More Americans are reaching retirement age every day, and to meet this growing need, more nursing or assisted-living homes open and commence operations. This is probably no more prevalent than in the state of Florida. The care and safety of loved ones is everyone’s primary concern. Liability for violations of duties, including those created by minimum standards of care imposed by Florida statute, may arise for various types of personal injuries. Sadly, elder abuse is too common of an occurrence these days.
Nursing home residents, their children, their spouses, or their friends can sue a nursing home under legal theories of negligence, including negligent hiring and supervision. They may also sue for professional and medical malpractice in appropriate situations, as well as intentional wrongs like assault and battery . Wrongful death is the most common cause of action for personal injury liability in nursing home complaints. A somewhat recent development in litigating abuses of nursing home residents is for spouses, children and other loved ones to sue for their own emotional distress and loss of companionship. If the nursing home fails to provide the agreed-upon level of assistance and care, the resident may file a complaint with the state long-term care ombudsman or sue the nursing home for breach of contract.
Florida, like many states, has passed laws that establish minimum nursing home standards of care. In addition to traditional legal theories like negligence and malpractice, resident rights laws can be used to sue the home, staff, and administrators. Some states have attempted to pass laws to limit the amount of damages awarded under nursing home personal injury cases to counter what some consider a problem with rising insurance costs.
Federal law, specifically The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act states the rights of residents of nursing and assisted-living homes. According to this law, residents of nursing homes also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be free from abuse and neglect. It also guarantees that those residents that aren’t mentally incompetent have the right to privacy and confidentiality, to make decisions about their care, to move to a less-restrictive environment, and to be informed about all aspects of their care. In Florida, the Resident Bill of Rights was enacted in 1980 to protect elderly and mentally ill care facility residents who sought an alternative to traditional nursing homes.
A nursing home must be licensed by the state. If it receives money from Medicare, it must also meet federal standards. State and federal agencies inspect nursing and assisted-living homes to verify proper staffing levels and that a safe environment exists. If a resident complains about conditions, the state agency will investigate. If violations are found, a facility can be fined or even closed until violations have been corrected. Unfortunately, many homes that have incurred violations, some numerous, remain open and operational. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is responsible for monitoring the state’s 2,850 assisted care facilities and the past has proven that it is often unable to adequately oversee that all of these facilities comply completely with Florida law.
Each Florida assisted living or nursing home facility must be equipped with experienced staff and qualified professional health care providers. Nursing assistants and care providers must have a certain number of educational hours logged before they can legally work in a nursing home. Assisted-living facility abuse and neglect cases are often the result of unqualified or improperly trained staff.
Nursing home residents have the right to nutritious meals, daily exercise, social activities, access to emergency health care, access to medication, mental counseling, the right to peaceful living free of any form of abuse, and even compassion. Furthermore, Florida nursing home residents have the right to live in sanitary conditions, which are clearly defined by Florida law. Violation of any of these rules should be immediately reported by anyone witnessing or having knowledge of them.
Florida nursing home abuse can result in civil lawsuits as well as criminal charges. Any staff member that fails to report state-mandated violations is also at risk for both civil and criminal charges. Staff members that act in good faith when reporting the incident will not be penalized for reporting the issue. Nursing homes that are found to be in violation of state laws must remedy all violations, or else potentially face extensive civil charges and permanent closing of the assisted-living facility.
It is imperative to immediately report any violations. Florida Statute 492.296 dictates that nursing home negligence and abuse must be reported within two years of the incident or within two years from the time that the incident was discovered.
If one of your loved ones is a resident of a nursing or assisted-living home and has been injured, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight for the compensation you deserve. Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Bryan Caulfield offers free consultations to injured people and their families. He will evaluate your case, and let you know what your legal options are, whether that means a negotiated settlement or a lawsuit. Contact Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Bryan Caulfield today at (727) 796-8282.