When you place your family member in a nursing home, you make the most informed decision possible. You tour facilities, interview staff, check ratings, and review public information. Unfortunately, facilities may not inform potential residents and their families about past or ongoing negligent care. 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 their care. If a loved one is currently facing nursing home neglect don’t hesitate to speak to our Tampa Nursing Home Negligence Lawyers right now to get them the help they deserve.
Resident problems are often a sign of a facility’s failure to meet professional and statutory regulations. Sometimes it’s a sign that they fail to meet their own operating standards. Until you see visible signs of injury or sickness, you may never know to question a nursing home’s history of improper care, malnourishment, dehydration, overmedication, or even abuse.
It’s a nursing home’s duty to properly care for their residents. Not only must they protect them from harmful or threatening experiences, but they must also ensure that they are well-nourished, hydrated, and properly medicated. When they fail to perform these basic tasks, their instances of negligence sometimes cause life-threatening conditions. That’s when you or your loved one might have a personal injury claim—and you will want to call our Tampa nursing home negligence lawyers for help.
Nursing Homes Must Pay for Their Negligence
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, we handle cases for injured clients only. 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 involved complex medical issues and varying standards of proof. They’ve presented investigative challenges as nursing homes controlled the injured resident, the nursing home staff and the evidence of their negligence.
Our attorneys have recognized the difficulties so we’ve begun our involvement in our clients’ cases by thoroughly investigating the circumstances and uncovering the hidden details. We’ve evaluated 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 live a better life.
Our personal injury attorneys realize that not every nursing home commits negligent and harmful acts against its residence. Problems typically occur in some locations due to negligent hiring, improper training, negligent supervision, and overworked staff. When our clients have reported acts of negligence, neglect, or abuse, we’ve worked hard to make the nursing home pay for the injuries they caused.
Our Firm’s Results
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for our injured clients. We’ve used our knowledge, energy, and resources to produce the best case resolutions possible. We have settled cases with adverse parties and their insurance companies. We’ve participated in mediations, arbitrations, and other alternative settlement processes. We have investigated our cases and prepared for trial. When defendants refused to negotiate fairly, sometimes litigation was the only viable option for resolving our differences.
Every personal injury case we handle is unique. We can’t promise a specific result, but we can share our case results to show our commitment to success for our clients.
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 annual fees, nursing homes assume complete control over residents and provide numerous care services. Unfortunately, some nursing home residents endure inappropriate treatment and additional health concerns families could never have anticipated.
- Physical abuse
- Lack of medical care
- Sexual abuse
- Lack of proper sanitation
Nursing Homes Are Businesses
Nursing homes fill a critical need but most are for-profit businesses. They care for seniors and for 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 a 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 poor-performers 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. Their actions or inactions sometimes allow performance problems to continue.
- 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. The Department of Elder Affairs provides services and resources to promote senior well-being and safety. They enforce state and federal rules and statutes and create beneficial senior initiatives.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration handles facility licensing and nursing home employee background screening. They regulate and monitor all nursing homes for standards compliance and provide a watch list of nursing homes that fail to meet a standard or comply with a correction order.
State and federal nursing home statutes provide laws with enforcement guidelines and a system of violations for non-compliance. Federal regulations, Title 42, Chapter IV, Subchapter G, Part 488, outline “Survey, Certification, and Enforcement Procedures.” Florida Statutes, Title XXX, Chapter 430, Elder Affairs establishes guidelines meant to “…Advise, assist, and protect the state’s elderly citizens to the fullest extent…”
Despite Florida’s network of agencies, laws, and enforcement guidelines, problems go undetected because.
- When a loved one has a problem while residing in a nursing home, it’s often difficult to detect during brief visits. Families don’t always know what to look for and responsible nursing home staff members often remain silent.
- Facility employees don’t 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.
- Nursing home 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 realizes that there is a problem and notifies a resident’s family, it can lead to disciplinary action that may jeopardize their license.
Injuries Caused by Nursing Home Negligence
Because the injuries and circumstances vary so widely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 harm as “..immediate or delayed disruptions…” in an elderly person’s physical, cognitive, emotional, social, or financial health. These disruptions sometimes include:
- 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 nursing home 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 the 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 loved one in a nursing home, the facility and its staff assume 24/7 responsibility for their care. They control the resident, his environment, medication, healthcare, nourishment, and liquid intake. They are in the best position to notice a problem and take the appropriate actions and they have a duty to respond accordingly. When a nursing home fails to take action and a resident sustains harm or injury, their 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 nursing home is ultimately responsible. Florida statutes, Title XXIX, Public Health, Chapter 400, provides “…an exclusive cause of action for negligence or a violation of residents’ rights.” This provision gives family members and survivors a right to file a lawsuit against certain entities named within the statute. They incur legal liability based on their duties and responsibilities.
- Employees/caregivers: Long work hours, inadequate training, low pay, inadequate monitoring, inadequate supervision, and high turnover often contribute to an employee’s abusive and negligent acts.
- Medical professionals: Nursing homes often rely on medical staff and on-call doctors and nurses to provide patient medical care. When they fail to timely diagnose or treat illnesses and other conditions, 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/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 list 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.
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 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.
- Physician and hospital bills
- 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
- Anxiety and emotional distress
- Diminished family and spousal relationships
- Diminished family relationships
- Lost bodily functions
- Scars and disfigurement
- Wrongful death
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
Title VI, 46x.021 affirms that a deceased person’s right to file a suit for damages continues after death. A legal representative may pursue damages on the decedent’s behalf. Under Florida Tort 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, a nursing home doesn’t always accept responsibility for their actions. Their unique position of controlling a resident’s housing, nourishment, and medical and personal care, helps substantiate claims against them. Their control over the evidence sometimes presents an obstacle to proving their responsibility.
An Injured Resident Must Prove Their Case
Nursing home residents have numerous state and federal codes and standards on their side but they must still prove that a nursing home committed an act of negligence. In defending themselves, nursing homes 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 Plaintiff Must Comply With Florida’s Resident Rights or Negligence Claims Process
Florida 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 a nursing home 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.
- 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 nursing home, the nursing home defends themselves based on their lack of control or responsibility. A doctor or nurse’s medical malpractice carrier should defend them.
Our personal injury attorneys have managed complex defense strategies by preparing our cases long before we’ve entered a courtroom. We have documented and reviewed the relevant evidence and worked with respected experts. We have developed strategies that helped us produce the best possible outcomes for our injured clients.
Tampa Nursing Home Abuse FAQ
What is nursing home negligence?
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 the health-care 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.
Sadly, neglect can go unnoticed for extended periods of time, especially when the victim is mentally or physically disabled, or has emotional problems. Fundamentally, neglect involves refusing or failing to provide residents with the care that they need, including providing food, nutrition, medication, and therapy, or simply leaving the resident alone and unattended for a long period of time.
What are the rights of Tampa nursing home residents under state and federal laws?
Federal law guarantees Tampa nursing home residents the right to privacy and to 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 in regards to 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 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 is 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. If, however, 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. They may then conduct inspections and review records. However, the investigation may 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 elder abuse. 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 against a Tampa nursing home due to abuse or neglect, 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, he or she 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.
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 are often frail and suffering vision, hearing, or cognitive losses, so they have difficulty advocating for themselves. Many Tampa nursing home residents cannot report abuse, or they don’t report abuse because they are fearful of retaliation.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), more than 75 percent of Florida’s nursing home residents said either that they had been neglected while in the nursing home, or that they had seen another resident suffer neglect or abuse. Even if these residents do speak up, they may face resistance from staff or management, who sometimes claim that a resident’s claim is just a sign of mental deterioration. Family members also fear that reporting a problem will cause staff or management to retaliate against the victim. Sometimes, residents hesitate to report an incident of neglect or abuse because they do not want to cause trouble for the staff member.
When Tampa nursing home residents speak up, facility management often dismisses their allegations, or staff members accuse the residents of being troublemakers. Staff members who are aware of the situation may fail to report incidents of abuse and neglect because they are afraid of being fired or having their hours reduced. These fears often lead to a high turnover rate among Tampa nursing home staff.
Our Tampa Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Can Help
If a nursing home harmed you or your loved one, seek immediate legal assistance. The Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman employ 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.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.