Nursing homes should be a place where our loved ones can receive the care and medical treatment; they deserve in their twilight years. However, some nursing homes are happy to accept payment from their elderly residents and their family only to turn around and neglect or abuse the residents. As many residents of nursing homes are infirm or suffer from serious illnesses, being neglected by nursing home staff could cause them to pass away. If your family member died while in the care of a nursing home, you should consult with an experienced Philadelphia nursing home wrongful death lawyer.
The Reiff Law Firm will help you pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home that failed to properly care for your loved one. Dealing with the unexpected death of a family member can be a traumatizing experience, and our firm is here for you and your family. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your claim, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online.
Common Causes of Nursing Home Deaths
As frightening as it is to imagine, some nursing home employees will fail to provide their residents with the adequate care they need. Many of these employees are able to conceal this behavior because the victims of their actions cannot defend themselves or may have trouble communicating that an employee is mistreating them.
Eventually, grossly negligent employee behavior can cause an injury to a nursing home resident that they cannot recover from. The following is a list of common causes of nursing home deaths.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can encompass a wide range of malicious actions by nursing home employees. For example, an employee may physically abuse a resident because they believe a resident is not acting appropriately or simply for their own enjoyment. To hide their abuse of a resident, an employee may strike them in areas that are hard to notice or may try to explain away an injury as the result of a fall or some other reason.
Some employees may even try to psychologically or sexually abuse a nursing home resident. All these actions can contribute to the death of a resident who was already seriously ill.
It is common for residents of a nursing home to suffer from chronic illnesses that require the use of one or multiple prescription drugs. These drugs typically have to be taken on a strict timeframe to ensure that a resident’s condition does not worsen.
Unfortunately, some nursing home employees may neglect to keep residents on their medication schedules. For example, if a resident is on medication to treat blood clots, they can develop more blood clots if they do not receive their medication on time. If left untreated for a long period of time, blood clots can cause serious complications that result in death.
It is also possible that employees of a nursing home are using a resident’s medication for their own purposes. For example, they could be selling the medication or simply using it themselves.
The residents of nursing homes are typically completely reliant on their caretakers to provide them with meals. However, some residents may be denied from receiving a sufficient number of meals. Whether nursing home employees purposely or accidentally failed to provide a resident with food, they can be held liable for a resident’s malnutrition.
If it appears that your loved one was severely underweight when they passed away, this may indicate that they were starved or did not receive adequate meals.
There are many other reasons that can explain why your loved one died in the care of a nursing home. To learn more about filing a lawsuit for wrongful death, you should continue reading and speak with an experienced Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If your family member died due to the actions of a nursing home, you should consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit. One of the requirements for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is that the plaintiffs are close family members of the decedent. In Pennsylvania, a close family member is usually limited to spouses, parents, and children of the decedent.
To prove a wrongful death claim, you must show that negligence or misconduct by the nursing home was the cause of your family member’s death. You should also be aware that there is a filing deadline for wrongful death lawsuits in Pennsylvania. Specifically, you must file your case within two years of the date that your loved one passed away. This law is referred to as the statute of limitations.
If your case is not filed within two years, you may lose the opportunity to pursue a claim against the nursing home. However, there may be a way to delay the filing deadline depending on the details of your case.
Proving a Philadelphia Nursing Home Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death action is very similar to a personal injury lawsuit, except in this case, the plaintiff is filing for the damages they suffered because of the death of a loved one. The plaintiff still must establish the four elements of legal negligence.
The Nursing Home Owed a Duty of Care to the Deceased
The first part of any negligence claim is demonstrating that a duty of care existed between the plaintiff and the defendant. If your loved one is a victim of wrongful death, you will have to prove that the nursing home owed the deceased a duty of care. The staff and administration of a nursing home owe their residents an obligation to provide reasonable care that does not place them in harm. In nearly every case arising from wrongful death in a nursing home, establishing a duty of care is not difficult.
The Nursing Home Violated the Duty of Care
Proving that the nursing home violated its duty is usually the crux of a wrongful death lawsuit. The care provided should adhere to a medical standard that a facility would reasonably provide. Additionally, the individual care given by staff and medical personnel should also comply with what a reasonable and similar trained professional would provide under the same circumstances. When the staff, medical personnel, or administrators fail to adhere to this standard and wrongful death occurs, they could be held accountable.
The Nursing Home’s Violation Caused the Death
Unfortunately, people die in nursing homes. Sometimes those deaths have nothing to do with the conduct of the staff of administration. This is even the case when their conduct violates the duty of care. To win a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must connect the death with the behavior or decisions of the nursing home staff or administrators.
Finally, a plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages because of the wrongful death. Damages include financial losses, such as any additional medical costs of funeral and burial expenses. Plaintiffs in Philadelphia are also entitled to seek compensation for their emotional grief and suffering.
Wrongful Death and Survival Claims in Philadelphia
In Pennsylvania, there are two types of claims that can be filed if your loved was a wrongful death victim. Eligible heirs are entitled to file a lawsuit seeking wrongful death and survival damages. Under Pennsylvania law, the children or spouse of someone who died due to negligence while in a nursing home can recover damages for medical bills, funeral expenses, administrative costs related to the death, and for the loss of companionship.
Awards in a wrongful death lawsuit are distributed according to Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws. Therefore, even if there is a will in place, proceeds will be split following the same guidelines that would apply if the deceased died without a will.
Just because the distribution of a potential award is through the intestacy statute does not mean that the proceeds must go through probate. Any compensation recovered in a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit is paid directly to the surviving children or spouse. Additionally, any proceeds received by the victim’s heirs are not considered income, so they are not taxable.
Survival damages are different than wrongful death damages. Through a survival action, an eligible heir is entitled to recover damages that their deceased loved one would have received if they had survived. While a survival claim could include lost wages, usually in a nursing home wrongful death claim damages are limited to pain and suffering and medical care.
Unlike wrongful death damages, any award through a survival action is administered through the probate process. Therefore, any recovery will be distributed according to a valid will or through Pennsylvania instate laws if the deceased did not have a will.
Also, any compensation received through a survival action is taxed. The representative for the deceased’s estate is required to pay the inheritance and estate taxes. Creditors are also entitled to these proceeds if there are valid claims against the estate. Once taxes and any outstanding creditors are paid, the representative will distribute the remaining proceeds to the heirs according to the will or intestacy laws.
Evidence Needed to Prove a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Claim in Philadelphia
Wrongful death claims are often complicated. As with any personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove negligence on the part of the defendant. Fortunately, many forms of evidence could be used to establish the elements of a nursing home wrongful death claim. If you believe your loved one was the victim of wrongful death due to the conduct of nursing home staff or the facility administration’s negligence, there are a number of types of evidence you should retain.
The medical records of the deceased could show a decline in health that could be attributed to abuse or neglect. You should collect all articles of clothing and effects from your loved one’s room. If you have any correspondence with the nursing home staff, administrators, or doctors, you should forward them to our office.
If you suspect any abuse, you should take photographs of your loved one, especially if they show any wounds or injuries. Often, wrongful death results from a pattern of abuse and neglect, not one single incident. Keeping a detailed timeline of what you believe your loved one endured might provide crucial information that could be useful in building a wrongful death claim.
Witness testimony is also valuable. It is possible that another resident, employee, or ex-employee was aware of what was transpiring. By thoroughly interviewing all potential witnesses, our Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer will work to construct a negligence case.
Any wrongful death lawsuit is complicated. Obtaining evidence in a nursing home wrongful death case is often challenging. When the witness is a resident, their memory or recollections could be cloudy or unreliable. Often, employees will not offer information that could harm their employer. Additionally, obtaining and preserving physical evidence is difficult. It is important not to hesitate in retaining the representation of an experienced Philadelphia wrongful death attorney who has the staff and resources to build a compelling case.
Our Philadelphia Wrongful Death Attorneys are Here for You and Your Family
If your family member passed away due to the actions of a negligent nursing home, you should contact an experienced Philadelphia wrongful death attorney today. The legal team at The Reiff Law Firm has a wealth of experience litigating wrongful death lawsuits, and we would be proud to use this knowledge to represent you. To schedule a free legal consultation, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.