The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is a difficult one. Finding the right home is an emotional and stressful process. Even after the most diligent search, you may end up with a nursing home that fails to provide adequate care and treatment.
Too many Illinois nursing home residents are victims of elder abuse and/or neglect. The result of such abusive treatment is devastating to the innocent victim, family members and other loved ones.
In response to this rising problem, our law firm established a practice group that focuses on nursing home abuse and neglect in Illinois. To discuss your case and learn more about how our highly experienced and compassionate nursing home abuse attorneys can help you, call or reach us online today and receive a free consultation. You should also download our free nursing home abuse guide.
Work With Our Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Attorney To Put A Stop To Abuse Today
The National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimates that about 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized. For this reason, nursing home abuse has been called the “hidden crime.”
The Elder Abuse and Neglect Program of the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) says there were 10,949 cases of elder abuse reported in the state in 2011, marking an increase of 10.9 percent from the previous year. Since 2002, the Elder Abuse and Neglect Program has seen a 47 percent rise in reports.
Thirty-nine percent of elder abuse or neglect victims in Illinois in 2011 were functionally impaired. This means they had difficulty performing daily tasks such as walking, personal care, meal preparation, laundry and housecleaning.
Because of their impairment, the fact that they live with and are afraid of their abusers, or because their mistreatment is concealed by the abusers, elderly adults most often need others to report the abuse they are suffering, the IDoA says.
The types of elder abuse most often reported in Illinois in 2011 were:
- Financial exploitation
- Emotional abuse
- Passive neglect
- Physical abuse (i.e., assault and battery)
- Willful deprivation (of food and water, or other necessities)
- Confinement (or unnecessary physical restraint)
- Sexual abuse (i.e., molestation or rape).
Nursing Home Neglect FAQs
How do I know if my loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect?
You may not be able to know for sure if your loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect until after a thorough investigation has been conducted. However, you should be on the lookout for certain signs of neglect.
Nursing homes have an obligation to provide reasonable quality care. If the nursing home or its staff members fall short of the requirements, a claim can be made for nursing home neglect.
The four most common types of neglect that occur in nursing homes are:
- Failure to provide proper nutrition and hydration – This may be indicated by sudden or unexplained weight loss, dizziness or light-headedness or confusion and disorientation.
- Failure to provide proper medication – This may be indicated by an unexplained worsening of your loved one’s condition, withdrawal symptoms or sudden and unexpected change in personality.
- Lack of hygiene supervision – This may be indicated by the presence of bed sores, infections or general uncleanliness.
- Lack of general supervision – This may be suspected if your loved one has suffered an unexplained fall or become ill from heat stroke or overexposure to cold.
You can read more about this subject at our section on Signs of Nursing Home Neglect.
Also, the Nursing Home Care Act provides information on the rights of patients in nursing homes in Illinois. The law makes it clear that all residents have a right to be free from neglect.
What are signs that my family member is being abused in a nursing home?
Unfortunately, abuse occurs too often in Illinois nursing homes. Certain signs may indicate that your loved one is a victim.
The most common types of abuse in nursing homes are:
- Physical abuse – You can detect this if your loved one has unexplained bruises and cuts, or if you observe torn, stained or even bloody clothing.
- Emotional abuse – Although your loved one may be suffering internally, you can pick up on external signs of this abuse, such as your loved one’s depression, insomnia or fear around particular caregivers.
- Sexual abuse – If your loved one has suffered a sexually transmitted disease or has bruising on the buttocks, breasts or inner thighs, this may indicate sexual abuse is occurring.
- Financial abuse – If your loved one is missing money or possessions, checks bounce and bills are unpaid, a nursing home staff member may be financially abusing him or her.
Please see our section on Signs of Nursing Home Abuse to learn more about this subject as well as steps you can take to protect your loved one if you suspect nursing home abuse.
Who can take legal action in nursing home neglect or abuse cases?
Nursing home patients can pursue a claim if they were injured because of neglect or abuse. However, patients may be killed due to nursing home misconduct or may be unable to act on their own behalf.
If a death occurs, close family members, including a surviving spouse or child, may be able to make a wrongful death claim under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. If the patient is alive but unable to pursue his or her own legal claim, then the patient’s representative will pursue legal action. To learn more about neglect and abuse cases involving nursing homes, please visit our page on Wrongful Death in Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases.
How will an attorney establish that the nursing home is liable for its neglect or abuse?
Different types of evidence may show that you or a loved one suffered injury as the result of nursing home neglect or abuse.
Physical evidence may be obtained by taking photographs of the victim’s injuries or living conditions. In some cases, a therapist may be able to diagnose and testify about mental health problems the victim has suffered due to mistreatment in the nursing home. Witness statements also play a valuable role in establishing one’s case.
In many cases, it is also necessary to subpoena the nursing home’s records in order to gather evidence to prove that neglect or abuse occurred. An attorney who focuses on nursing home abuse cases can assist in obtaining the necessary information.
Remember: You have the burden of proving the neglect or abuse by a preponderance of the evidence. This means showing that more likely than not the neglect or abuse occurred. You will also need to demonstrate that the neglect was the direct cause of harm in order to make a successful claim and obtain compensation.
What should I expect if I pursue a lawsuit against the nursing home?
A claim against a nursing home will be resolved through litigation in court or settlement outside of court. You may be pressured to settle for less than what your case is worth, so understanding your rights is essential.
A case may be settled if the nursing home and/or its insurance company accepts responsibility for neglect and makes an offer to pay a reasonable sum of money.
Settlement agreements are final, so do not sign an agreement unless the full extent of the injuries is known, and an attorney has reviewed the agreement to ensure it sufficiently protects your rights.
If no agreement is reached, or if the nursing home does not accept fault, the case will proceed to court. The court process includes:
- Filing a claim
- The defendant answering the charges of neglect or abuse
- Pre-trial hearings in which the judge rules on relevant motions, such as a motion by the nursing home to dismiss the case or a motion to grant a subpoena to secure necessary information or access to witnesses
- Discovery in which information is exchanged and witnesses interviewed
- Trial in which you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the nursing home is liable for neglect or abuse and resulting injuries
- Appeal if you or the defendant believes errors were made in the original case
- Compensation, if awarded by a jury.
Please see our sections on Settlements and Verdicts to get a better understanding of the process that is involved with each.
How much compensation will I receive in a nursing home neglect or abuse case?
Compensation varies depending on the extent of the injuries and whether you settle or go to court. However, you should seek recovery for both economic and non-economic losses.
Compensation for economic losses typically includes payment of medical bills and costs made necessary by the nursing home neglect or abuse. It may be possible to obtain a refund of the cost of the nursing home care as well.
Damages may also be available and include compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress.
If the neglect resulted in the death of a loved one in a nursing home, wrongful death damages such as those for lost companionship and funeral expenses may be awarded.
In cases where the nursing home’s behavior was egregious, a jury may award punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed not just to provide compensation but to also punish the defendant and deter future wrongdoing.
You can learn more about compensation for nursing home abuse and neglect injuries on our page, How Much is My Case Worth?
Can a lawyer help me to obtain compensation after nursing home abuse or neglect occurred?
Yes, an attorney can play a critical role in securing compensation for your losses in a nursing home abuse and neglect case.
For instance, an attorney with experience handling nursing home neglect cases in the Chicago area can provide access to experts who can evaluate your situation and testify on your behalf. Your attorney can also help obtain necessary evidence, negotiate a favorable settlement or prove your claim in court.
When you are represented by Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., you will benefit from:
- Investigators who can gather crucial evidence.
- Experts who can fully assess your case and testify on your behalf.
- Legal researchers who can investigate the key legal issues in your case.
- Technology that can be invaluable in making a strong courtroom presentation.
What does an attorney charge for a nursing home neglect case?
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorney fees are based on a percentage of the compensation you recover. If you do not receive compensation in your case, you will not pay legal fees for our representation.
Because having an attorney increases the chance of maximizing compensation, many plaintiffs end up with as much or more in compensation even after paying attorney fees than they would if they had not had a legal professional advocating for them.
Who can be held responsible for nursing home abuse and neglect?
Neglect typically occurs because of nursing home policies or because of staff that fail to do their jobs. Staff members can be held accountable, but they are not the only ones to blame and may not be the best defendants to pursue a case against.
A nursing home is responsible for neglect if it has substandard policies and/or fails to ensure that staff members are qualified and are providing adequate care to patients. Nursing homes are also responsible in situations where employees are negligent in performing work tasks.
The Illinois Civil Jury Instructions on vicarious liability and agency rules explain how a staff member acts on behalf of a nursing home and thus makes the home liable for his or her behavior.
The ability to hold the nursing home accountable is important. This is because individual staff members may not have sufficient insurance or assets to cover losses caused by neglect or maltreatment.
Our page on Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect provides more information on legal responsibility for a failure to provide adequate care to seniors in a nursing home.
Signs of Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse
“Nursing homes” are shorthand for a variety of living arrangements for elderly adults who can no longer care for themselves. There are 738 long-term care facilities licensed by the Illinois Department of Health. More than 100,000 Illinois residents live in skilled and intermediate licensed facilities, supportive living facilities and assisted living and shared housing establishments, the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) said in October 2012.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) suspects that one out of every 10 older adults is abused or neglected in our country, but only one in five elder abuse cases is ever reported. There are few national studies that accurately identify the incidence of elder abuse and neglect, the NCEA says. Statistics on the state level are even scarcer.
The following are signs that neglect or abuse may have taken place, or is currently taking place, in an assisted care facility:
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Staff refusing access or delaying visitors who come to see a resident
- Staff not allowing a resident to be alone with a visitor
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains or fractures
- Bedsores, pressure sores or frozen joints
- Venereal disease or genital infections
- Loss of resident’s possessions
- Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, or changes in banking practices
- Sudden changes in will or other financial documents
- Sudden changes in behavior.
If you have seen any of the following you should report the nursing home abuse or negligence immediately. Reporting abuse is the best way to put a stop to it. Let our Chicago law firm and experienced nursing home abuse lawyers help you.
Legal Options for Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect
There are three types of actions that an act of abuse, neglect or exploitation may give rise to:
- Investigation and findings by an adult protective services agency
- Civil cause of action for damages (or a nursing home negligence lawsuit)
- Criminal prosecution.
One of the most effective ways to improve the lives of nursing facility residents is to take legal action when problems are discovered. This stops or at least discourages the continued violation of basic human rights as well as federal and state laws and nursing home regulations. An experienced elder abuse lawyer can help a family deal with the emotional issues of a loved one’s abuse and will not be deterred by excuses and protests from nursing home owners and staff.
Why Would You Sue a Nursing Home?
Suing a nursing home is a complex process. It requires a thorough investigation, analysis of evidence and establishment of the right to collect compensation for physical, emotional and financial harm that you or a loved one has suffered. It can also be a mentally draining process.
With that said, suing a nursing home may be appropriate in many situations. It can be the most effective way to seek just compensation, hold the nursing home accountable for the damage it has done and, ultimately, to protect others from suffering similar nursing home abuse or neglect in the future.
The following are reasons why pursuing a lawsuit against a nursing home may be in a person’s best interest:
1. You suspect that abuse or negligence has occurred.
If you see signs of abuse or neglect of your loved one, you may have the right to take legal action.
Neglect refers to the failure of a nursing home to provide the care and attention that its residents deserve, while abuse generally refers to intentional misconduct.
Malpractice is a type of negligence that occurs when a medical professional within a nursing home fails to treat a patient in a manner that is consistent with the medical standard of care.
Signs of nursing home abuse, neglect and malpractice include:
- Fall injuries – While some fall injuries result from truly unpreventable incidents, a fall injury may also indicate that a resident did not receive the care and attention that he or she deserved or the facility was not maintained in a safe condition.
- Bedsores – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 11 percent of nursing home residents have bedsores, or pressure ulcers. Bedsores are completely preventable. They often occur among nursing home residents with limited mobility. This is due to the failure of nursing home staff members to move the patients regularly for prevention purposes.
- Medication errors – Mistakes made with medication in nursing homes are largely preventable. They can also carry devastating consequences. Medication errors may include prescribing the wrong type of medication, administering the wrong dosage of medication or failing to give a patient a medication at all.
- Weight loss or other physical or emotional changes – Other signs of nursing home abuse or neglect may be any physical or emotional changes in a nursing home resident, including the appearance of bruises or cuts, poor personal hygiene, weight loss, depression, social isolation or withdrawal or angry outbursts. These physical and emotional changes may signify that the resident is not receiving proper nutrition or healthcare, or the resident is the victim of emotional or physical abuse.
2. You brought your concerns to the nursing home administration staff, and nothing changed.
If you suspect that nursing home abuse, neglect or malpractice is occurring, you should bring your concerns to the nursing home staff and administration. If you believe that your concerns are ignored or you did not receive adequate answers, or if the suspected abuse or neglect continues, it may be time to think about filing a civil action.
3. The abuse worsens, and harm results.
If your loved one within a nursing home has suffered injury or a health complication that you do not believe would have occurred but for the nursing home abuse or neglect, then you may seek to hold the nursing home liable for that harm.
You will have to prove that the nursing home owed your loved one a duty of care (often implied in these types of cases), and that that duty of care was violated. You would also need to show that the negligence was the cause of your loved one’s harm, and that your loved one has suffered actual losses as a direct result.
4. A lawsuit can lead to compensation.
Another reason to file a lawsuit is that it may be the only way to recover the compensation that your loved one deserves. A lawsuit against a nursing home in Chicago may yield damages for:
- Nursing home expenses, including medical expenses and other care costs
- Future medical or treatment costs
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
If the nursing home abuse results in death, you may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home.
5. A lawsuit can help to prevent future cases of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Filing a lawsuit against a nursing home is not just about recovering compensation. It is also about raising awareness about the fact that the nursing home has committed neglect or abuse and preventing future cases of nursing home abuse from occurring.
By bringing a lawsuit, you are seeking to hold a medical facility accountable and responsible for the harm that you suffered. It may lead the facility to implement new practices that are designed to better protect patients.
Contact Our Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
If you suspect that an elderly family member of yours has been injured or suffered a wrongful death or elder abuse in a long term care facility, a Chicago nursing home attorney at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help you.
We investigate elder abuse cases in Chicago and throughout Illinois. If you believe a family member has been a victim of nursing home negligence or abuse, contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., today at our toll-free number or fill out our online form. We can provide a free, no-obligation consultation.