COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on nursing homes nationwide. As of November 2020, it had claimed the lives of more than 100,000 residents and staff in long-term care facilities.
The illness, which has been particularly devastating to the senior population around the world, can easily spread in nursing home settings. At the start of the pandemic in early spring of 2020, nursing homes were especially vulnerable since doctors and nurses didn’t know much about the COVID-19 yet and how to treat it.
Now, with surges happening all across the U.S., seniors aren’t only dying of COVID-19; they are also losing their lives due to negligence since nursing homes are too overwhelmed to care for all the residents. There are stories out there about nursing home residents dying because of starvation or thirst or suffering because their bedsores are so serious or they’ve been kept in soiled diapers too long. Some are passing away from isolation, which may be listed as “failure to thrive” on death certificates.
If your loved one became injured or sick or died in a nursing home during the pandemic, you may be wondering if you can take legal action. Are you able to sue for damages?
By finding out the answers to your questions, you can determine if you want to sue, and then find a personal injury attorney in Georgia to help you with your case.
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for COVID-19 Negligence?
If your loved one contracted COVID-19 at a nursing home and got sick or died, or they were neglected as a result of COVID-19 spreading at their nursing home, then you may be able to sue the nursing home. What you have to be able to do is prove that negligence actually occurred.
There are four elements you’ll need to fulfill to prove that the nursing home was indeed negligent. They are:
- Duty: The defendant (the nursing home) had a duty to carry out to the plaintiff (your loved one)
- Breach: The defendant breached that legal duty they had to the plaintiff by acting, or failing to act, in a certain way
- Causation: The action or inaction the defendant took caused the plaintiff’s injury
- Damages: The plaintiff was injured, harmed, or died as a result of the defendant’s actions or inaction
Here are a few scenarios you may be contending with now.
In scenario one, you signed a contract with a nursing home to care for your sick mother. The nursing home let in patients they knew had COVID-19 even though they were aware it could easily spread to the other residents. As a result, your mother, whose room was right next to a patient who had COVID-19, contracted the illness and became very sick. You had to take her to the ICU and pay thousands of dollars to help her recover.
In another scenario, again, you signed that contract with the nursing home to take care of your mother. There was a COVID-19 outbreak in the nursing home because nurses weren’t wearing their masks properly. The nursing home was low on staff and didn’t hire additional help, and your mother was left in her room all alone for several hours a day. She wasn’t given enough to eat or drink and became very dehydrated and underweight. Now, you are taking her to rehabilitation to get back to normal.
As long as you have the evidence to prove that the nursing home caused your loved one to become injured or get sick or die, then you can sue for negligence.
Finding Evidence to Prove Negligence
There are two types of evidence in a negligence case. They are direct and circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence would include photographs of your loved one’s injuries, medical records showing they are injured or sick, witness statements from other residents, staff or family members or video footage from the nursing home.
Circumstantial evidence would be evidence that a fact-finder could utilize to draw inferences. For instance, if your mother was only in the nursing home for the past few weeks and had no visitors when she contracted the virus, you could infer that she got it in the nursing home. If other people sued the nursing home for negligence, that could factor in as well.
Elder Neglect vs. Elder Abuse
When it comes to COVID-19 in a nursing home, you would claim elder neglect instead of elder abuse. Elder neglect applies if:
- The nursing home failed to provide the basic necessities for your loved one like food, water and shelter
- They made your loved one live in unsuitable conditions, such as a soiled bed or a freezing cold room
- They did not administer medicine or treatment according to the doctor’s orders
- They did not communicate critical information to another person on behalf of your loved one, which resulted in physical harm to your loved one
Elder abuse happens when there is an act that results in the physical abuse of your loved one. It also occurs when there is mental or emotional abuse, such as scaring your loved one or making them think they are in a dangerous situation.
There is passive abuse and active abuse, too. Passive abuse applies when the nursing home’s accidental negligence results in your love one’s abuse, while active abuse applies when there is hostile tension between the nursing home caregiver and your loved one. The caregiver could be charged with a crime if they are indeed guilty of elder abuse.
Working With a Personal Injury Attorney
Unfortunately for families, some states are making it harder to sue nursing homes for neglect during COVID-19 by limiting the liability of health care providers. However, this liability may not protect nursing homes to the full extent.
Either way, it’s important to get in touch with a personal injury attorney to find out if you have a legitimate case and if you can sue your loved one’s nursing home. The good news is your personal injury attorney won’t charge you unless they win your case. Your winnings could include damages to pay for your loved one’s medical bills, emotional distress, pain and suffering and more.
The best chance you have of winning these damages is to work with a lawyer, who will negotiate with the defendant and do all the work for you. Then, you can focus on caring for your loved one during this difficult time.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Georgia
If you have a nursing home negligence case that you want to pursue, find out how a personal injury attorney can help you by contacting the Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Winston Briggs today.