What to Do if You Believe Your Loved One Has Been Abused or Neglected
If you have noticed signs of abuse, you should always report your concerns through the proper channels in the nursing home administration. If no action is taken to remedy the situation, you may need to alert law enforcement authorities to help protect your loved one. Additionally, you should contact an experienced Florida nursing home abuse attorney to discuss how your loved one can receive just compensation for their injuries and hold the nursing one responsible for the abuse.
Holding Nursing Homes Liable for Negligence
Nursing homes can be held liable for the actions of their employees and for other negligent acts that may have lead to the abuse or allowed the abuse to occur. The following are some common claims of nursing home negligence:
- Negligent hiring of potentially dangerous or unqualified individuals
- Failing to adequately train staff members
- Failing to provide adequate security for residents
- Failing to properly monitor staff, impose rules and policies against abuse, or to appropriately discipline staff members for violating policies
- Not providing the necessary shelter, food, water, or medication for residents
- Not providing necessary medical care
- Allowing hazards or dangerous conditions to exist in the nursing home, leading to fallsor other injuries
If a nursing home has allowed any of the above to occur, it has not met the standard of care it owes to all of its residents and should be held responsible for any abuse, neglect, and related injuries to residents.
Florida Nursing Home Negligence FAQ
As our parents and other elders we love go through their golden years, a time comes when they can no longer care for themselves. At this critical moment, we must decide the best course of action for their care. Choosing to help our loved ones move into a nursing home is a difficult decision, but also a common one. Yet, we still expect the administration and caregivers to provide exceptional care and prioritize the best interest of our loved ones. This, however, is not always the case.
If your loved one has suffered injuries from the negligence of a Florida nursing home, or you suspect injuries are a result of negligence, you need to take steps to stop the abuse. Consult with an experienced Florida nursing home negligence lawyer to learn about the best course of action for you and your family. Until you have that chance, we have compiled answers to some frequently asked questions we receive about Florida nursing home negligence.
What is nursing home negligence in Florida?
Nursing home negligence includes a wide variety of actions or failures that cause illness, injury, or death to nursing home residents. These actions and failures can occur at an individual level and/or at an administrative level. In either case, nursing home residents suffer.
Some examples of scenarios that constitute nursing home negligence include:
- Intentional acts of physical and emotional harm
- Failure to provide clean clothing to residents
- Failure to provide personal hygiene and related items to residents
- Improper nutrition and hydration
- Failure to supervise residents
- Enabling abuse or neglect by caregivers
- Stealing money or property from residents
- Poor hiring practices, including failure to screen new caregivers and other staff
- Poor training practices
- Failure to take actions on complaints or implement a proper grievance policy
- Failure to provide access to needed medical or dental care
- Failure to maintain a clean environment, which can introduce bacterial and viral infections and illness to residents
What rights do Florida nursing home residents have?
Florida law clearly states the rights of nursing home residents under the Resident Bill of Rights. Many physical and emotional injuries that result from nursing home negligence are also violations of these rights.
The Florida Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights includes:
- The right to a “safe and decent living environment, free from abuse and neglect.”
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect for individuality and privacy.
- The right to use personal property as long as it does not threaten the safety of other nursing home residents.
- The right to private communication with others and unrestricted access to telephones.
- The right to visit with anyone between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- The right to maintain independence and participate in the nursing home’s activities.
- The right to manage financial affairs if able.
- The right to share a private room with a spouse.
- The right to exercise and spend time outdoors.
- The right to attend religious services.
- The right to get help to obtain healthcare.
- The right to complain or request changes in nursing home policies without fear of retribution.
Under Florida law, if a nursing home, a staff member, or a caregiver violates a resident’s rights, the court can impose a $2,500 fine. Florida law also permits residents to take legal action by bringing a personal injury lawsuit to seek damages in civil court.
How long do I have to take legal action for Florida nursing home negligence?
Florida law provides a time limit for nursing home residents to take legal action if they have suffered injuries as a result of nursing home negligence. The exact time frame, legally referred to as the statute of limitations, varies depending on the circumstances of the injury and whether it led to death. In most Florida nursing home negligence cases you, or someone on your behalf, must bring a lawsuit against the facility within four years from the date of injury. Yet, Florida law permits delayed discovery.
In some cases, nursing home residents suffer injuries, and they can’t communicate with the administration or family members. A caregiver, nurse, doctor, or family member must notice signs of abuse or neglect or other injuries and bring them to light. In these instances, courts permit the statute of limitations time clock to begin when someone discovers the injuries. Victims of nursing home negligence, or someone on their behalf, have two years to file a lawsuit from the date of discovery. In some cases, the court might extend the two-year limit, but the law places an absolute four-year statute of limitations from the date of discovery to take legal action.
When nursing home negligence leads to the wrongful death of a resident, surviving family members have a two-year statute of limitations to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility to seek compensation for losses related to the loss of a loved one. In rare cases, nursing homes and product manufacturers might share liability in a nursing home negligence lawsuit.
For example, a nursing home resident suffers physical injuries because the machine they used to lift the resident out of their bed and into their wheelchair broke as a result of a product defect, or a resident suffers permanent damage from a defective medical device.
The nursing home, if properly monitoring a resident, should notice something is wrong and ensure the resident gets needed medical treatment. These types of product liability cases typically have four-year statutes of limitations. Your Florida nursing home negligence attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on which time limit applies.
How do I know if my loved one has suffered injuries from Florida nursing home negligence?
Many nursing home residents do not report injuries, especially those resulting from neglect and abuse. Sometimes residents cannot communicate and other times they are afraid to report their injuries and suffer retaliation from an abuser. If you have a loved one in a Florida nursing home, you need to keep an eye out for physical and behavioral signs of neglect and abuse stemming from nursing home negligence.
The following signs and systems do not automatically mean the nursing home has been negligent or your loved one has suffered abuse, but they should give you pause to pursue further investigation:
Physical signs of potential Florida nursing home negligence. Family members and others have the easiest time detecting physical signs of nursing home negligence. Bedsores, abnormal skin color, weight loss, and sunken eyes often indicate neglect, dehydration, and malnourishment. Bruises, welts, and cuts can indicate physical abuse, especially when they are unexplained or your loved one provides a story that doesn’t quite add up. Poor hygiene, including body odor, constant bad breath, and unclean clothing also signify your loved one isn’t getting the care they need or deserve from the nursing home where they reside.
Behavioral signs of potential Florida nursing home negligence. Abuse, neglect, and accompanying injuries is a traumatic experience for seniors who rely on and trust nursing homes to provide the exceptional care they need. Even when physical signs are not present, or they are covered up, certain behaviors sometimes indicate abuse or neglect. Behavioral issues sometimes occur because of other issues, so it’s important to investigate fully. You should especially worry about abuse or neglect when your parent or another elder you love starts behaving in a way that is abnormal for them.
Some behavioral signs of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Social withdrawal from normal activities
- Showing fear or hesitance in speaking when caregivers or nurses are present
- Making comments about death, dying, or suicide
Signs of financial abuse as a result of Florida nursing home negligence. Financial abuse of nursing home residents doesn’t cause physical harm, but it certainly causes emotional trauma and financially devastates victims and their families. If you handle your elder’s finances, you need to keep a close eye out for financial exploitation or abuse.
Some signs to look for include:
- Missing cash, coins, or checks
- Missing valuable property such as jewelry or family heirlooms
- Unexplained charges on credit or debit cards
- Unauthorized changes of address on brokerage or bank accounts
- Newly opened accounts that you or your loved one didn’t authorize
- Unexplained changes in your loved one’s credit score
What seven steps should I take if I suspect Florida nursing home negligence?
In situations where negligence leads to financial abuse and your loved one hasn’t suffered physical injury, you should report it to the police and contact a personal injury attorney. Unfortunately, most nursing home negligence leads to abuse or neglect, both of which have serious physical and emotional consequences. If you suspect your loved one is suffering abuse in a Florida nursing home, you need to take immediate action to stop the behavior before you worry about accountability.
The following steps can help you stop abuse and neglect and prevent the facility and/or caregiver that caused harm from hurting other nursing home residents in the future:
- Call 911 if the nursing home resident you love is currently in immediate danger. The police will arrive and get the ball rolling for a criminal investigation into abuse and neglect.
- If your loved one isn’t in immediate danger, contact the nursing care facility’s administration immediately by phone and in writing. This allows management to monitor your loved one’s caregivers. Keep impeccable records of this communication in case you need to file a lawsuit for their inaction.
- Document all conversations with your loved one and with his or her caregivers. Document injuries by taking photos of visible injuries and any hazards or conditions which led to the illness or injury. Keep all financial statements and receipts that suggest financial abuse, if applicable.
- Keep all bills associated with medical treatment for physical and emotional injuries resulting from nursing home negligence.
- Contact Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) to file a complaint. You can inform DCF of abuse via their Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96ABUSE or file a complaint online. DCF will initiate an investigation, gather evidence, and make a determination about the case. If they find abuse, they typically share information with the State Attorney, who is responsible for pursuing criminal charges.
- Set up visits at other facilities and arrange a transfer for your loved one. If DCF finds your loved one has been a victim of neglect or abuse, you will likely want to change nursing homes.
- Consult an experienced Florida nursing home negligence lawyer to guide you through the complexities of filing a personal injury lawsuit. An attorney can advocate for your loved one, hold the nursing home accountable, and handle the details of the case while you support your loved one during this traumatic time.
What losses can I recover on my loved one’s behalf after injuries from Florida nursing home negligence?
Florida law permits your loved one to bring a lawsuit in civil court against those who caused harm, including the nursing home, their insurance carrier, and the individual(s) directly responsible for the injuries. Your lawyer will advise you on who should be named in your family’s circumstances. If your loved one cannot bring a lawsuit, someone on his or her behalf can take action.
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the losses your loved one might recover include
- Medical treatment costs and mental health services related to the abuse or neglect, including hospitalization, rehabilitation, physical therapy, x-rays, medication, and behavioral therapy
- Costs of transferring to another nursing home
- Future medical treatment when nursing home negligence leads to a permanent illness or injury requiring ongoing treatment
- Damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Punitive damages when nursing homes or their employees cause intentional harm or engage in fraud or gross negligence
If your loved one has died as a result of Florida nursing home negligence, you can also recover some above damages as well as burial expenses and funeral costs if you file a wrongful death lawsuit. Florida law allows eligible survivors to take legal action after the wrongful death of a loved one. Your Florida nursing home negligence attorney can advise you on the viability of your claim and your eligibility to receive compensation.
*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group which has a combined 90 plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last fifteen (15) years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.