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How to Prove Nursing Home Neglect

Empty wheelchair on the middle of a hallway

Do you suspect that mistreatment caused your loved one to suffer injuries in a long-term care facility? Knowing how to prove nursing home neglect in Illinois can help you prepare for a personal injury or wrongful death case. You will need to watch for unexplained injuries and behavior changes, take photographs and speak with witnesses in the facility. Report neglect to authorities, file a complaint with local agencies and contact a nursing home neglect attorney in Chicago for help filing an injury claim.

What You Need to Prove Nursing Home Neglect in Illinois

For a nursing home neglect case to be viable, four elements must exist. These are:

Duty of Care

Your nursing home neglect lawyer will establish that the nursing home facility, medical professional, or both, owed your loved one a duty of care. This is usually the easiest element to establish in a nursing home neglect case. In Illinois, nursing homes owe a duty to residents to keep them safe from harm, among other things.

Breach of Duty

Your attorney will show that the nursing home or medical professional breached the duty of care that was owed to your loved one. He or she might show, for example, that your loved one was immobile and left alone for extended periods of time, that no assistance was provided so your loved one could eat or drink, or that your loved one was a fall risk who was not adequately monitored or assisted. 

Causation

Your attorney will need to prove that the actions or inaction of the nursing home or medical professional caused your loved one’s injuries. It is not enough to simply show that your loved one suffered injuries. For the case to be viable, it must be demonstrated that the injuries would likely not have happened if it weren’t for the negligence of the defendant.

Damages

Your lawyer will demonstrate that your loved one suffered serious injuries or death because of the defendant’s act or failure to act. Without damages, your loved one does not have a case. If, for instance, your immobile loved one was left to sit in a chair for hours, but no serious injuries occurred, there are no damages to claim. If, in the same situation, your loved one developed bedsores and later sepsis, you can sue the defendant for damages. 

How to Prove Nursing Home Neglect

If you suspect or see signs of maltreatment, following these tips on how to prove nursing home neglect can help you protect your loved one.

Visit on a Regular Basis

Schedule regular visits to check up on loved ones who live in nursing homes. During your visits, talk to your loved one about his/her daily routines, meals, hygiene, activities, and interactions with other nursing home residents. Ask about staff members and caregivers. Be sure to ask about the person’s overall health and listen to any complaints they share.

Watch for Unexplained Injuries

Knowing the signs of neglect and abuse is critical to protecting your loved one. Watch for signs of physical and emotional injuries. If you see unexplained cuts and bruises, sprains, broken bones, use of restraints, extreme weight loss, thirst, or fatigue, you may be witnessing signs of physical neglect or abuse. If you notice behavioral or mood changes such as withdrawal, lack of interest or emotion, anxiety, or depression, these may be signs of emotional neglect or abuse.

Talk to the Nursing Home

If you suspect physical and/or emotional neglect or abuse, schedule a meeting with the nursing home administrator immediately to voice your concerns. The administrator will likely check in on your loved one and talk to staff members and personal caregivers who have regular contact. The administrator should follow up on your concerns of neglect and abuse right away and get back to you within a reasonable time period.

Review Nursing Home Medical Records

Nursing home residents and their family members have the right to review their medical records and charts that show treatments, medications, dietary restrictions, special needs, and routine care. If a resident or the resident’s family member asks to see their medical records, the nursing home facility is required to provide them for inspection within 24 hours of an oral or written request presented on any given weekday. Weekend and holiday hours are not counted toward the 24-hour requirement.

Take Photographs

A picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to how to prove nursing home neglect. When you visit your loved one in the nursing home, make sure to take a camera along to document any physical injuries, poor hygiene, dirty towels and bedsheets, unsanitary living conditions, or unacceptable conditions in public gathering areas.

Install a Camera in the Room

In Illinois, the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Tern Care Facilities Act allows nursing home residents to install cameras and monitoring devices in their rooms. Acceptable devices range from simple cameras with a memory card that store images to a more sophisticated live-streaming device like a “nanny cam”. The main restriction is that the cost of the device and installation must be paid by the resident or the resident’s family members.

Get Witness Statements

Talk to others who may have witnessed the maltreatment. Witnesses may include other residents, visitors, and staff members or caregivers in the facility. While staff members and caregivers may be hesitant to speak up due to fear of termination, other residents and visitors may want to speak out, especially if they fear the same thing could happen to them.

File a Complaint

If you have taken action, but have gotten no response or help, you may need to know how to report nursing home negligence with a formal complaint. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s immediate safety, call your local police department for help. Then follow up with state and national organizations that focus on helping victims of nursing home neglect and abuse.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

In general, nursing home negligence refers to any type of mistreatment or abuse that takes place in a nursing home setting. This may include a variety of actions that cause physical and emotional harm to a nursing home resident. 

Physical Injuries

Unlike emotional trauma, physical injuries are visible and easy to spot. On your next visit to the nursing home, keep an eye out for signs of physical injuries:

  • Cuts, abrasions, and bruises
  • Broken bones and sprains
  • Face and head injuries
  • Bedsores or pressure ulcers

Physical Negligence

Signs of physical negligence are often more difficult to spot because they are not always visible. If you suspect physical negligence, you must be much more diligent. Common signs of physical negligence include the following:

  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Lack of good hygiene
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Withdrawal from normal activities

If you see any signs of physical injuries or physical neglect in a loved one, it’s important to act quickly and contact local nursing home abuse lawyers who know how to prove nursing home neglect. By investigating the situation, gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and filing an injury claim or lawsuit, a lawyer can help you establish a strong case of nursing home negligence and abuse.

Unfortunately, nursing homes in Illinois have a high rate of resident injuries caused by negligence and abuse. In 2019, more than 100 Illinois nursing homes were cited for substandard care and major safety violations. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDHP) is responsible for overseeing the standard of care for state facilities.

IDPH conducts approximately 1,300 yearly on-site facility inspections to evaluate the quality of care, nursing home staff members and caregivers, facility finances, and investigate complaints for possible cases of neglect and abuse. Each year, IDPH investigates over 6,000 complaints by alleged victims or family members of alleged victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. While IDPH can only impose state fines of $10,000 per violation, federal authorities can impose daily fines that range from $50 to $10,000 per violation.

Nursing Home Residents Have Protection

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is intended to protect the rights of nursing home residents who are vulnerable to neglect, abuse, and exploitation. Under this act, nursing home residents are given all the rights that other people have under Illinois law, federal law, and the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act was established in 2011 due to a growing number of reports of nursing home neglect and abuse in long-term care facilities across the state. This act builds off of the state’s original set of protective laws, established in 1987, in response to the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (OBRA 1987) which established a series of guidelines, rules, and minimum requirements of care that nursing homes must abide by to keep residents safe. Because neglect and abuse can take many forms, the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act establishes specific protects and rights for nursing home residents:

  1. The right to choose a personal physician – Residents can choose their own personal doctor based on the provisions of their health insurance.
  2. The right to accept or refuse medical treatment – Mentally stable residents can participate in their own medical care and refuse treatments not ordered by their personal doctor.
  3. The right to receive private visitors – Residents can receive private visitors during reasonable business hours unless visits are prohibited for medical reasons.
  4. The right to private communications – Residents may not be denied private mail, emails, or phone calls from family members, friends, and associates.
  1. The right to manage personal finances – Residents must be given access to their personal finances to prevent any type of financial exploitation
  2. The right to present grievances – Residents have the right to see a social worker or lawyer and file grievances and complaints of mistreatment and seek professional help.

Filing a Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit

In addition to taking important steps to prove nursing home neglect, you should consider filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit with a Chicago attorney. If your loved one, family member, or friend suffers harm from negligent or abusive actions, an attorney can take over and pursue legal actions for damages.

Your nursing home neglect attorney will guide you through how to sue a nursing home for neglect. A civil lawsuit can be filed against all responsible parties, including the nursing home facility, staff members, and caregivers who are responsible for your loved one’s injuries.

If a civil lawsuit proceeds to court, your attorney can handle the case from start to finish. This includes talking to your loved one in the nursing home, talking to the nursing home administrator, getting copies of medical records and charts, interviewing witnesses, and talking to state and national agencies about injury claims. 

If your claim proceeds to a settlement negotiation, your attorney will help you obtain fair compensation for your losses. Your settlement should cover medical bills, physical rehabilitation, mental health counseling, reimbursement of nursing home expenses, and expenses for moving your loved one to a different nursing home.

In the United States, the average lawsuit for nursing home neglect or abuse ends up in a settlement negotiation between attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant. The average case settles out of court. However, proceeding to a court trial may offer the plaintiff a higher payout amount. The total damages awarded will depend on the nature and severity of the victim’s injuries, and the prognosis for recovery. If the victim suffers life-threatening injuries, permanent physical or mental impairments, or pre-mature death as a result of nursing home negligence or abuse, the payout for damages may be considerably higher.

In Illinois, a civil lawsuit for nursing home neglect must be filed within two years from the date the patient knew or should have known of the injury. The discovery rule allows a plaintiff additional time by allowing the “clock” to begin when the patient discovers the injury, however, a claim must be filed within four years.

Filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit with an attorney is the most effective way to recover compensation for injuries. Your lawyer will guide you through how to prove nursing home neglect and help you hold the nursing home or responsible party liable for the damages caused to your loved one. 

As the founder of the firm, Neal has devoted his life to working for the worker. His achievements are numerous and beyond reproach. He is most proud of his work in helping clients obtain valuable benefits, such as a wheelchair ramp to his home or lifetime medical care.

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