776.