According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), an estimated 3.2 million individuals reside in nursing homes or long-term care facilities in the United States. While nursing homes are expected to provide adequate and appropriate care for their residents, about 44 percent of residents surveyed stated they had suffered some form of abuse while living in a facility. Though Florida has strict laws regarding the high standard of care expected from nursing homes, some staff members unfortunately cause negligent or intentional harm to residents, who suffer serious injuries as a result.
If you believe that a family member or loved one has suffered injury in a nursing home, you should call a dedicated nursing home neglect and abuse attorney at the Dolman Law Group for help as soon as possible.
Handling Cases Involving Different Kinds of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can take several different forms, all of which can cause physical, mental, emotional, or financial injuries. The following are the main kinds of nursing home abuse that may lead to a personal injury case:
Physical Abuse in a Nursing Home
Using physical force against an elderly person in a Florida nursing home is a serious issue. Signs that physical abuse is causing your loved one injury or pain and can include hitting, kicking, burning, shoving, or using inappropriate restraints.
Physical abuse in a nursing home can also involve inappropriate use of medications, physical punishments of any kind, forcing a resident or patient to eat, and using physical restraints.
Some signs of physical abuse can include:
Broken bones and fractures
Bruising, cuts, and welts
Open or unhealed wounds
Scars or signs of old wounds that have healed
Signs that your loved one is afraid, in general or of a specific staff member
Sudden changes your loved one’s personality or behavior
Refusal to have visitors
Sexual Abuse in a Nursing Home
Sexual abuse of an elderly is any type of sexual contact or behavior involving a resident that is not consensual. This type of abuse can involve any unwanted and inappropriate touching, exposure of private parts, rape, and much more. Sexual abuse in a nursing home often involves in sexual contact with a person who is incapable of consent because of incapacitation, mental deficiency, etc. This is a serious form of sexual abuse.
Some signs that your loved one is being sexually abused in a nursing home can include:
Sudden changes your loved one’s personality or behavior
Refusal to have visitors
Emotional abuse in a Nursing Home
Emotional abuse of a person in a nursing home is defined as using words or other actions to inflict emotional pain or distress, and can include humiliation, threats, insults, intimidation, isolation from others, and more. Lots of emotional abuse in a nursing home takes the form of treating the elderly person like a child or like an annoyance. Emotional abuse can also take the form of isolation from friends or family, holding back meals, etc.
Signs that your loved one is suffering from emotional or psychological abuse in a nursing home may include:
Being agitated or upset
Lack of communication or unresponsiveness
Unusual behavior or statements
Sudden changes your loved one’s personality or behavior
Refusal to have visitors
Neglect in a Nursing Home
Nursing home neglect involves a failure or refusal to provide adequate care to an elderly individual, including water, food, shelter, hygiene, clothing, medicine, safety, comfort, and more. In general, nursing home neglect centers around a refusal or failure to provide a person with the care they need to live comfortably.
Signs that your loved one is being neglected in a Florida nursing home include:
Medicated health issues not improving or worsening
Financial abuse in a Nursing Home
The financial abuse of an elder is defined as stealing money from a nursing home resident or otherwise using fraud or deceptive tactics to gain access to a resident’s financial accounts or money for the abuser’s wrongful personal gain. Of course, it is illegal to take money from an elderly person under one’s care. Elderly financial abuse can also include forging a signature, asking for cash, using the elder’s checks, abusing power of attorney, etc.
Signs your loved one is being financially exploited in a nursing home include:
Finding or receiving financial documents with caregiver’s name on it
All of the above forms of abuse can cause serious injuries to a victim.
Be Aware of the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can be particularly dangerous because many victims do not report that they are being abused. Some nursing home residents do not have the mental or physical capacity to report abuse, while others may be too afraid to do so. Nursing home abusers may threaten additional harm to the resident or their families or may otherwise intimidate abuse victims to keep them from reporting their injuries.
Because a great number of nursing home abuse cases go unreported, family members and other loved ones should always keep a close eye on nursing home residents and should know how to recognize the signs of different types of nursing home abuse. Some common signs include the following:
Cuts, bruises, or other unexplained wounds in various stages of healing
Not having the correct number of pills left in the bottle
Loved one acting withdrawn, afraid, or experiencing other personality changes
Not being allowed to meet with your loved one alone
Sudden unexplained weight loss or gain
Being fearful of physical contact
These are only some examples of signs of abuse, as every abuse victim can react in different ways.
It is always important to inquire into any unexplained or unusual circumstances involving a nursing home resident to be sure they are healthy and safe.
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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.
An Experienced Clearwater Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Help You
There is no excuse for a nursing home having an environment that encourages, allows, or perpetuates abuse and injury to its residents. If you have noticed signs of any type of nursing home abuse, you should never delay in reporting the problem through the proper channels, getting the authorities involved if necessary, and contacting an experienced attorney to discuss how to hold the nursing home liable for any losses your loved one suffered. At the Dolman Law Group, our Clearwater nursing home abuse attorneys are committed to helping injured victims fully recover and they understand how to prove negligence in abuse cases. Consultations are always free, and we never charge any fees unless you win your case.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, please do not hesitate to contact the Dolman Law Group at 727-451-1900 or use our online contact form available here to schedule a free case evaluation.