Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

March 10, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

Nursing home abuse is an atrocity, a violation of the residents' legal rights, and a crime. Unfortunately, this can result from facilities placing profits above patients' safety and welfare. As a result, senior adults are vulnerable not only to the trials and tribulations of aging but also to neglect, victimization, and exploitation by the caregivers they are supposed to trust. According to some estimates, more than 30 percent of nursing home residents experience some form of abuse. Yet, the National Council on Aging estimates that "only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities."

Your loved one has an absolute right to safety. At the Dolman Law Group, Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse lawyers understand that dealing with nursing home abuse produces tremendous stress. If you suspect abuse or neglect, speak to one of our qualified attorneys. We are here to listen, address any concerns you may have, and help you explore potential legal solutions.

When a skilled nursing facility agrees to provide care to an elderly person, they can, and should, face legal liability if they fail to honor their obligations. Federal and state laws protect nursing home residents' rights. Nursing homes have an obligation to:

  • Hire qualified staff
  • Properly train and supervise employees
  • Maintain health and safety regulations
  • Follow regulatory agency standards of care

Nursing home neglect is often difficult to detect. So be on the lookout for signs of:

Physical Abuse

  • Weight loss is a sign of malnutrition, dehydration, poor diabetic management, and overmedication.
  • Skin conditions like bedsores, rashes, and scabies indicate substandard care. Likewise, bruises, lacerations, and welts may signal improper hygiene and physical abuse.
  • Agitation and confusion can indicate problems. Look for changes in behavior, like fear of touching or uncharacteristic anger.
  • Broken bones, marks from restraints, and injuries from falls are all warning signs that a nursing home may have abused your family member.

Sexual Abuse

Due to restricted mobility, general weakness, and impaired cognition, elderly persons are at risk for sexual assault. These physical limitations make it almost impossible for residents to defend themselves or communicate what is happening to them. Signs of sexual abuse include bruising, bleeding, or infection in the genital areas, symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, or difficulty walking or sitting.

Psychological Abuse

Intimidation, threatening, yelling, or making the resident feel guilty can result in psychological trauma. The staff members at a long-term care facility hold a unique position of power over the residents. Your loved ones must depend on these caregivers for all of their physical needs. Often, elderly patients resist disclosing this abuse for fear of retaliation.

Nursing homes may subject their residents to the following types of psychological abuse:

  • Seclusion; deliberate isolation from other residents in the facility
  • Not being allowed to participate in social activities
  • Being lied to
  • Being threatened
  • Being made fun of or being laughed at
  • Being left alone

Warning signs of psychological abuse include depression, changes in personality, and agitation. In addition, family members may notice:

  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite or refusal to take medications
  • Increased susceptibility to injury

Financial Abuse

When elders can no longer manage their financial affairs independently, they are often highly susceptible to fraud. Nursing home employees often assist residents with reading mail and managing bank accounts and, in that capacity, have access to sensitive information. The types of financial abuse include:

  • Bank account theft and identity theft
  • Charitable organization scams
  • Healthcare fraud

If You See Signs of Nursing Home Abuse…

Before making any formal accusations against a nursing home, gather as much documentation as possible. Develop a detailed log of your suspicions. Include photos and records of interviews with witnesses who will substantiate your concerns. Include documentation of whom you spoke to at the facility about the problems. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you through all of these processes.

If you suspect a nursing home is abusing your loved ones:

  • Keep them safe. Take steps to remove them from the facility if you believe they are in danger.
  • Tell someone in the nursing home that you trust. Then, allow them to conduct an internal investigation.
  • Report it. Florida's Department of Elder Affairs has a 24/7 number at (800) 96-ABUSE, or (800) 962-2873. In addition, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at (888) 831-0404 works with volunteers to investigate complaints confidentially and free of charge.
  • Contact an attorney with elder law and personal injury experience.

Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Negligence Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Nursing homes are legally required to provide residents with services that promote their health, happiness, and dignity. The unfortunate truth, however, is that this doesn't always happen.

Nursing home negligence is just one of many forms of elder abuse. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect is very common. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) states that approximately 95 percent of nursing home residents have witnessed or experienced neglect. In addition, the National Center for Victims of Crime reports that over 15 percent of elder abuse complaints concern neglect.

The NCEA categorizes elder neglect as a type of elder abuse. It defines elder abuse as the mistreatment of older adults by individuals in a position of trust.

If you or an elderly person you know was physically, emotionally, financially, or psychologically abused in a Fort Lauderdale nursing home, seek to immediately remove the abused or neglected elder from the home and contact a reputable Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse attorney at Dolman Law Group, Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law. By partnering with our lawyers, you can fight for the health and rights of your elderly loved one.

Can I Move My Relative to a Different Nursing Home?

We'll address this concern first, as it's often urgent. Yes, if you suspect abuse, you should move your loved one as soon as possible. If the situation is an emergency, law enforcement can help; otherwise, you need to set up a plan for the housing and transfer of your loved one.

Can You Provide a General Definition of Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home negligence is one form of elder abuse. While many forms of elder abuse involve direct harm to an elderly victim, nursing home negligence causes harm through either substandard care or failure to perform caregiving duties.

In the simplest terms, nursing home neglect involves:

  • A breach of duty that results in the harm of a resident, or
  • Substandard care of a resident

How does Florida Define Nursing Home Neglect?

Most states have their own laws and regulations that define nursing home neglect. For example, Florida law defines nursing home neglect as:

  • “Failure or omission on the part of the caregiver…to provide the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of the vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, and medical services.”

What Are the Basic Elements of Negligence That Plaintiffs Must Prove in Nursing Home Abuse Cases in Florida?

To prevail in a nursing home abuse case, a plaintiff must establish all of the following elements:

  1. The nursing home owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.
  2. The nursing home breached that duty of care: Breaches occur when defendants fail to abide by their legally-assigned duties.
  3. The breach proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries and losses: A plaintiff can prove causation by establishing that the defendant's breach of duty of care caused the plaintiff's injuries.

There are some classic signs of possible nursing home negligence that should tip off family and loved ones. Watch for the following signs:

  • Dehydration
  • Papery skin
  • Malnutrition
  • Frequent tiredness and/or irritability
  • Hair loss
  • Frequent complaints of being cold
  • Over-medication or failure to receive medication
  • Unexplained injuries or contraction of illnesses
  • Some injuries and illnesses are not preventable, but many are; negligent nursing homes are much less likely to report these things and fail to aid residents when harm comes to them.
  • Poor hygiene
  • The first places this may begin to appear noticeable include the teeth and hair; body odor or other signs of failure to bathe can also be clues.
  • Depression
  • Neglect can also lead to a fear of caregivers or even anger; if a loved one in a nursing home appears more detached than normal, it may be a sign of depression caused by neglect.

Many older people are not inclined to share their symptoms with loved ones. That's why loved ones need to take on some responsibility for monitoring the nursing home resident for signs of neglect. Of course, nursing home staff should never be neglectful, but statistics tell us that they are; thus, paying attention will help keep your loved one safe.

What Are the Main Types of Nursing Home Neglect?

The four main types of nursing home neglect encompass behaviors that demonstrate a caretaker's failure to provide care to an elderly adult:

  1. Medical neglect: Medical neglect involves a nursing home that fails to assess, attend, and prevent a resident's medical concerns. Symptoms include bedsores, infections, mobility issues, and increasing personal health problems.
  2. Neglect of basic needs: We all have basic needs: food, water, and safe shelter, among other things. When a nursing home fails to provide these basic needs to an older patient, that failure constitutes neglect.
  3. Neglect of personal hygiene: Neglect of personal hygiene involves a nursing home that does not adequately help the resident maintain their hygiene. This includes things like bathing, toileting, laundry, and dental care.
  4. Social or emotional neglect: Social and emotional neglect can profoundly impact a nursing home resident. For example, if residents are ignored, left alone excessively, or treated poorly, that constitutes neglect.
  5. Financial abuse or misuse of funds: Recent research indicates financial abuse as the most common type of maltreatment inflicted on nursing home residents. Misappropriating their money or forcing elderly nursing home residents to sign financial or other obligatory documents are all forms of financial abuse.

How Can I Help My Loved One Recover from Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home residents who are abused or neglected can suffer from aftereffects for months or even years afterward. If you are the family member of an abused resident, you can help your loved one recover by:

  • Immediately moving them to a safer residential setting
  • Encouraging them to talk about the abuse or neglect
  • Encouraging them to name or otherwise indicate the perpetrator
  • Ensuring they get the professional, therapeutic counseling and support they need
  • Assuring them that the abuser will be held accountable for their actions

Abuse victims who get help and support may not suffer from the long-term issues of survivors who do not. These long-term issues can include failing physical health, psychological trauma, emotional withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and early demise. Support can also lead to recovery from financial abuse and criminal accountability for the perpetrator.

Who Are the People Abusing Vulnerable Nursing Home Residents?

According to National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) statistics, the population of nursing homes is expected to increase by half. This rise in residents can lead to an overburdened elder care system when staff does not increase at the same rate. Their research goes on to identify the primary perpetrators of abuse as:

  • Stressed, overworked, and frustrated nursing home staff members
  • Fellow nursing home residents who are not adequately supervised

When our team represents you, we work hard to uncover the person's identity who caused your loved one's pain and suffering. We also investigate whether or not they were properly vetted before hiring and trained adequately after hiring. Finally, whether we hold the perpetrator of abuse or neglect or the nursing home that hired them responsible, we fight for compensation for you.

How do I Prove the Abuse or Neglect Took Place?

Many times, elderly nursing home residents are reluctant to report abuse. In some cases, they are afraid to do so. If this is the case with your elderly loved one, our team can conduct compassionate, empathetic reviews. We can also collect evidence that supports abuse and neglect allegations. Compelling evidence we collect on your behalf will include: 

  • Medical records and bills that prove the nature, cause, and degree of your loved one's injuries
  • Photos and videos that provide visual proof of your loved one's injuries
  • Witness statements from fellow residents and other staff members
  • Nursing home training records, staff reports, timecards, and incident reports

We may also collect financial records and police reports where applicable. Your right to compensation can hinge on the evidence we compile into your case file. Our team will go to bat for you by ensuring your evidence leads to the compensation your loved one and family deserve.

What Responsibilities do Nursing Homes Have to Provide Physical, Mental, and Psychosocial Care for Every Resident?

In 1987, federal lawmakers passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. This piece of law clearly defines nursing homes' responsibility to provide the highest practicable care possible to every resident per their specific care plan.

The law includes the following provisions:

  • Nursing homes have to have enough staff to provide the appropriate level of care for every patient.
  • Nursing homes need to develop comprehensive care plans for each patient; care plans prevent the deterioration of a patient's ability to move, eat, groom, and dress.
  • Nursing homes must ensure that all patients receive proper nutrition based on their care plans.
  • Nursing homes must also ensure that all patients receive proper vision and hearing treatment to maintain their senses.
  • Nursing homes must prevent patients from developing bedsores and use appropriate treatment guidelines to do so.

Under federal law, nursing homes also must:

  • Offer services and treatment for incontinence
  • Ensure that medication errors do not occur
  • Properly supervise residents at all times
  • Provide residents adequate assistance (prevent accidents, injuries, and abuse)
  • Maintain every resident's dignity
  • Offer medical care overseen by a doctor
  • Ensure that physician services are accessible 24/7 in case of an emergency

What Are the Leading Causes of Nursing Home Negligence in the United States?

There's no doubt about it, the primary cause of nursing home negligence is understaffing, but other staffing issues may also increase the likelihood of neglect, including the following:

  • Inadequate training:When nursing home staff members aren't adequately trained for their jobs, they may be unintentionally negligent to residents. Other circumstances might involve poorly-trained staff who know that they don't understand how to administer care but continue to neglect residents. Unfortunately, improperly-trained caretakers easily fall into patterns of neglect.
  • Negligent hiring:The hiring process should play a critical role in staffing nursing homes, but it usually doesn't. Lots of nursing homes hire negligently. Some build up a staff that's already at risk of neglecting or mistreating older adults. If a nursing home doesn't use a thorough screening process to vet potential caretakers, it opens the door for trouble.

How Long do I Have to File a Nursing Home Negligence Claim?

In Florida, we have a four-year statute of limitations on negligence claims. Therefore, potential plaintiffs must file their nursing home negligence claims in Florida within four years from the date that they discover their injuries. This is for a few reasons, primarily due to the difficulty of detecting certain types of neglectful behavior. This gets even trickier when considering that many nursing home neglect survivors are not eager to share their concerns or experiences.

What Can I Do to Help Prevent Nursing Home Negligence?

It's not your fault if you find out that somebody you love has faced nursing home negligence, and there are steps that everyone can take to keep their families safe in the future.

If you want to help protect your loved one from nursing home negligence, you should:

  • Believe them.If an older individual in a nursing home complains about neglect, you must listen and look into the problem.
  • Review nursing home facilities carefully before making any decisions.Some people don't know what to look for (and what to look out for) when choosing a nursing home for a loved one. You should always be on the lookout for unsanitary conditions and understaffing. Reviews might help guide your decisions but can't always be trusted to tell the whole story.
  • Make regular contact with the loved one.This helps ensure that your loved one feels comfortable and supported when they talk to you. In addition, it gives your loved one a chance to express concerns and makes it easier to see some possible symptoms of poor care.

What Happens If a Nursing Home Resident Complains of Neglect or Other Abuse?

The short answer is that it depends. The severity of the complaint and the circumstances surrounding it all play into what happens after a complaint is made. Usually, the first person to be notified will be the nursing home administrator. The administrator then has a responsibility to investigate the complaint and report it to a state agency.

If your case is especially severe or your loved one is at medical risk, it's important to make sure the resident is evaluated by a hospital or doctor unaffiliated with the neglectful facility. In addition, you should get in touch with local and state agencies to allow them to begin their investigations of the facility.

Can I Still Sue a Nursing Home on Behalf of a Loved One Who Has Passed Away Due to Negligence?

Yes. If you have lost a loved one due to nursing home negligence in Florida, you may be eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility. A wrongful death attorney can help you determine this is the right step for you.

Who Should I Contact If Someone I Love Has Been a Victim of Nursing Home Negligence?

Many people's first question after finding out that a loved one has faced nursing home neglect is about who to contact for help. Act immediately to help your family member.

Take the following steps:

  • Call local law enforcement if there is an immediate problem.Sometimes, a nursing home resident might be at risk of immediate physical harm or a health issue. You should call local police and paramedics if this is the case. They will remove the resident from the neglectful home and help transfer them somewhere safe.
  • Contact a long-term care ombudsman.Ombudsmen are people who act as advocates for adults who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. An ombudsman can help you protect your loved one's rights and help you determine what steps to take to ensure their safety.
  • Contact Adult Protective Service (APS).APS will likely help with your case if it is non-urgent. APS will investigate reports of nursing home neglect and determine the severity of the case; APS will also call in social service workers to help the nursing home neglect victim with their health and safety concerns.
  • Contact an elder abuse lawyer.An elder abuse lawyer can help you determine the best way to respond to your case. They may even assist you in pursuing compensation for damages in court, depending on the circumstances of your case.

How Will a Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Help?

At the Dolman Law Group, Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law, we know that no amount of compensation will account for your loved one's abuse. Once they are safe from the abuser, you do have a right to pursue justice in court. The money you receive may help account for medical bills, mental anguish, and tools to help your loved one's recovery.

This is where a nursing home negligence lawyer can help. Nursing home abuse laws are complex; a legal professional can help you navigate the statutes and laws that define your rights. Partnering with our Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence lawyers at the Dolman Law Group, Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law might help you obtain the compensation that changes your or your loved one's life for the better.

Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse

In the event of abuse, Florida law may entitle your loved one and your family to compensation. The value of a potential claim is based on:

  • The severity of injuries. The severity of the injuries is determined by the medical expenses incurred to treat the condition(s), both current and projected. This includes, but is not limited to, out-of-pocket costs for hospitalizations, physician's fees, surgical costs, rehabilitation, and the cost of medications.
  • Emotional distress. Pain and suffering incurred as a result of the abuse.
  • Disability costs. When injuries to the elderly result in complications or disability, the lifetime costs involved can be staggering. An experienced attorney will try to include expenses for 24-hour skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, medications, physical therapy, and even the cost of transporting the victim to and from appointments into any compensation you receive. Usually, the projected lifetime care costs are annualized and multiplied by the life expectancy of the abused resident. This amount is often substantial.
  • Punitive damages. Under certain egregious conditions, a plaintiff may recover punitive damages to punish the nursing home for the abuse it inflicted.

Call Dolman Law If You or a Loved One Suffered From Nursing Home Abuse in Fort Lauderdale

Florida places time limit restrictions to initiate a civil claim against a long-term care facility, and plaintiffs must follow specific procedures. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you meet these requirements.

Nursing home cases are among the most heinous personal injury cases our Fort Lauderdale personal injury law firm sees, and our team is eager to hold perpetrators of elder abuse accountable. The attorneys at Dolman Law have firsthand knowledge of the significant impact that abuse cases have on victims and families. If your loved one is the victim of neglect or abuse, we can help. Contact our Fort Lauderdale office at (754) 208-1130 to schedule a free case review and learn what you can do to keep your loved one safe.

Fort Lauderdale Office
150 E Davie Blvd Suite 201-2
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (754) 208-1130

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Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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