Despite all the positive aspects of Florida nursing homes, horror stories of abuse exist. Residents and their family members have filed thousands of complaints with the state's Department of Children and Families and Department of Elder Affairs, which works together to monitor and prevent elder abuse in Florida.
It's never easy to make the decision to put a family member in a nursing home; we want our loved ones to live in a safe environment and be treated with dignity and respect.
If one of your elderly family members has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect, he or she may be eligible to seek compensation from the responsible party. Our Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawyers are ready to help. We can answer any questions you may have and help you and your family determine whether to file a personal injury claim.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse Under Florida Law?
Florida law defines abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders and disabled adults who live in long-term care facilities, including a wide range of actions. While generally grouped under the umbrella term of abuse, each type of abuse has different legal definitions.
Elder abuse under Florida law includes the following:
- The intentional physical or emotional harm of an elder.
- Intentional acts that will most likely result in physical or emotional harm to an elder.
- The active encouragement of physical or emotional harm committed by another party.
Elder neglect under Florida law refers to the failure of a caregiver to provide elders with the care needed to maintain their physical and emotional health. Florida law considers the following acts as examples of failure to provide care, supervision, or services:
- Withholding food and water, including healthy and nutritious food
- Failure to provide clothing
- Failure to supervise nursing home residents
- Administering medication improperly or not at all
- Failure to protect an elder and report abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another party
Elder exploitation often involves financial exploitation, but it can also include other predatory actions. Florida law includes the following actions as exploitation of an elder:
When a person in a position of trust, with whom the elder has a business relationship, or who knows that the elder cannot properly consent obtains or attempts to obtain and/or use an elder's funds, assets, or property, with the intent to deprive them of the use or possession of those funds, assets, or property.
If any person breaches a fiduciary duty owed to the elder, including fraud, mismanagement of funds, and embezzlement. If any person abuses his or her power over the elder, which often includes abuse of a power of attorney relationship.
What Causes Nursing Home Abuse?
Many organizations and agencies have studied elder abuse in residential living situations, but few have directly studied the causes of nursing home abuse. Researchers agree on three general scenarios that often lead to elder abuse in long-term care facilities:
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs), who are the primary caregivers in nursing care facilities, have extremely stressful working conditions and may sometimes take out their negative emotions on elder residents.
Even with efforts to hire high-quality employees and ensure that a facility is appropriately staffed, many nursing homes remain short-staffed. CNAs work long hours, and administrators often require mandatory overtime, leaving CNAs burned out, which may affect their level of care.
Some residents are aggressive or combative, and CNAs may not know how to deal with these types of residents.
Who Is At Fault for Nursing Home Abuse?
When you prepare to take legal action after discovering your loved one has been suffering from nursing home abuse, you may be anxious to find out who the perpetrator is and hold all liable parties accountable. After all, the person inflicting the abuse is not the only party who shares fault for what your loved one has been through.
On the contrary, your lawyer could name many liable parties in your Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawsuit. These could include:
- The abuser's supervisors or employers
- The nursing home or assisted-living facility
- Other staff members who may have facilitated or failed to prevent the abuse
An in-depth investigation into the abuse your family member endured will reveal which parties could be compelled to cover the cost of your loved ones damages.
What Rights do Nursing Home Residents Have in Florida?
Florida law includes a Resident Bill of Rights that applies to individuals who live in assisted care communities, including nursing homes. This comprehensive law includes the following rights of nursing home residents:
- Residents have the right to live in a safe environment free from abuse or neglect.
- Residents have the right to protect their individuality by using their own clothing and personal property unless it poses a safety hazard or violates another resident's rights.
- Residents are entitled to unrestricted communication from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. This includes mail, open access to a telephone, and the ability to decide which visitors they want to see.
- Residents have the right to be as independent and autonomous as possible, including participating in community activities and using community services.
- Residents have the right to manage their own finances, if possible.
- Married residents have the right to share a room.
- Residents have the right to exercise multiple times throughout the week, if they so desire. This also includes spending time outdoors for recreation, if the weather permits.
- Residents are entitled to help accessing health care.
- A facility must provide residents with at least 45 days' notice if it wants to relocate them or terminate their residency.
- Nursing home residents have the right to voice grievances and participate in policy-making decisions. They may speak out to staff, officials, or others, without discrimination or fear of reprisal.
- Residents have the right to meet with an ombudsman or any other advocates or special interest groups.
These are just a few of the rights your family member might have when residing in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If their rights were violated in another way, they could be entitled to financial compensation. Find out more about what legal options may be available to you when you speak to a nursing home abuse attorney in Boca Raton for assistance.
What Are Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
An elder that you love may not be physically able to communicate abuse, neglect, or exploitation to you, or he or she might be afraid of repercussions for doing so. Thus, you must watch for signs of abuse when you visit and talk to your loved one. There are many kinds of nursing home abuse. According to Florida's Department of Elder Affairs, the following are warning signs of abuse:
Physical warning signs of nursing home abuse
- Bruises, welts, cuts
- Puncture wounds
- Poor color
- Sunken eyes or cheeks, which might indicate malnutrition or dehydration
- Poor personal hygiene, including soiled clothing
Behavioral warning signs of nursing home abuse
- Excessive worry
- Withdrawal and apathy
- Stories about injuries that don't make sense
- Hesitation to speak openly, especially in front of nursing home employees
- Confusion and disorientation
Warning signs of exploitation in a nursing home
- Personal items and valuables are missing, including cash or jewelry
- Unexplained credit or debit card charges
- Unauthorized change in address or users on a bank account
- Change in the elder's credit rating
What You Should Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, your priority should be to stop the abuse as soon as possible. The following steps are important to protect your loved one from further abuse:
Call 9-1-1 If You Believe That Your Loved One Is in Immediate Danger
Speak to the nursing home administration. Immediately report your suspected abuse to the nursing home administrator. This way, those in charge can carefully monitor your loved one's caregivers. Make sure to keep detailed records of any communication with nursing home administration; this information may prove vital if you decide to file a lawsuit.
Document Everything That You Can
In addition to documenting conversations with administrators, you should keep detailed notes about conversations that you have with your loved one, if applicable. Also, take pictures of any visible physical injuries to your loved one, and provide bills or receipts for odd charges if you suspect financial abuse.
Keep all medical bills that are associated with physical or emotional injuries, including the cost of transfer if you choose to immediately move your family member to another facility.
File a Complaint With Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF)
You can contact the agency by calling its Elder Abuse Hotline at (1-800-962-2873). DCF will assign an investigator to your case to gather evidence and make a determination regarding abuse. It's common for DCF to share information with the criminal prosecutors, so that they can file criminal charges against the abuser if warranted.
Arrange a Transfer to Another Facility
If DCF determines that abuse has occurred, or if you feel strongly that your loved one should change facilities, visit potential nursing homes and arrange for a transfer.
Consult a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Working With Boca Raton Families
Nursing home abuse cases are sensitive and require cooperation with multiple parties to stop abuse and hold abusers and their employers accountable. A skilled attorney will handle the complex details of your claim and guide you through the legal process, while you focus on supporting your elder through this difficult time.
Seeking Compensation in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
If your loved one was abused, neglected, or exploited in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, he or she may be entitled to seek compensation in Florida civil court. Multiple parties may be liable for damages in your nursing home abuse case depending on the circumstances.
While we cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, working with an experienced attorney provides you and your loved one with the best chance of recovering compensation. If the court rules in your loved one's favor, the judge or jury may award the following damages:
- Medical costs related to the abuse or neglect, including hospitalization, rehabilitation, prescription medication, x-rays and other diagnostic scans, assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and more
- The cost of moving your loved one to another nursing home
- Future medical care if the abuse resulted in a long-term condition or disability
- Cost of therapy with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist for emotional trauma and distress related to the abuse
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Punitive damages in extreme cases of intentional harm or gross negligence
Suppose an elder you love passed away in a long-term care facility due to abuse or neglect. In that case, you may be eligible to recover burial and funeral expenses through a wrongful death suit and other non-economic damages, depending on the circumstances and your relationship to the elder.
Your attorney will be able to determine your eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit. It's important to remember that Florida law generally requires that you file a wrongful death claim within two years from your loved one's death; accordingly, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Proving Negligence in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant acted negligently, which caused your loved one's injuries. To establish negligence, you must establish the following four elements:
- Duty of care - The nursing home and abuser(s) owed a duty of care to the resident.
- Breach of duty - The nursing home and/or caregivers breached that duty through abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
- Causation - This breach of duty caused loss, injury, or damage to the resident.
- Harm - The resident was harmed by the breach of duty, meaning he or she suffered a tangible loss or injury.
Once a court determines that a defendant was negligent, Florida's comparative negligence law applies to the case. Under comparative negligence, if your loved one was partially responsible for their own harm or injuries, the court can reduce the award by the percentage of fault that it assigns to the plaintiff.
For example, suppose an elder suffers a stroke because he or she refused to take required blood pressure medication. In that case, the court may determine that the elder is 25 percent responsible for his or her injury. The nursing home acted negligently and was 75 percent responsible because its staff failed to ensure that residents took the required medication.
The court would reduce the total damages award by 25 percent in this scenario. A skilled nursing home abuse attorney understands the nuances associated with comparative negligence and will work to ensure the best possible outcome for your situation.
Florida Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Abuse Claims in Boca Raton
Are you ready to move forward with your civil nursing home abuse claim in Boca Raton? If so, you need to act quickly. Many people made the mistake of waiting to contact a Boca Raton personal injury lawyer because they are not sure whether they have grounds for a claim or how to proceed.
Unfortunately, the statute of limitations is only four years under Florida Statutes Section 95.11. This means you will generally only have four years following the discovery of the abuse to get your lawsuit filed. Once the statute of limitations has expired, you will no longer have the opportunity to hold the liable party accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Background on the Nursing Home Abuse Situation
Florida ranks first among all U.S. states in terms of its number of senior citizen residents. Accordingly, government officials have worked hard to establish programs and enact legislation meant to protect elders, whether they live at home, in an assisted living facility, in a nursing home, or in another long-term care facility.
There are over 680 licensed nursing homes in Florida; they have more than 83,000 beds and are generally filled to at least 85 percent capacity at any given time. Fortunately, Florida ranks near the top regarding the quality of nursing homes and employee satisfaction. In fact, Florida nursing homes employ more staff members than the national average.
Hire a Boca Raton Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer to Represent Your Loved One
Your loved ones deserve to be treated with dignity and respect when they live in long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, far too many healthcare providers failed to uphold their duty of care and take advantage of their patients and abuse them. If you suspect abuse or are certain that abuse or neglect has occurred, call Dolman Law Group at 561-220-4963.
Our firm is proud to offer no cost, risk-free consultations to families struggling to cope with nursing home abuse across Boca Raton and surrounding cities. Take advantage of this opportunity when you contact our team.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
301 Yamato Road, Suite 1240
Boca Raton, Florida 33431