When a loved one dies unexpectedly while in the care of a nursing home or other similar facility, the family often wonders if the death was the result of abuse or neglect. Since family members can’t supervise their loved one’s care 24 hours a day, they may be unsure if they are able to file a lawsuit.
If you suspect that a loved one was injured or abused as the result of poor care in a nursing facility, it is important to understand whether the injuries were caused by simple negligence, or by something far more sinister. When injuries or deaths are caused by abuse, families often have several more remedies to use in seeking justice for their loved one.
Medical Negligence vs. Elder Abuse
Nursing homes have an obligation to treat patients according to the applicable standard of care for others in the profession. This means that health care providers have a duty to treat their patients with the degree of skill, knowledge, and care that other doctors in similar circumstances would use.
When a health care provider’s treatment of a patient falls below this standard, and an injury occurs, that provider could be liable for a medical negligence or malpractice lawsuit. Negligence in nursing homes often occurs when the staff is overworked, undertrained, or generally incompetent. While negligence can be deadly, it is rarely intentional or done with malice.
In contrast, elder abuse cases cross the line from negligence into intentional criminal activity. When injuries are inflicted as a form of punishment or out of spite, the injured person is the victim of abuse. This type of abuse can have both criminal and civil consequences, depending on the severity of the abuse.
It can often be difficult to determine if a patient was injured because of neglect or negligence, or if the injuries occurred because of malicious behavior on the part of the health care professional. For example, when a person develops bedsores, this may be because the facility is understaffed and cannot properly care for all of its patients. Or, it may be because the health care professionals do not like a person, and let him or her go too long without being moved on purpose.
Why It Matters
The distinction between medical malpractice and elder abuse matters because the two cases have different types of remedies. In a medical malpractice case, damages for pain and suffering are capped at $250,000. There is no such cap in an elder abuse case, and the family of the victim may be able to receive much more in damages from the nursing home.
In addition, while punitive damages (meant to punish wrongdoing or negligence) are very rare in medical malpractice cases, they are much more common in cases of elder abuse because of the often heinous nature of the crime.
Finally, people who commit elder abuse or nursing home abuse can also face criminal consequences. These charges can range from misdemeanor reporting violations to charges for murder, depending on the circumstances of the crime.
When a person is abused in a nursing home, he or she deserves as much justice as the law provides. In cases of suspected elder abuse, the additional remedies provided by that statute allows both victims and their families to hold the responsible party liable for their actions.
At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., we work to help victims of medical malpractice and elder abuse, and will thoroughly investigate your loved one’s case. Our experienced staff of legal and medical professionals help you recover your losses, including medical expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.
For a free consultation with a Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyer, call (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed today.