As of 2019, approximately 71,000 elderly people reside in Florida nursing homes. When you decide to choose long-term care for a loved one, you expect them to get the best possible care. However, there have been thousands of cases of nursing home abuse and neglect reported across the country, and many more remain unreported. Senior citizens in nursing facilities, at home, and in relatives’ homes are at a high risk of abuse. Sadly, many cases of neglect go unnoticed. It is important to ensure your loved ones safety if you believe they are dealing with a harmful or neglectful situation.
The frailty of older people makes them less likely to stand up to bullying or to fight back if they are verbally or physically attacked. Others may take advantage of them since they aren’t able to hear or see as well as they used to.
While Pinellas, Florida has set high standards and regulations for assisted living, there is still a high possibility of abuse, negligence, and nursing home neglect. You may be able to discover what is happening to your loved one by being aware of the common signs of abuse and neglect. It is extremely important for your loved one’s health and safety to know the warning signs.
Many family members, supervisors, or loved ones may not take elder abuse seriously. They might believe the person is confused, or think they have dementia. Despite the fact that signs of abuse can coincide with signs of mental deterioration, every case should be investigated
You have options if you suspect your loved one is being abused in a long-term care facility. To discover your loved one has been abused by a nursing home staff is nothing short of a betrayal. The majority of abuse happens behind closed doors, but our personal injury law firm has the resources necessary to expose it and bring the perpetrators to justice. It is our goal to help both you and your family recover from this traumatic experience with the help of our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers.
What Qualifies as Nursing Home Abuse in Florida?
When caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities, then it is known as nursing home abuse. The term can be applied to intentional as well as unintentional harm. Such harm may result in physical injury, medical emergencies, or even death. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is a common issue in Florida due to issues such as understaffing, inadequate training, or exhaustion. Staff members may take their anger out on those who need them or they may fail to respond to urgent situations such as falls or strokes as a result of these factors. In nursing homes, qualified and well-trained personnel are required to manage any situation that may arise. In cases of administrative negligence, like understaffing, residents may be exposed to violent members of staff that weren’t thoroughly screened.
Nursing home abuse takes the following forms:
In most cases, elder abandonment occurs when a caregiver leaves an elderly individual without assistance to fend for themselves. Assisted living facilities can also abandon nursing home residents.
An emotional abuser (also known as a verbal abuser or psychological abuser) insults or threatens a resident to exert control over them. This is a very common form of nursing home abuse. WHO reports that over 32% of nursing home staff members abuse residents emotionally. Examples of emotional abuse include taking control of a resident’s activities against their will, humiliating the resident in any way, isolating seniors from family and friends, and making threats.
Financial exploitation. Financial elder abuse occurs when someone steals from an elderly person or manipulates them to get money.
Neglect of a Resident’s Basic Needs
The staff at nursing homes are negligent when they fail to provide proper medical care. The result is a decline in the physical and emotional well-being of the resident.
An injury or bodily harm to a nursing home resident is considered physical abuse. A study from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020 showed that 9% of nursing home staff had physically abused residents.
An example of this is when a resident is subject to unwanted sexual contact, touching, or groping. Physical and emotional harm can result from abuse of this nature. Unfortunately, many elders suffering from disabilities or incapacity are sexually abused.
Elderly people can suffer serious harm from all types of nursing home abuse. Families, friends, and other nursing home residents should know about the different types of abuse and the warning signs. By taking action against all forms of nursing home abuse, long-term harm can be prevented.
Furthermore, nursing home neglect includes:
Neglecting to Prevent Bedsores
Bedsores occur when pressure on the skin blocks circulation, preventing oxygen from reaching the cells. The failure to prevent this can result in permanent injury or death.
Unsanitary Conditions in the Facility
Many nursing home infections are caused by improperly disinfected equipment, floors, and other areas of the facility. In patients whose immune systems are already weakened, life-threatening illnesses can result.
Neglecting to Prevent Accidents
Those who move to a nursing home are at greater risk for falling. It’s the caregiver’s responsibility to ensure that the resident is adequately supervised when using a wheelchair or a walker.
Failure to Report Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
When the nursing home suspects a patient is being abused or neglected by the family caregiver, the facility should contact its state agency immediately.
Red Flags Linked to Physical Abuse in Pinellas Nursing Homes
Nursing home abuse comes in many forms. The signs and patterns of abuse are distinct regardless of how it is carried out. Some signs of abuse are obvious, while others can simply be explained away as accidents. For this reason, it is important to look for recurring symptoms of physical abuse, as well as any indications of any other types of abuse that may be occurring alongside physical abuse. As a result, a more accurate picture of the extent of abuse and neglect will emerge. Some signs of nursing home abuse to be aware of if you suspect you or a loved one has been physically abused:
Physical Evidence #1) Unexplained Broken Bones
Broken or fractured bones resulting from being dropped, restrained, or physically assaulted. A fall often results in hips, wrists, and elbow fractures in the elderly. It is, however, possible to distinguish fractures caused by falls from fractures caused by assaults by experienced healthcare professionals.
Physical Evidence #2) Injuries Indicative of Being Restrained
Bruises, welts, and scrapes from being restrained, grabbed, or having something used against them. Be sure to pay special attention to the wrists, ankles, and upper arms. There are areas where the resident can easily be grabbed or restrained.
Physical Evidence #3) Unexplained Damage to Possessions
Broken possessions from being struck or battered. The nose, cheekbones, and eye area may also be cut as a result.
Behavioral Changes #1) Withdrawing Socially
The elderly, especially those with cognitive decline, may isolate themselves from others out of fear when they are physically abused. This could indicate they fear physical abuse if you observe sudden changes in their behavior, such as withdrawing from social settings.
Behavioral Changes #2) Easily Startled or Frightened
If a resident has been assaulted physically, they may remain constantly on edge. This may cause them to appear jumpy or easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements.
Red Flags Linked to Emotional Abuse in Pinellas Nursing Homes
Emotional abuse differs from physical abuse in that it is subtle and prolonged rather than obvious and immediate. This abuse takes place gradually and can wear down a resident physically, mentally, and emotionally. Residents may not even realize it is happening. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect at first, but there are a number of signs and repetitive behaviors that indicate it.
Unexplained Changes in Behavior
Withdrawal from social activities is a common change in behavior caused by emotional abuse. As a result of anxiety and a loss of self-confidence, people who have been abused emotionally tend to avoid social settings.
Frightened When Left Alone
Some residents who have experienced emotional abuse may fear being left alone because they fear that they will hurt themselves or die. Similarly, if the resident is afraid of being alone with a caretaker, that may indicate a lack of trust in that person.
Displaying Repetitive Behaviors
Typical indicators of emotional abuse include repetitive movements, such as rocking back and forth, or murmuring to themselves.
Refusing to Take Medication
When a resident begins to refuse medicine, it may indicate an emotional or psychological reaction to abuse.
Old age is associated with many of these behaviors and signs. Nonetheless, if several of these signs are present with a consistent pattern, it could indicate emotional abuse and neglect.Be sure to actively look for any of the above signs mentioned or others that seem suspicious.There is such a high possibility of unnoticed neglect and abuse in nursing homes. Residents, family members, nursing home staff, and even members of the community need to understand the symptoms.
Actions You Can Take in Pinellas in Response to Nursing Home Abuse
It’s important to take action right away if you suspect your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse. There should be a strict investigative protocol in every Florida nursing home. Nursing home administration should be notified immediately of any incidents or signs of abuse. An investigation should be launched, and the administration may suspend the caregivers or nursing home staff until the issue is addressed.
Law enforcement may also need to be contacted. If you do this, you will ensure that any party who harmed or neglected your loved one is banned from taking care of others in the future. You should also contact a Pinellas nursing home abuse lawyer for a free case evaluation. Attorneys of this kind can help you pursue compensation for any injury and hold the responsible parties accountable.
What To Know Before Talking to a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Pinellas
Making a claim is the first step to holding the facility responsible. Taking such action will get your loved one justice and force the nursing home to hold management and staff accountable. In order to take legal action, it’s important to understand the varying factors involved in nursing home abuse cases.
Before Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
There are certain things you need to establish before suing a nursing home. Although you may see signs of abuse, you should ensure you have enough evidence to file a claim. If your loved one has been hurt, you can take pictures of the injuries and let them know that it’s okay to talk to you. In addition to documentation regarding how long your loved one was in the nursing home and when abuse might have begun, you need to ensure you have the evidence you need to pursue legal action.
During the Nursing Home Abuse Claim Process
Nursing home abuse lawsuits require you to establish direct negligence, for instance a caretaker refusing to help your loved one out of bed or financial exploitation. If your loved one has shown fear, change in behavior, or any of the other signs mentioned above, it is possible to show mental and emotional abuse.
If you have any documentation of this abuse, it may prove helpful during settlement negotiations. You should keep all records and bills related to your loved one’s abuse in the facility together in a safe place so your attorney has access to them.
After Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
If your loved one has been abused, you may be hesitant to consider another nursing home for them. Taking action helps you move forward. Bringing your loved one back to a nursing home may be emotionally traumatic for them, however, if it is a necessity, then you should take precautions to make sure they are safe. Discuss their options and make sure everyone is happy with the next step. This can make your loved one feel more comfortable.
Can You File a Claim in Pinellas Without Hiring a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?
You can file a formal claim for nursing home abuse through a Pinellas nursing home abuse attorney. If you hire a nursing home abuse lawyer, they will be able to collect the necessary documentation, such as police reports, nursing home medical records for your loved one, names and contact information of all parties involved. They can assist you in filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit on behalf of your loved one if they have been injured or abused. You will be guided through every step of the process and be provided with legal counsel and support along the way. A successful claim must show that:
- Your elderly loved one was owed a duty of care by the facility.
- By breaching that duty, the facility was negligent.
- As a result, your loved one was injured or killed.
- Damages resulted from the injury or death.
Your attorney may be able to convince the facility to accept a settlement without having to go to trial if these elements are proven. If not, the case can go to court.
Deadline for Filing Florida Nursing Home Lawsuits
The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. The Florida nursing home abuse lawsuit statute of limitations is two years, according to Florida Statutes 95.11. Hiring a nursing home abuse attorney can help make sure that plaintiffs file their case before the statute of limitations expires. Plaintiffs must file a Florida nursing home lawsuit within two years of discovering abuse or the date when they should have discovered it. In either case, no more than four years must elapse before a claim can be filed. The defendant may move to dismiss the case if the plaintiff files after the statute of limitations has passed.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Pinellas?
Contingency fees are charged differently by different practices. A law firm’s rates can be affected by its resources, experience, and track record. Costs can also vary according to the case. The practice may charge more if, for instance, the circumstances surrounding the abuse are particularly complicated or the claim will likely end up in court.
Choosing the lawyer with the lowest contingency fee may seem appealing to you, but it could turn out to cost you more in the long run. He or she may be unable to provide effective representation if the firm lacks access to qualified medical experts or doesn’t have much experience with nursing home abuse cases.
What’s the Average Settlement Amount for Nursing Home Abuse Cases in Florida?
Health Affairs reports that in 88 percent of cases involving nursing home abuse, the plaintiff received compensation, which is nearly three times the success rate of medical malpractice claims. According to this payout rate, if a victim (or a victim’s family) has an excellent case and can prove that the elderly nursing home resident was abused, they have a very good chance of winning. However, every claim of nursing home abuse must be properly evaluated based on the individual circumstances of the case. In both out-of-court and court-mediated settlements, an average of $406,000 was paid. Moreover, nearly 17% of abuse cases in nursing homes involve punitive damages. Punitive damages are often awarded when a defendant’s behavior is particularly egregious, reckless, or negligent. Even though we cannot determine the exact value of your nursing home abuse claim, there are certain compensatory damages that our team routinely seeks on behalf of our clients.
These damages include:
Costs to stay in a hospital room, emergency medical costs, ambulance rides, prescription medication costs, medical device costs, or ongoing care costs
We might also be able to seek compensation for the time away from your job to look after your loved one after the nursing home abuse occurred.
Pain and Suffering
Depression, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, or disfigurement.
We can help you seek compensation for any other losses your family suffered as a result of the abuse. Someone in the nursing home may have abused your loved one financially. We can help you recover missing valuables, missing money, or funds stolen from their bank account
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
Usually, nursing home lawsuits are settled or resolved in court on an average of 18 to 24 months. If you’re going to take on one of these cases, you should be prepared for a lengthy process that can be emotionally and financially draining. You can, however, expedite this process if you are adequately represented by an experienced nursing home abuse attorney in Pinellas.
Elder abuse in nursing homes may result in serious injuries or losses for your elderly loved one, and you have every right to seek justice as well as compensation. Herman & Wells offers a free consultation for people with nursing home abuse cases in Pinellas. Call (727) 821-3195 or use our online consultation form if you’d like to speak with one of our nursing home abuse lawyers.