Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Florida

At Russo Law, our nursing home abuse attorneys can evaluate whether your loved one has a lawsuit for elder abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility. When you place your loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you place a great amount of trust in those facilities to provide care for your loved one and take care of their essential needs. If those needs are unmet and violate one of the residents’ bill of rights, you may need to bring a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one not only to obtain compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, or punitive damages (as appropriate) but also to prevent future incidents from occurring.

In Florida, a nursing home, hospice, or an assisted living facility may be held legally responsible for an injury that results from a deviation from the applicable standard of care (just as in a medical malpractice case) or from the violation of a list of patient or resident rights as enumerated by Florida Statutes.

If you believe that a loved one has been mistreated at a nursing home, contact a Lakeland nursing home attorney for a free consultation.

Florida Nursing Home Patients’ Bill of Rights

For nursing homes, the residents’ bill of rights is located under section 400.022, Florida Statutes and includes:

  1. Right to civil and religious liberties
  2. Right to private and uncensored communications
  3. Right to have visitors
  4. Right to present grievances against the facility
  5. Right to organize and participate in resident groups
  6. Right to participate in social, religious, and community activities
  7. Right to examine the facility
  8. Right to manage own financial affairs or to delegate such responsibilities
  9. Right to be fully informed of the services available and the related charges for such services
  10. Right to be adequately informed of his or her medical condition and any proposed medical treatment
  11. Right to refuse medical or medical treatment
  12. Right to receive adequate and appropriate health care, social services, mental health services, and therapeutic or rehabilitative services
  13. Right to privacy in treatment and care of personal needs
  14. Right to be treated courteously, fairly, and with the fullest measure of dignity
  15. Right to be free from mental and physical abuse, punishment, involuntary exclusion, and physical or chemical restraints
  16. Right to be transferred or discharged
  17. Right to choose a personal physician and pharmacy
  18. Right to retain personal clothing and possessions
  19. Right to have copies of rules and regulations at the facility
  20. Right to receive notice before being moved to a new room
  21. Right to be informed of the bed reservation policy for hospitalization
  22. Right to challenge a decision to discharge or transfer by the facility under Medicare and Medicaid

Fall Down Injuries At Nursing Homes

One of the most common injuries occurring at nursing homes is when a resident falls down and gets hurt.  These injuries often result in bone fractures that carry a significant change to that resident’s quality of life.  When evaluating whether your loved one has a nursing home case a result of a fall down injury, consider the following questions:

  • Does the nursing home evaluate and assess new patients to determine their risk for falling?
  • Does the nursing home make accommodations to enable safer mobility for patients who are rated as having a high risk for falling?
  • Does the nursing home provide and maintain a premises for residents that is clean and safe?
  • Does the nursing home have a fall prevention program?
  • Does the nursing home continually educate and train its staff on the how a fall prevention program should be implemented?

Care at Florida Assisted Living Facilities (ALF)

The rights of a resident at an assisted living facility (ALF) are covered by a separate residents’ bill of rights contained in section 429.28, Florida Statutes. The rights granted by the statute for assisted living facilities is similar to that of nursing homes but is less extensive due to the lower level of care needed by the residents.

Take Legal Action If Necessary

The failure of a facility to comply with the residents’ rights as outlined by statute may result in legal liability for compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, medical providers servicing patients at nursing home facilities are also bound by the applicable standard of care for medical malpractice.

Common Failures at Florida Nursing Homes

A nursing home may be held legally responsible for:

  1. Negligently hiring staff who are not qualified or for failing to have an adequate number of staff present at the facility
  2. Failing to provide adequate training for staff to handle situations frequently encountered by disabled, disoriented, or disobedient residents,
  3. Failing to administer medications appropriately

Any Suspected Nursing Home Abuse Should Be Reported

You should report any suspected abuse including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse and should seek legal counsel to help determine the best course of action under the circumstances should any abuse occur to your loved one. The typical markers of abuse are unusual injuries, bedsores, emotional changes, avoidance of caretakers, unpaid bills or other financial irregularities, and changes in documents such as a will or durable power of attorney that are unexpected. Your loved one is counting on you to make sure they are taken care of and these facilities, while they fill a societal need, are businesses driven by profit.

While nursing homes are required to have a medical director, nursing homes may not provide medical treatment, particularly when specialty care is needed.  However, nursing homes are required to get medical treatment when it is necessary (which is different than medical malpractice).  For instance, if a resident suffers a stroke, then the nursing home staff should call an ambulance so that the resident can be taken to the emergency room for life-saving (or quality of life saving) medical care.  The failure to do so under is considered abuse and is a violation of the residents’ bill of rights.

Pre-Suit Requirements

Before you can file a lawsuit against a nursing home or hospice under Chapter 400, Fla. Stat., you are required to give the potentially responsible persons or entities notice of your claim.  This is done with a pre-suit notice letter pursuant to section 400.0233, Fla. Stat.

This process requires that your pre-suit notice letter be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested and that your letter identify a violation of section 400.022 or a deviation from the standard of care.  Your attorney must also certify that a “reasonable investigation” has been done resulting in a “good faith belief that grounds exist for an action against each prospective defendant.”

In addition, there is a 75 day waiting period after the pre-suit notice has been mailed and each side gets to perform limited pre-suit discovery.  The defendants are also required to offer a response that either makes a settlement offer or rejects the claim.  Your attorney should review the applicable code sections to determine that you have completed all of the pre-requisites to filing a nursing home lawsuit.

Florida Nursing Home Statute of Limitation

The statute of limitation for nursing home cases, pursuant to section 400.0236, Fla. Stat., is generally 2 years from the date of the incident of neglect is discovered or should have been discovered.  However, in no event, can you file a lawsuit after more than 4 years after the date of an incident of nursing home neglect (except when fraud is involved, in which the statute of limitation may be up to 6 years).

Availability And Limits Of Punitive Damages In Florida Nursing Home Cases

Punitive damages have the ability to put a nursing home out of business.  That is why they can be a very powerful remedy for a plaintiff.  Section 400.0237, Fla. Stat. describe the circumstances in which you can bring a claim for punitive damages in your Florida nursing home abuse case.

Generally speaking, your claim for punitive damages be able to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that there was “intentional misconduct” or “gross negligence” as defined by the law.  Further, in order to obtain punitive damages against the employer of the individual, then you must be able to prove that the employer “condoned, ratified, or consented” to the bad conduct.  Oftentimes, your case will need to be in litigation before this issue can be determined.

If your case involves punitive damages, section 400.0238, Fla. Stat., places the following limits listed below on recovering.  As such, an award for punitive damages may not be greater than:

  • three times the amount of compensatory damages; OR
  • $1 million.

If it can be proved that the wrongful conduct in your case was motivated primarily by unreasonable financial gain, the punitive award may not exceed the greater of:

  • four times the compensatory damages; OR
  • $4 million.

Finally, if it can be proved that the wrongful conduct in your case was intentional, then there is no cap on punitive damages.  You may also have legal remedies under Chapter 415, Fla. Stat..

Talk to a Knowledgeable Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Today

If you suspect that your loved one has been neglected in a Florida nursing home or assisted living facility, please contact us today for a free review of the situation and our legal opinion of what your next course of action should be.

Read More On Our Blog

For recent legal topics, please see our personal injury blog or read our answers to frequently asked questions.  We help the families of nursing home residents in Polk County, including Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow, and Haines City, Florida obtain justice for nursing home neglect or abuse of the elderly.

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October 27, 2016