A recent government report issued by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services showed that nursing home deaths among Medicare patients rose by 32 percent in 2020. Nationwide, more than 137,000 residents of long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19. New Jersey and New York were hit particularly hard and the subject of horrific news stories in the early days of the pandemic. With so many deaths, many loved ones seek answers about nursing home wrongful death lawsuits from COVID-19.
Legal Protections for Nursing Homes
Suing a nursing home for wrongful death from COVID-19 is complex, even more complex than a wrongful death lawsuit from other causes. In the spring of 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that gives broad immunity to healthcare facilities and workers treating patients with COVID-19, including long term care facilities. At the time, legislators believed that health care providers acting in good faith during a public health emergency should not be financially liable for deaths related to COVID-19 that may not be their fault. While this legislation may have had good intentions, many elder and legal advocates have criticized this law as a way for poor quality facilities to escape responsibility and justice for preventable deaths.
The law, however, does not prohibit all COVID-19 claims. It did include provisions for cases of gross negligence, reckless endangerment, fraud or willful misconduct, for instance. Recently, some families have filed lawsuits against facilities using these exceptions. But many issues that led to preventable deaths from COVID-19, like understaffing, are chronic and have been going on long before the pandemic began.
Examples of Nursing Home Neglect
Older residents of long-term care facilities may be frail or have disabilities that increase the risk of mistreatment. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse reports high levels of abuse in institutional settings. Examples of nursing home abuse or neglect may include:
- Broken bones
- Bruises and fall injuries
- Unexplained weight loss
- Infections, like sepsis
- Dental decay/infection
These signs of nursing home neglect and abuse that lead to a loved one’s preventable death can be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home. In order to prove a claim for nursing home neglect or wrongful death, you need to show that the facility was negligent in their duty of care.
Examples of Grounds for Negligence Claims Against Nursing Homes
Long term care facilities have a legal obligation to operate the hospital with safety protocolos and abiding by legislative mandates. Examples of grounds for negligence claims against nursing homes include:
Understaffing is an enormous problem in nursing homes. Lack of adequate staffing contributes to neglect and risk. Beginning in early 2021, New Jersey nursing homes must abide by stricter rules around staffing. Nursing homes in New Jersey must have one certified nursing assistant (CNA) per eight residents during day shifts, one direct caregiver for every 10 residents during the evenings, and one for every 14 during the overnights under new regulations signed into law last week.
Negligent Hiring and Training
Nursing homes have a responsibility to hire credentially health care professionals with the appropriate license, certification and degrees. A nursing home that fails to conduct background checks, thus putting their residents at risk, can be held liable for abuse. Further, the nursing home has an obligation to provide proper training and equipment to staff in order to care for the residents. The facility can be held legally accountable if an injury occurs as a result.
Third Party Liability
A nursing home must also protect residents from other parties who may pose a risk or threat, including other residents or visitors.
Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
If you believe your loved one is experiencing neglect or abuse in a care facility or has passed away due to the facility’s negligence, don’t wait to act . Our New Jersey nursing home abuse attorneys can explain your legal options, investigate your case, and help you file a claim. With a track record of success, Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, can help. Contact us today for a confidential, free legal consultation.