When you place your family member in a nursing home, you want to make the most informed decision possible. You may tour facilities, interview staff, check ratings, and review public information. Unfortunately, facilities may not inform potential residents and their families about past or ongoing negligence or abuse.
Even after your loved one becomes a resident, the nursing home won't necessarily inform you if they are suffering due to an injury or illness acquired while in the staff's care. If a loved one is currently facing nursing home abuse or neglect, don't hesitate to speak to the team at Dolman Law Group. Our Tampa nursing home abuse lawyers are here to fight for the financial recovery and justice your family deserves.
Our Firm's Past Results for Clients
The attorneys at Dolman Law Group have recovered millions of dollars for our injured clients. We've used our knowledge, energy, and resources to produce the best resolutions possible.
Our lawyers have settled cases with adverse parties and their insurance companies—we've participated in mediation, arbitration, and other alternative settlement processes. We have also investigated cases and prepared for trial. When defendants refused to negotiate fairly, sometimes litigation was the only viable option for resolving a case.
Every personal injury case we handle is unique. We can't promise a specific result, but we can share our past case results to show our commitment to success for our clients.
- Our Firm's Past Results for Clients
- What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
- Schedule A Free Consultation
- Nursing Homes Must Pay for Their Negligence
- Nursing Home Negligence in Tampa
- Nursing Homes Are For-Profit Institutions
- Monitoring Florida's Nursing Homes
- Injuries Caused by Nursing Home Negligence
- Who Is Legally Responsible for Nursing Home Abuse?
- Potential Nursing Home Negligence Damages
- How does a Nursing Home Defend Itself Against a Negligence Case?
- Tampa Nursing Home Abuse FAQ
- We Will Advocate for Your Rights at Dolman Law Group
- Our Tampa Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Can Help
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
It's a nursing home's duty to properly care for its residents. Not only should the facility protect them from harmful or threatening experiences, but it must also ensure that they are well-nourished, hydrated, and properly medicated. Florida Statutes § 429.28 states that under the nursing home bill of rights, residents must be guaranteed certain legal rights, privileges, and benefits.
Negligence can involve acts, omissions, or both. Fundamentally, negligence in a Tampa nursing home setting involves a failure to adhere to a uniform standard of care. Nursing home negligence occurs when:
- Healthcare professionals, management, and staff in a facility fail to adhere to a specific standard of care when dealing with residents. Such negligence includes abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- In a Tampa nursing home, abuse refers to any act, threat, or omission by a nursing home employee or resident that may cause harm to an elder's physical or mental health.
Neglect is a failure, whether intentional or not, to provide the appropriate care necessary to maintain a resident's physical and mental health. Failure to protect a resident from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others is also considered a form of neglect.
Exploitation generally refers to financial abuse, including misappropriation of assets, misuse of financial power over a senior, and failing to use a resident's income and assets for his or her own support.
These facilities and their staff have a duty to protect nursing home residents. When an assisted living facility fails to perform these basic tasks, instances of negligence can sometimes cause life-threatening conditions. That's when you or your loved one might have a personal injury claim—and you should call a Tampa nursing home abuse lawyer for help.
Nursing Homes Must Pay for Their Negligence
At Dolman Law Group, we handle cases for injured clients and surviving family members. We understand that it's hard to imagine a nursing home staff hurting the vulnerable people in their care. Through our years of experience, we've learned that it happens far more frequently than it should.
We've also understood that nursing home negligence cases often involve complex medical issues and varying standards of proof. They've presented investigative challenges, as nursing homes control the injured resident, the nursing home staff, and the evidence of negligence. Our nursing home abuse attorneys are familiar with these claims and can help with yours.
We could be the right law firm for your case because:
- We recognize the difficulties of nursing home abuse cases, so we begin our involvement in our clients' cases by thoroughly investigating the circumstances and uncovering the hidden details.
- We evaluate each nursing home's negligence based on our clients' legal rights under state and federal guidelines, regulations, medical malpractice, and negligence statutes.
- We've fought to recover the damages our clients' needed to help them care for their loved ones and handle their expenses and losses.
- We realize that not every nursing home commits negligent and harmful acts against its residents. However, problems occur in some locations due to negligent hiring, improper training, negligent supervision, and overworked staff. Our attorneys know how to uncover this.
- When our clients have reported acts of negligence, neglect, or abuse, we've worked hard to make the nursing home pay for the resulting injuries.
Nursing Home Negligence in Tampa
Florida has a higher percentage of residents over age 65 than any other state. While many seniors live independently, some require assistance, and others need constant care. In Tampa and Hillsborough County, 30 nursing homes with 3,862 beds provide the caregiving services on which local elderly and chronically ill people rely.
Each day, families make the difficult decision to place their aging or sick loved ones into nursing home care. It's often the best option for busy families who must add caregiving to their already hectic schedules. Families enter into relationships with nursing homes anticipating quality care for their loved ones. Based on a 2019 “Cost of Care“ survey conducted by Genworth Financial, Florida residents pay nursing homes an average of $102,565 annually for a semi-private room.
In exchange for their fees, nursing homes assume complete control over residents and provide numerous care services. Unfortunately, some nursing home residents endure inappropriate treatment families could never have anticipated. These include:
- Dehydration: When a nursing home resident is not given enough fluids, they are likely to have symptoms and health complications. Some people do not have a large thirst drive—in these cases, they need to be encouraged to drink fluids even when they are not thirsty. Adequate supervision should be in place to ensure residents are drinking the proper amount of fluids.
- Malnourishment: When residents don't receive proper nutrition, they are more likely to develop infections or experience falls. Nursing homes need to log how much their residents are eating. They also need to provide a comfortable area for eating and serve well-prepared food.
- Physical abuse: Signs of this could be a pattern of unexplained bruises, broken bones, or burns. However, they can also be more subtle, such as sudden changes in mood and behavior, isolation, and fear of particular staff members or residents.
- Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse from nursing facility staff or caretakers could present as unusual changes in your loved one's personality. In addition, a resident could experience abuse from other nursing home residents, in which case those responsible for their care should recognize and put a stop to the problem.
- Overmedication: Distributing the wrong medication or the wrong dose can be fatal. These errors are often due to the negligence of the nursing staff. Over-medicating residents is one of the most deadly medication errors.
- Lack of medical care: Medical neglect occurs when the nursing home does not properly prevent or treat health problems. This can cause negative conditions for the resident, such as bedsores, mobility issues, and other health problems.
- Sexual abuse: Residents can, unfortunately, be vulnerable to sexual abuse. Moreover, some patients with Alzheimer's and similar health conditions may be unable to report this happening. Signs to look for include sexually transmitted diseases or infections, fear of staff members, and bleeding in the genital area.
- Lack of proper sanitation: If the nursing facilities are not cleaned and sanitized properly, the residents can catch viruses and other infections that could be deadly. Some elderly residents also require assistance to maintain proper personal hygiene.
Nursing Homes Are For-Profit Institutions
Nursing homes fill a critical need, but most are for-profit businesses. They care for seniors and chronically impaired or ill patients. They maintain a staff dedicated to keeping residents busy, well-fed, healthy, and appropriately medicated. Medical professionals provide ongoing health care and diagnose medical issues.
Like many other businesses, nursing home management and administrative personnel run their operations with the primary goal of making a profit. They are in a unique position to hire, fire, evaluate, and resolve performance issues with employees who cause harm. As onboarding, training, and maintaining quality employees is often costly, it's easy to see how retaining nursing home workers who are under-trained or underqualified is usually less detrimental to a nursing home's financial bottom line.
Management and administrative personnel should take proper steps to prevent staff from harming residents. However, their actions or inaction sometimes allow performance problems to continue due to:
- Inadequate training
- Ineffectual employee monitoring and oversight
- Inadequate staff to handle the workload
- Inadequate safeguards to prevent overmedication
- Ineffectual safety and preventative procedures
- Lack of resident nutrition and hydration guidelines and controls
Monitoring Florida's Nursing Homes
Several Florida agencies act as advocates for seniors and senior-related issues. For instance, the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) provides services and resources to promote senior well-being and safety. The agency enforces state and federal rules and statutes and helps create beneficial senior initiatives.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) handles facility licensing and nursing home employee background screening. This administration regulates and monitors all nursing homes for standards compliance and provides a watch list of nursing homes that fail to meet a standard or comply with a correction order.
State and federal statutes provide enforcement guidelines and a system of violations for non-compliance. For example, federal regulations under Title 42, Chapter IV, Subchapter G, Part 488 outline “Survey, Certification, and Enforcement Procedures.” Florida Statutes § 430.02 on Elder Affairs establishes guidelines meant to “advise, assist, and protect the state's elderly citizens to the fullest extent…”
Why do Instances of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Frequently Go Unreported?
A shocking number of cases of abuse, exploitation, and especially neglect go unreported. Researchers estimate that only one out of every 57 cases of nursing home abuse is reported. Tampa nursing home residents may be frail and suffering vision, hearing, or cognitive losses, so they have difficulty advocating for themselves. Others may not report abuse because they are fearful of retaliation.
Despite Florida's network of agencies, laws, and enforcement guidelines, problems may still go undetected in nursing homes because:
- When a loved one has a problem while residing in a nursing home facility, it's often difficult to detect during brief visits. Families don't always know what warning signs to look for, and accountable staff members often remain silent.
- Facility employees may not recognize problems like dehydration and malnutrition. This is often due to inadequate staff training and resident monitoring guidelines.
- While some of the negligence issues occur due to staff omissions and neglect, others occur due to unanticipated instances of abuse.
- Residents with speech or hearing impairments, memory issues, or cognitive issues might not recognize or remember an incident. If they do, they sometimes have difficulty explaining it.
- If a nursing home administration realizes there is a problem and notifies a resident's family, it can lead to disciplinary action that may jeopardize the facility's license.
Injuries Caused by Nursing Home Negligence
Because the injuries and circumstances vary so widely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented, studied, and pinpointed specific problem categories of nursing home negligence. The 2016 CDC study “Elder Abuse Surveillance” defined EA as, “an intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.”
The study further defined this harm as “immediate or delayed disruptions…” in an elderly person's physical, cognitive, emotional, social, or financial health. These disruptions can be:
- Physical: Bruises, bedsores, burns, lacerations, overmedication, malnutrition, dehydration, sexual abuse, preventable illnesses, and medical conditions
- Cognitive: Diminished memory, problem-solving, decision-making, and other skills
- Emotional: Problems with emotional perceptions, self-expression, and control
- Social: Changes in relationships, social interactions, and communication issues
- Financial: Increased hospital and doctor bills, depleted assets, and loss of discretionary funds
When a person enters a problematic assistive care environment, the harm sometimes continues until it creates a medical crisis or a family member detects an issue. The conditions worsen until the resident receives medical care or their family relocates them to a hospital or new care facility.
Who Is Legally Responsible for Nursing Home Abuse?
When you place your elderly relative in a nursing home, the facility and its staff assume 24/7 responsibility for their care. They control the resident and their environment, medication, medical treatment, nourishment, and liquid intake. As a result, they are in the best position to notice a problem and take the appropriate actions and have a duty to respond accordingly.
When a nursing home fails to take action, and a resident sustains emotional, financial, or physical harm, this breach of duty constitutes negligence. Some negligent acts include the four elements of elder abuse as described by the CDC:
- Intentional acts
- Expectation of trust
When nursing homes experience a breakdown in training, performance, or care, the facility is ultimately responsible.
Whom to Name in a Nursing Home Abuse Case
Florida Statutes § 400.023 provides “…an exclusive cause of action for negligence or a violation of residents' rights.” This provision gives family members and survivors the right to file a lawsuit against certain entities named within the statute. They can incur legal liability based on their duties and responsibilities:
- Employees and caregivers: Long work hours, inadequate training, low pay, inadequate monitoring, inadequate supervision, and high turnover often contribute to an employee's abusive or negligent acts.
- Medical professionals: Assisted living facilities often rely on medical staff and on-call doctors and nurses to provide patient medical care. When they fail to diagnose or treat illnesses and other conditions promptly, residents suffer. Their medical conditions sometimes worsen. If a doctor or nurse is a subcontractor, they may have additional contractual responsibilities.
- Independent contractors: If a staff member is also a subcontractor, they are responsible for their own actions. They may also have additional responsibilities outlined in their written agreements.
- Administrators and managers: Administrative and management staff share negligence for their own actions, which contributed to a resident's injuries. They are also responsible for inappropriate employee hiring, training, and supervision.
- Licensees: Florida lists several entities as nursing home licensees. The category includes corporations, partnerships, management companies, consulting companies, or any entities that are legally responsible for operations and staffing decisions.
A Dolman Law Group Tampa nursing home abuse lawyer can determine whom to name in a negligence case and will ensure that those responsible are held to account.
Potential Nursing Home Negligence Damages
A nursing home negligence award or settlement usually includes economic damages, general damages, and punitive damages under certain circumstances.
Economic damages pay for an injured person's out-of-pocket financial losses, such as medical expenses. If the injured person is still undergoing treatment or will incur additional care costs, an economic expert calculates future damages based on present-day values. Overall, recoverable economic damages may include:
- Physician and medical bills
- Hospital stays
- Physical therapy
- Psychological therapy
- Prosthetics and mobility equipment
- Lost income
- Funeral and burial expenses
General damages consider the injured person's emotional, psychological, and social changes. These damages often include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Diminished family and spousal relationships
- Diminished family relationships
- Lost bodily functions
- Scars and disfigurement
In certain cases, a jury may award punitive damages under Florida Statutes § 768.72. Punitive damages serve as punishment for a defendant's actions. A plaintiff must present clear and convincing evidence of a defendant's “… intentional misconduct or gross negligence.”
Survivor or Wrongful Death Damages
Florida Statutes § 46.021 affirms that a deceased person's right to file a suit to recover compensation continues after death. A legal representative may pursue damages on the decedent's behalf. Under Florida Statutes § 768.21, designated survivors may seek damages for support, companionship, protection, and other services provided by the decedent.
How does a Nursing Home Defend Itself Against a Negligence Case?
One of the most difficult issues with nursing home negligence cases is detecting the negligent act. Nursing homes don't have to defend themselves unless a family member or outside medical provider discovers visible signs of harm or a medical condition with no other reasonable explanation.
Despite obvious acts of negligence, nursing facilities don't always accept responsibility for their actions. The facility's unique position of controlling a resident's housing, nourishment, and medical and personal care, helps substantiate claims against them. However, control over the evidence sometimes presents an obstacle to proving responsibility.
We Can Help an Injured Resident Prove Their Case
Nursing home residents have numerous state and federal codes and standards on their side, but they must still prove that an assisted care facility committed an act of negligence. In defending themselves, nursing home administrators sometimes rely on the injured person's potential for inconsistent testimony. Some seniors have memory, cognitive, and communication issues that sometimes prevent them from providing reliable testimony on their own behalf.
A nursing home abuse attorney can advocate for your loved one's rights in these situations and help seek compensation for negligence and wrongdoing.
A Plaintiff Must Comply With Florida's Resident Rights or Negligence Claims Process
Florida Statutes § 400.0233 provides a nursing home pre-suit notice and investigation process by which plaintiffs must present their claim. While the legal process requires precise compliance standards for injured plaintiffs, it also sets up a framework for defendant cooperation.
After receiving a notice, a self-insured nursing home or an insurer must conduct a good-faith investigation and respond in writing to the allegations. They have a limited time to make a settlement offer or reject the claim. This makes it easier for an injured plaintiff and their family to make decisions about filing a lawsuit or pursuing other legal actions.
The claim process includes:
- Written notice to defendants via certified mail
- Identification of the rights violations or acts of negligence
- Description of “reasonably identifiable” injuries
- Plaintiff's attorney's confirmation that an investigation found reasonable grounds for legal action
- A 75-day waiting period before filing a legal action
- The waiting period postpones any natural statute of limitations
Medical Negligence Claims Must Meet a Different Standard
If a nursing home-affiliated doctor or nurse commits an act of medical negligence, it changes the legal process and the standard of proof. To recover damages, a plaintiff must prove their case based on Florida's malpractice guidelines. They require proof of a medical professional's failure to meet a “… prevailing professional standard of care.”
Defendants Plead Affirmative Defenses
Just as in any negligence case, a nursing home has the right to plead defenses on its behalf. Examples include:
- No negligence: If the plaintiff can't prove negligence, the defendant avoids paying damages.
- Damage defense: A successful damage defense reduces a defendant's financial exposure. The nursing home asserts that the plaintiff has pre-existing injuries, that they aren't as extensive as alleged, or that the injuries occurred due to circumstances outside of their control.
- Contractual defense: A nursing home sometimes depends on a non-employee or a subcontractor's written agreement to protect them from liability.
- Medical malpractice: If a medical professional commits a negligent act on behalf of the facility, it defends itself based on its lack of control or responsibility. A doctor or nurse's medical malpractice carrier should defend them.
Our personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group have managed complex defense strategies by preparing our cases long before we enter a courtroom. We document and review the relevant evidence and work with respected experts. We then develop strategies to produce the best possible outcomes for our injured clients.
Tampa Nursing Home Abuse FAQ
Below are some of the most common questions we receive regarding nursing home abuse and negligence cases.
What Are the Rights of Tampa Nursing Home Residents Under State and Federal Laws?
Per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), federal law guarantees Tampa nursing home residents the right to privacy, dignity, and respect. Residents also have the right to be free from abuse in any form, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or isolation. Other specific rights include, but are not limited to, residents' rights to:
- Participate in their own care
- Have their own doctor and pharmacy
- Stay informed about any and all of their medical care
- Privacy concerning their medical records
- Remain free from restraints
- Stay informed of the facility's policies and procedures, as well as all services and charges
- Manage personal finances
- Have visitors
- Speak freely about substandard care
Florida law also provides for substantial residents' rights, including the right to be free from nursing home abuse and neglect, as well as the right to be treated with courtesy and dignity. Other rights specifically include the right to:
- Have unannounced visits from family members
- Access private and uncensored communication, like mail, phone calls, and visits with family
- Make medical decisions, including the right to refuse treatment
- Manage their finances
Violations of these rights may constitute abuse, and aggrieved residents and family members can hold facilities accountable for abuse by filing a lawsuit.
Who Regulates Florida Nursing Homes?
There are approximately 700 nursing homes in Florida, and both state and federal authorities regulate them. On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is responsible for nursing homes. The Florida Department of Health and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration are responsible for regulating Tampa nursing homes on the state level.
If a Tampa nursing home violates regulations that do not immediately or directly affect a resident's safety, the facility may create a Plan of Correction to remedy the situation. However, if a violation places a resident's safety in danger, then repercussions may include fines, new supervision, or license suspension.
What Legal Recourse Is There for Individuals Who Have Been Abused or Neglected in Tampa Nursing Homes?
The first step is usually reporting the abuse or neglect to the appropriate protective service agencies. These agencies may then conduct inspections and review records. However, the investigation can take some time, and in the end, little may have changed. The Elder Justice Act of 2009—as well as other federal and state laws—deals with abuse against senior citizens. In some situations, law enforcement may file criminal charges against perpetrators, including facilities.
A victim of nursing home negligence may file a lawsuit against the perpetrator. This may take the form of a medical malpractice lawsuit. To prevail in a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish the following four elements:
- The existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff,
- A defendant's breach of that duty,
- A plaintiff's sufferance of an injury, and
- Proof that the defendant's breach caused the injury.
If someone is concerned about possible nursing home abuse or neglect, they should begin documenting the facts. Individuals living in Tampa nursing homes may have impaired memories or be unable to talk. If there are visible injuries, such as bruises, take photos of any physical evidence of harm before the injuries fade or disappear. Gather as much information as possible, and take detailed notes about what happened. It is important to collect and preserve evidence of the harm while it exists.
All personal injury lawsuits have a deadline, known as a statute of limitations. This deadline requires the filing of any legal action within a certain amount of time. A qualified attorney can advise you on the time limits for your specific claim.
We Will Advocate for Your Rights at Dolman Law Group
Attorneys at our firm go above and beyond to help our clients seek the compensation they deserve. We are a nationally recognized firm with award-winning lawyers. Many of our clients have been referred to us by other clients who have been happy with our legal services. Here's what sets us apart from other law firms:
- Our clients will receive their attorney's personal cell phone number and email, so they can get a hold of them when needed. We will return all correspondence in a timely manner.
- We have extensive experience and financial resources to take on big corporations. Some corporations we have taken on include Publix, Walt Disney, Walmart, Target, GEICO, and many other insurance carriers.
- Our goal is to negotiate a fair settlement for your claim. If a settlement cannot be reached, we will be prepared to represent you in court.
- The attorneys at our firm are experienced in assisted living abuse and neglect cases. We want nursing homes to pay for their negligent actions that caused your loved one's injuries.
We want you to be able to focus on your loved one and the rest of your family during this difficult time. Our attorneys will take care of all legal matters, so you don't have to.
Our Tampa Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Can Help
If your loved one suffered abuse at the hands of a nursing home, you have a right to seek immediate legal assistance. Dolman Law Group employs attorneys experienced in Tampa nursing home negligence. We can help you understand your options and develop a plan to hold those responsible for nursing home negligence accountable for their actions.
13513 Prestige Pl. Suite 103
Tampa, FL 33635