Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

In the United Stated alone there are approximately one half million reports of elder abuse a year and half of those occur in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. A Department of Health and Human Services survey recently found that over 91% of surveyed nursing homes were cited for deficiencies in violation of the federal health and safety standards. Approximately 20% of the complaints substantiated involved resident abuse or neglect. Pennsylvania has almost 2 million citizens age 65 and older and approximately 710 nursing homes in the state. The statistics regarding elder abuse are grim and cannot be ignored.

 

 

The Philadelphia nursing home lawyer at Rosenbaum & Associates wants to keep our elder community as safe as possible. If your loved one is injured while in the care of a nursing home you may be entitled to compensation for their injuries, pain and suffering. At Rosenbaum and Associates we take pride in assisting families whose parents and grandparents have suffered due to neglect and abuse. Simply because someone is elderly or not physically strong does not mean they deserve lesser treatment or respect. Over the last 25 years we have fought hard to protect the rights of the elder and ensure their dignity is preserved.

SIGNS OF NEGLECT

Corporate Negligence

A Philadelphia nursing home can be found directly liable for injuries under a corporate negligence theory. The claim is based on the systemic or institutional negligence of the nursing home, rather than individual employees. The injured resident would need to produce evidence that the nursing home had actual or constructive knowledge of the issue that led to the harm. Constructive notice can be shown if there is a pattern of behavior over an extended period of time such that the corporation should have known of the dangerous condition. A nursing home owes a duty to its residents to: use reasonable care to ensure its facilities and equipment are adequate; select and retain competent staff; oversee the care its employees give; and, enforce rules and policies to ensure adequate care. Unfortunately, homes that are understaffed or improperly managed can cause significant harm to residents.

 

Employee Liability

A nursing home in Philadelphia may also be found vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employees so long as the negligent acts occur within the scope of employment. Vicarious liability means that the negligence of the employee can be imputed to the nursing home.

Under a theory of general negligence, which is breach of a duty of care, the facility is under a duty to protect the residents against unreasonable risk of physical harm and to give first aid after they know or have reason to know that the resident is ill or injured. The nursing home is also subject to liability for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care if the failure increases the risk of harm and the harm is suffered because of the resident’s reliance on the nursing home to care for him. The nursing home’s duty is informed by their knowledge of the patient’s known physical and mental condition. Because many residents are elderly and ill and require specialized care, the facility’s duty to the resident can be significant.

The resident must then show that the nursing home failed to meet that duty of care and that the failure led to the injury. Evidence of a known risk as well as medical evidence is essential to showing a breach of the duty of care. This is sometimes difficult to prove because the nursing home will often claim that the injury was not a result of negligence but what would be expected due to age and pre-existing medical conditions. This is why evidence and expert testimony is crucial. Expert testimony is usually necessary to establish the standard of care, and assist in determining if the facility deviated from that standard.

Right To Dignity and Respect

Both Pennsylvania and Federal regulations provide requirements for care in a nursing home. This includes the right to be treated with dignity and respect. A nursing home can be found negligent per se if they fail to comply with an applicable statute. The Department of Health is responsible for the regulation of all hospitals and skilled nursing home facilities. 35 P.S. § 448.101 et seq. The Department of Welfare is responsible for the regulation of assisted living and personal care homes. 62 P.S. § 1001; 55 Pa. Code § 2600.4. Approximately 96% of nursing homes in the United States receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid. Any facility that accepts these funds must comply with the federal regulations “Requirements for Nursing Facilities.” 42 USC 1396r.

Further, if you or your loved one entered into a contract with the nursing home, it is likely that the contract provides that the facility will perform many duties and provide a sufficient level of care. If the facility fails to properly care for the resident, in addition to negligence, they may be liable for breach of contract. The injury must be a direct result of the breach of contract. You will not be able to recover if the breach of the contract did not directly lead to the inadequate care.

Damages can be a little different in nursing home cases as apposed to a general personal injury claims, where economic losses often play a bigger part. In the case of an elderly individual they generally do not have an income and their life expectancy is not very long. However, showing that negligence led to injury and loss of dignity during the very important final years of an elderly person’s life can lead to substantial damages. In addition to receiving compensation for the injuries sustained, punitive damages may be recovered for willful or wanton conduct or reckless indifference to the rights of the resident. Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and deter them, as well as others, that may engage in similar behavior in the future. Negligence claims against a nursing home survive the death of the resident. Family members may bring a survival or wrongful death suit.

A Philadelphia Nursing Home Lawyer Who Can Help

If you have questions regarding the treatment and care of a nursing home resident contact an experienced Philadelphia nursing home lawyer at 1-800-7-legal-7 or contact us online for a Free Case Evaluation.

State of Pennsylvania Elder Population

Pennsylvania has the fourth largest population of older citizens, making up roughly 21.4 percent of Pennsylvania’s total population. Represented in this group are 2.7 million individuals over the age of 60, with another 2.4 percent over the age of 85. The steady growth of the older population coupled with the recession have resulted in a surge of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation of Pennsylvania’s older population.

According to the SeniorLAW Center, older Americans who fall victim to elder abuse, neglect, sexual assault, or financial exploitation have a heightened risk of dying prematurely, three times that of an older American who has not suffered elder abuse. Isolation plays a huge part in an elder’s likelihood of being preyed upon by another’s self-serving agenda. When a caregiver or a loved one isolates an older American, they strip the person of their own safety net such as a religious institution, membership clubs, gardening circles, etc. By being part of these groups and an active member of society, other people take notice of each other’s condition, both physical and mental, and are able to voice concern and offer a hand if they see a member struggling. However, when one is isolated, broken bones, bruises, rope burns, dramatic weight loss, and confusion due to malnutrition becomes easy to hide from prying eyes. Elder abuse can occur anywhere from a residential nursing home, long-term care facility, and in home care.

Elder Abuse

It is impossible to know for certain just how many elder adults suffer from abuse or neglect every year in the United States as the problem is grossly unreported. Even professionals can miss the signs of this type of trauma as many elders are reluctant to report mistreatment due to reluctance, fear of retaliation, or physical or mental inability to report what is happening to those around them.

A study by the National Research Council (2003) on elder mistreatment estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities. Another study by Cornell University (2011) reported that for every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown. This same study on elder abuse prevalence found that major financial exploitation was self-reported at a rate of only 41 per 1,000, yet that number was higher than self-reported rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (1998) found that family members were the abusers the vast majority (90%) of the time, while another study (Schiamberg & Gans, 1999) found that family caretakers who abused drugs or alcohol, or who had mental or emotional disorders of their own and felt burdened by their caregiver responsibilities abused at even higher rates.

State of Pennsylvania Elder Abuse Attorney

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries that resulted from elder abuse or neglect, the Philadelphia based law firm Rosenbaum and Associates may be able to help you recover just compensation. In order to determine whether you have grounds for a case, please contact us online or call our office at 1 800 7 LEGAL 7 for a Free Case Evaluation.

Liability of Nursing Homes and Their Employees

In the state of Philadelphia, a nursing home can be found directly liable for injuries under a corporate negligence theory. Such a claim would be based on systemic or institutional negligence rather than negligence from individual employees. While the injured resident would need to produce evidence that the nursing home had actual or constructive knowledge of the issue that led to the harm, constructive notice can be shown if there is a pattern of behavior over an extended period of time such that the corporation should have known of the dangerous condition.

A nursing home owes a duty to its residents to:

  • use reasonable care to ensure its facilities and equipment are adequate
  • select and retain competent staff
  • oversee the care its employees give
  • enforce rules and policies to ensure adequate care

A nursing home in Philadelphia may also be found vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employees so long as the negligent acts occur within the scope of employment. Vicarious liability means that the negligence of the employee can be imputed to the nursing home.

In other words, the facility is under a duty to protect the residents against unreasonable risk of physical harm and to give first aid after they know or have reason to know that the resident is ill or injured. The nursing home is also subject to liability for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care if the failure increases the risk of harm and the harm is suffered because of the resident’s reliance on the nursing home to care for him or her. The nursing home’s duty is informed by their knowledge of the patient’s known physical and mental condition. Because many residents are elderly and ill and require specialized care, the facility’s duty to the resident can be significant.

Most Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse

According to a Research Brief on Long Term Care Facilities, research shows that some of the most common types of nursing home abuse includes:

 

Results were similar in board and care facilities, though financial exploitation was somewhat higher in these institutions.

Residents also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Nursing homes can be found negligent per se if they fail to comply with any applicable statutes. For example, the Department of Health is responsible for the regulation of all hospitals and skilled nursing home facilities. 35 P.S. § 448.101 et seq. The Department of Welfare is responsible for the regulation of assisted living and personal care homes. 62 P.S. § 1001; 55 Pa. Code § 2600.4. Approximately 96% of nursing homes in the United States receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid. Any facility that accepts these funds must comply with the federal regulations (Requirements for Nursing Facilities. 42 USC 1396r).

Further, if you or a loved one entered into a contract with the nursing home, it is likely the contract provides that the facility will perform certain duties and provide a sufficient level of care. If the facility fails to properly care for the resident, in addition to negligence, they may be liable for breach of contract. Not only must the injury must be a direct result of the breach of contract, but you will not be able to recover for damages if the breach of the contract did not directly lead to the inadequate care.

Pennsylvania and Texas are the two most recent states to have launched elder law task forces. The following statistics on Pennsylvania’s elder population are highlighted in its Elder Task Force Report:

  • Pennsylvania has nearly 2.7 million people (21.4 %) age 60 and older and more than 300,000 people (2.4 %) 85 and older.
  • By 2020, approximately 3.3 million Pennsylvanians are expected to be over 60.
  • Pennsylvania is the nation’s fourth oldest state in percentage of population 65 and over.
  • Research suggests that one out of every 10 people 60 years and older who lives at home suffers abuse, neglect or exploitation.
  • It is estimated that only one of every 24 cases of elder abuse is reported to authorities.
  • A 2000 study indicated that 44 percent of 2,000 nursing home residents reported having been abused and 95 percent reported that they or another resident had been neglected.
  • Elder abuse is estimated to affect about 5 million Americans each year.
  • The direct medical costs associated with violent injuries to elders are estimated to add more than $5.3 billion to the nation’s annual health expenditure.

State of Pennsylvania Elder Abuse Hotline

The Department of Aging’s elder abuse hotline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is 1(800) 490-8505 FREE. Much like personal injury cases you want to ensure your safety first and foremost. If afterwards you would like to speak to an advocate for victims of injuries that result from elder abuse and neglect, please feel free to contact our Pennsylvania and New Jersey Offices at your earliest convenience.

If you or a loved one was sustained injuries that resulted from elder abuse or neglect the Philadelphia based law firm may be able to help you recover just compensation. In order to determine whether you have grounds for a case, please contact us online or call 1 (800) 7 LEGAL 7 for a Free Case Evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse refers to any type of physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment to another. It includes assault, battery, and/or any inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is the non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elder person’s funds, property, or resources.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control over the other partner.

What is elder neglect?

  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities. It is the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.

Self-neglect is failure to provide for one’s own essential needs. Elders who neglect their own care may do so for a variety of reasons, but this is a serious problem that can lead to illness or injury. Self-neglect can include behaviors such as:

  • Hoarding
  • Failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness
  • Leaving a burning stove unattended
  • Poor hygiene
  • Not wearing suitable clothing for the weather

Elders who neglect their own care may display signs of:

  • Confusion
  • Inability to attend to housekeeping
  • Dehydration
  • Severe weight loss

Self-neglect accounts for the majority of cases reported to adult protective services. The problem is typically related to the self-neglecting elder’s declining health, isolation, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or drug and alcohol dependency.

In some of these cases, elders will be connected to support systems within their communities that can allow them to continue living on their own. Moreover, some conditions, such as depression and malnutrition, may be successfully treated through medical intervention. If the problems are severe enough, a guardian may be appointed.

Are there any warning signs that may help me identify that elder abuse or neglect may be happening to someone I know?

While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.

Most important is to be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

Who are the abusers of elder persons?

Sadly, family members are very often themselves the abusers. In other words, the very people entrusted with the care and protection of the elderly person be those of his or her own household. At other times, it may be those who are paid to help care for those loved ones. These may be untrained, unskilled, over-worked, or underpaid caregivers – all a family can afford.

When it comes to nursing homes: remember, one of the main objectives or goals of most nursing homes and long-term care facilities is to generate profits for the company or corporation. One obvious way to increase profits is to reduce the staff, including caregivers. Others try replacing skilled nurses with less expensive unskilled or untrained staff. While this is most unfortunate, it is reality. Because there are some nursing homes and some caregivers who simply are neglectful, it is important to keep a vigilant eye.

For those who cannot afford quality nursing home care, it is far too easy to become overwhelmed with the constant care an elder person may require. This, unfortunately, can lead to abuse and neglect on the caretaker’s part. The unfortunate reality is that our elderly loved ones, given their age and/or physical conditions, simply do not possess the health and strength to withstand such neglect and abuse. Thus, the consequences of neglect, even when there is no ill intent by a nursing home or family member, can result in severe consequences.

Are those who abuse elder adults subject to criminal or civil charges?

Criminal Penalties – Although state laws vary across the United States, in most states there are several laws that address criminal penalties for various types of elder abuse. Some states have increased penalties for those who victimize older adults. Increasingly, across the country, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trained on elder abuse and ways to use criminal and civil laws to bring abusers to justice. This is excellent news for elder rights activists. Abuses to the most vulnerable persons in our society, namely children and the elderly, must be reported and the perpetrators prosecuted.

Civil Restitution – If your loved one has been the victim of elder abuse or neglect and has sustained serious injuries, they may be entitled to monetary compensation and restitution for all losses, including payment of their medical bills, future treatment and care, pain and suffering, etc. So remember, if a nursing home neglects a resident, and such neglect causes a serious injury, then the nursing home or long term care facility may be liable for elder abuse.

How and to whom should I report elder abuse or neglect?

First, if you think the danger is immediate, call 911. Otherwise, relay your concerns to the local Adult Protective Services, Department of Health, a Long- Term Care Ombudsman, or the police. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Aging’s elder abuse hotline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is (800) 490-8505.

Finally, if you have been the victim of abuse, exploitation, or neglect, know that you are not alone. Many people care about what is happening to you and can help. Please tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member you trust, or call the Eldercare Locator help line at 1 (800) 677-1116, M-F from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST. Trained operators should be able to refer you to a local agency that can help you.

Remember that it is everyone’s responsibility to keep our vulnerable elders safe. If you suspect someone is being abused, neglected, or taken advantage of in any way, call for help.