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Nursing Home Facilities & Wrongful Deaths

Posted on July 13, 2022

When negligence on behalf of a nursing home facility is responsible for or contributes to a resident’s death, surviving family members have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful deaths are preventable and mean a resident would be alive but for the improper medical care, abuse, or neglect committed by the staff.

What Are Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths in Nursing Homes?

Incidents that are common causes of wrongful deaths in nursing homes include: 

  • Intentional abuse, neglect, or exploitation by staff members.
  • Failure to provide daily necessities, such as food, water, personal hygiene, and clean living conditions.
  • Medical neglect, such as failing to administer medication or preventing regular doctor visits. 
  • Failure to prevent or treat bedsores.  
  • Forcing unreasonable or dangerous physical restraints.
  • Negligent training of staff. 
  • Negligent hiring of staff members, such as failing to perform background checks.
  • Failure to properly monitor staff.
  • Negligent security.
  • Failure to provide appropriate supervision of residents and assistive devices to prevent accidents.

In these examples, the nursing home administration and/or staff clearly exhibited negligence by breaching their duty of care. As a result, the resident’s death was preventable and the nursing home can be held responsible. In some cases, there may also be third parties who contributed to a loved one’s death, which can also be sued in addition to the nursing home. For example, if a visitor to the nursing home assaulted a resident, and the nursing home was also liable for their lack of security. 

Are Nursing Homes Responsible For Preventative Infections That Led to Death?

Nursing homes are required by law to establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program. For example, practices critical to preventing the spread of infectious diseases include proper hand hygiene and isolating sick residents. When a nursing home is not in compliance with federal standards and causes a preventable infection that leads to a resident’s death, the facility can be held responsible. Any deviation from a nursing home’s strict “duty of care” can subject the facility to civil and criminal liability. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim Against a Nursing Home?

Pennsylvania limits the persons who may file a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home to:

  • The person named as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, if the deceased had a will; or,
  • A family member or friend can volunteer with the court’s approval, or the court will appoint someone if the deceased did not have a will.  

The estate is responsible for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, but any compensation recovered in a settlement or award will be distributed according to the deceased’s will or the state’s intestate succession law. Under Pennsylvania law, if the representative of the deceased’s estate fails to file a claim within six months of the victim’s death, any family member or chosen representative can pursue a wrongful death case.

It is important to note that most wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of a loved one’s death under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. A Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney can help ensure that the timelines are met, if the lawsuit is not filed within that time, the family will likely lose their right to obtain compensation.