What Is Considered Malpractice In A Nursing Home?


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When a loved one enters a nursing home, we trust the staff to provide appropriate care and protect them from harm. All too often, reality falls short of our expectations. If your loved one is the unfortunate victim of malpractice or neglect while in a nursing home, they deserve to be compensated for their injuries, along with the emotional and psychological toll that these situations can often cause.

What Is Malpractice?

In the most basic sense, malpractice is medical negligence. This can take the form of an inappropriate medication, procedure, or therapy, or a lack of medical treatment when it’s indicated. Malpractice claims are typically brought against hospitals and doctors, but they may also be brought against a nursing home when the underlying care (or lack thereof) is medical in nature, such as the prevention, treatment, and care of an infection or bedsore, or even the monitoring and regulation of blood sugar in an individual with diabetes.

What Rights Do Nursing Home Residents Have?

Nursing home residents in Pennsylvania have the following rights guaranteed by law:

  • To be informed of their medical diagnosis.
  • To see a physician if and when they choose.
  • To be able to choose their own doctor and pharmacy.
  • To be given privacy, dignity, and respect.
  • To refuse medical treatment if they so desire.
  • To have free and open access to a telephone to speak with family and friends.
  • To be free of malpractice, abuse, neglect, and negligence.

Violating any of these rights can be grounds for a lawsuit, but malpractice (hand-in-hand with abuse and neglect) can have one of the biggest impacts on someone’s long-term health and well being. It can also be one of the hardest to prove in some cases.

How Can I Prove That A Nursing Home Is Guilty of Malpractice?

Typical negligence cases only require proof that an injury occurred and that the facility where the injury occurred was at least partially at fault and could have prevented it. Medical malpractice is a little more difficult because we frequently don’t even realize that it’s occurred until much later, or until another physician gets involved and starts asking questions.

Proving malpractice in a nursing home can be challenging, as records are often not as detailed as those of a hospital or clinic would be, and doctors are frequently not on site every day. Investigating malpractice in a nursing home often involves inspecting the nursing home’s internal policies and procedures, interviewing staff and other patients, and comparing records kept by the nursing home itself, as well as those of the treating physician.

When a malpractice lawsuit is filed, Pennsylvania law also requires that an “affidavit of merit” be obtained and filed with the claim. Essentially, this document is a sworn statement by an outside medical professional who has reviewed the case and believes that the nursing home or its employee was negligent and gave care that was inappropriate or inferior to the generally accepted standard.

How Might A Nursing Home Commit Malpractice?

Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of nursing homes are for-profit businesses, meaning they are usually run by people with a business degree rather than healthcare providers. Sadly, high-profit margins come at the expense of patient care, which rarely meets the expectations that family members are promised before admission.

Because of this for-profit model, many nursing homes try to operate at the lowest cost possible. This means that they’re incentivized to hire staff with minimal qualifications, run their facilities with as few employees as possible, stock their facilities with insufficient and inferior medical supplies and equipment, and be inconsistent with their reporting and compliance rules and regulations. All of these factors come together to make malpractice and overall poor care all too prevalent in many facilities.

There are many ways that a nursing home might become guilty of malpractice, such as:

  • Failure to follow a doctor’s recommendations or instructions.
  • Failure to properly train staff on administering medications, checking blood sugar, and tend to wounds.
  • Failure to adhere to standard nursing home protocols and procedures regarding infection and bedsore prevention.
  • Failure to take proper precautions to avoid falls.

All of these issues can, and often do, lead to serious illness or injury, reduced capacity to heal and recover, and even death.

An important factor that can contribute to malpractice includes the fact that many elderly residents have dementia or some other memory or communication impairment and may not be able to remember or be able to communicate that medication was or was not given. They may have trouble alerting staff that they are in pain or showing other signs of illness, which could lead to serious harm if the nursing home staff is not appropriately trained on recognizing the relevant signs and symptoms in their patients.

I Suspect Nursing Home Malpractice. What Can I Do?

Suppose you think your loved one has suffered from malpractice that caused a severe illness or injury at a nursing home. In that case, you deserve compensation for medical expenses and any future costs that may arise. Seeking compensation can also deter the harm from recurring at the facility to other residents.

In Pennsylvania, victims of nursing home malpractice have only two years from when the injury was first discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered, to file a claim. If you are suspicious of an injury that may be due to malpractice, do not delay. Because Pennsylvania statutes require a specific procedural pre-suit process, and because there is typically a great deal of investigation that must be done to prove wrongdoing, you must hire an experienced lawyer to help pursue justice as soon as possible.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

If your loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury or death due to nursing home malpractice, let the attorneys at Ross Feller Casey be your legal advocate. We offer free consultations with an attorney, and we always work on a contingency basis, which means that you won’t pay a dime unless we win.

The experienced legal team at Ross Feller Casey has recovered more than $3 billion in personal injury and malpractice cases and has won more than 50 $10-million-plus verdicts and settlements for our clients.

We have extensive experience in nursing home personal injury and malpractice claims, especially those involving severe injuries or wrongful death, and can provide advice to help you understand your options. We have doctors as a part of our team, so we know the medical challenges you or your loved one have gone through and what you may face in the future.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.