South Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you believe your loved one is suffering abuse at a nursing home, you should contact a South Carolina nursing home abuse attorney immediately. We want to stop abuse and neglect and to make sure your loved one gets the compensation they are entitled to.
DAMAGES IN A NURSING HOME LAWSUIT
Medical expenses will likely constitute a significant amount of the economic damages sought in a nursing home abuse case. The care that is required to treat residents for the harm they’ve suffered can be extremely costly. A resident might require doctor visits, hospitalization, therapy, surgery, medications and several other expensive services.
Damages might also come in the form of non-economic or punitive damages. Non-economic damages are related to suffering and pain caused by a nursing home’s negligence. Punitive damages are essentially a penalty given to the facility for their wrongdoing. Depending on the circumstances of a case, these damages can be significant. A nursing home abuse attorney can help you understand the potential damages involved.
BENEFITS OF HIRING A NURSING HOME ABUSE ATTORNEY
A South Carolina nursing home abuse attorney knows what it takes to build a successful case. They’ve seen these abuses before and, in some cases, might even be familiar with the facility where your loved one resides. They collect information, correspond with the nursing home and their lawyers, handle the paperwork required when filing a lawsuit and keep you informed about the progress being made in your case. Hiring a skilled South Carolina nursing home abuse attorney helps ensure that you will achieve a settlement that truly reflects the damages you or a loved one has faced.
h2>SOUTH CAROLINA NURSING HOME ABUSE LAWYER: FIGHTING FOR THE SAFETY OF YOUR LOVED ONES
With nearly 1.4 million people in the U.S. living in nursing homes, the issue of nursing home abuse and neglect of this vulnerable population stands out as increasingly important. It is estimated that about 10 percent of all elders experience abuse, and that around 2.15 million are abused nationwide each year. In nursing homes, roughly 44 percent of patients have reported that they experienced abuse. If you have legal questions about elder abuse, contact a South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyer for answers.
FILING A NURSING HOME ABUSE CASE
If you suspect nursing home abuse is taking place, first it is important to take steps to protect your loved one. The steps you take can also help you later if you file a lawsuit. First, if your loved one has been injured, seek medical attention. Document the incident or suspected abuse incidents in detail, making notes regarding what happened and who was involved. If there were witnesses, try to get witness statements. All of this documentation, including medical reports, will be important evidence in helping prove your legal claim. Next, consider contacting an experienced nursing home abuse attorney who can guide you through the claim process and represent you in court.
The steps your attorney will take include collecting additional evidence, handling communications with the nursing home staff and possibly filing the lawsuit paperwork with the court if a settlement hasn’t yet been reached. The majority of nursing home abuse cases are settled outside of the courtroom through negotiations. Sometimes when a nursing home and their insurance company know that an attorney is handling the case, they will quickly agree to settle rather than going to trial. However, if settlement can’t be reached before a lawsuit is filed, your attorney can file suit with the court on behalf of your loved one. Once the lawsuit is filed, the nursing home and the employees named in the suit will be served. They will then have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit. It’s important to note that settlement can still occur anywhere during the litigation process, and even after trial begins.
Prior to trial, as part of the overall discovery process, which is the information-gathering phase, your attorney may depose defendants, other nursing home employees and witnesses in the case, and you may be asked to give a deposition to the nursing home’s attorneys. A deposition is similar to being questioned in a courtroom, but it takes place outside the courtroom, such as in an attorney’s office or elsewhere. If you are asked to give a deposition, your attorney will explain the process to you. Your attorney will also keep you apprised of all the steps regarding your case.
Filing a nursing home abuse case is a complicated process. A South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyer at Louthian Law Firm, P.A. can answer your questions and help you understand the options. Call us at (803) 454-1200 for a free consultation.
How Common is Nursing Home Abuse?
Elder abuse is a cruelty so abhorrent that it is almost unfathomable. It’s difficult to imagine someone cruel enough to physically assault a senior citizen, especially when the assaulter is a healthcare provider and the victim is a nursing home resident. In theory, nursing homes exist to provide for the wellbeing of those who most need it. Unfortunately, in practice, these facilities don’t just fall short of that objective, they often do the exact opposite and cause significant physical or emotional harm to those they’re supposed to be caring for. The abuse and neglect of nursing home residents is far more common that most people would like to believe. Before we look at what we know and what we don’t know about nursing home abuse, let’s look at some facts about nursing home care in the United States… read more
When Victims Remain Silent
In our state alone, tens of thousands of complaints of abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation are submitted each year. Yet experts estimate that only one in 14 incidents of abuse at nursing homes is ever reported to authorities, meaning that the real number of abuse cases is much higher than we think. Why would someone not speak up about such heart-wrenching treatment?
A nursing home patient may be simply incapable of telling someone about the abuse. Family members of patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or conditions affecting their ability to communicate may complain on the patient’s behalf, but it may take them a while to recognize a pattern of abuse. And when visitors are few and far between, negligent caregivers may take advantage of the elderly person’s isolation and vulnerability.
By health care professionals such as emergency department personnel, who may be unaware of mandatory elder abuse reporting laws. In a chart review done after the fact of 328 nursing home residents who were admitted to an emergency room, it was found that 253 had adequate documentation for treatment. Of those 253, nearly one-fifth (19 percent) experienced an unexplained delay of 24 hours or more in receiving treatment.
By ombudsmen, who may not file a report if the complaint is resolved. In one survey, 36 percent of ombudsmen said they viewed their job role to be resolving complaints with the care facility, not filing complaints if the problems are solved. An additional 4 percent said they would resolve a situation and never file a complaint about the problem.
By nurse aide registries, which may simply fire a CNA or allow them to resign rather than conduct an investigation and report the incident. On top of that, verbal or psychological abuse by aides can be seen as “over-reporting”; nearly 40 percent of the directors for state nurses’ aides registries believed that care facilities always reported allegations of neglect and abuse.
By family members, who may fear that their loved one would experience retaliation. In a survey by the Atlanta Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, families and residents said they thought that reporting abuse was futile or that they/their family member might suffer even more abuse. Some also thought that using other channels for resolving things, such as speaking to the nursing home’s administrator, were better than reporting abuse to authorities.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can be of several types, and some kinds of abuse can be harder to spot than others. But all of these varieties of abuse show some sort of sign.
- Physical abuse. Examples include pinching, hitting, slapping, or handling a patient roughly when changing their clothing or diapers, or when bathing them. Bruising, welts, and other outward signs can indicate physical abuse.
- Sexual abuse. The elderly often do not have the strength or ability to fend off assaults. Such abuse can take many forms, from improper touching (especially when the patient is unclothed), sexual jokes, comments, or gestures, all the way up to rape or attempted rape. Patients often show fear or complain of pain in the genital area.
- Verbal abuse. Verbal abuse demeans the patient and can intimidate or frighten them. Talking down to patients, ordering them to perform humiliating actions, and threatening them are all verbal abuse. The signs of abuse can be similar to sexual abuse, with the patient showing fear, withdrawing, or becoming agitated or aggressive.
- Neglect means the lack of adequate nutrition; not giving medication on time or at all (especially pain medication); failure to provide regular baths, clean clothing and bedding; and uncomfortable facility temperatures (too hot or cold). Nursing home neglect covers a wide range of actions that can cause much suffering on the part of the patient or, in extreme cases, even death. Bedsores, lack of cleanliness, dirty clothing or bedding, or complaints from the patient of pain or lack of attention can all indicate neglect.
Top five complaints in S.C. Nursing homes in 2013
- Accidents, Improper Handling 642
- Dignity, Respect-Staff Attitudes 469
- Physical Abuse 419
- Gross Neglect 330
- Abuse, Verbal/Mental 307
Spotting the Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Abuse in nursing homes can take several forms, ranging from persistent bedsores that turn septic and cause significant pain and injury to financial exploitation. If you have a loved one in a South Carolina nursing home, some of the key signs to watch out for include the following:
- Open wounds, cuts, bruises or welts
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Torn clothing
- Broken or missing personal items
- Resident complaints about being slapped or mistreated
- Emotional states of extreme agitation – or unusual withdrawal
- Unusual and new behavior, such as sucking, biting or rocking
- Resident complaints of pain when using the bathroom or pain in their genital areas
- Use of physical restraints – or bruises/marks around legs or arms that suggest the use of restraints
- Poor hygiene
- Unusually pale skin coloring
- Sudden change in medication or dosage, particularly any medication used for sedation
- Temperature extremes at the nursing home
- Nursing home staff that can’t properly explain a resident’s physical condition
- Nursing home staff that discourages family members from visiting with the resident alone
- Residents that wander from the facility because of poor supervision.
South Carolina Nursing Home Care: A Bill of Rights
Nursing home residents in South Carolina have rights which are protected under the federal Nursing Home Reform Law enacted in 1987 in the Social Security Act. Facilities which participate in Medicare or Medicaid must “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and place a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.
Many nursing home residents and their family members are unaware of their rights under South Carolina law. All assisted living facilities must clearly post a list known as the resident’s bill of rights where all residents can see it. Typically these rights will include:
- Medical rights – to be kept informed of health status and medication for relatives to be kept informed of any change in a loved one’s health status or impending release
- Physical rights – to be free of any physical abuse, sexual abuse, or verbal abuse, including use of physical or chemical restraints for the convenience of the nursing home staff rather than the avoidance of self-injury
- Right to privacy – to receive and send mail, use the telephone, share a room with a spouse and keep personal belongings
- Financial rights – to handle one’s own money or designate an individual to handle finances and to have access to financial records and statements, as well as information about nursing home fees.
CAUSES OF NURSING HOME ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Low Standards of Facility – A poorly run facility is sometimes the root cause of abuse and neglect to residents. While several factors might stem from mismanagement, those in charge should be held accountable if they don’t create and enforce adequate standards.
Negligent Staff Members – Even if a facility is well-managed, individual employees can cause great harm to residents if they are violent, cruel or simply careless and neglectful.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR A NURSING HOME RESIDENT’S MISTREATMENT?
The facility’s management bears a significant amount of responsibility for the abuse or neglect that has occurred in their nursing home. A failure to ensure the health and safety to the best of their ability could make them liable for the damages a resident has experienced.
The staff members who either committed, permitted or failed to notice the abuse or neglect might also carry responsibility for the harm a resident has suffered. If another resident was the one committing the abuse, they might be held accountable for the injuries they’ve inflicted.
DOCUMENTING EVIDENCE OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT
If your loved one has been mistreated while staying in a nursing home and you want to begin documenting the abuse or neglect, you should consider keeping notes that detail what abuses have occurred and when you believe they might have happened. If your loved one has visible signs of neglect or abuse, you can take pictures of their injuries or the conditions of the facility.
As soon as you’ve determined the abuse and neglect is real and you are considering legal options, contact a nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will know how to gather evidence that demonstrates the extent of the damages your loved one has suffered.
PAYMENT FOR NURSING HOME ABUSE ATTORNEY
Payment for nursing home attorneys can vary from one firm to another. At the Louthian Law Firm, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means we will be paid only if we win your case. Our consultations are also free, so you won’t incur any losses by simply speaking with us about your legal options.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT NURSING HOME ABUSE CASES
Are you concerned about placing a loved one in a continuing care facility? Do you currently know someone in a nursing home and have reason to be worried? Our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) might help you with some of your concerns.
How common is nursing home abuse in South Carolina?
While it is possible that many cases of nursing home abuse, neglect and exploitation go unreported each year, we do have some idea of the prevalence of the problem through the statistics compiled by the state’s Adult Protection Coordinating Council, a group composed of 21 public and private organizations and consumers. The Council’s data show the following numbers of complaints filed during 2017:
- 6,993 cases were reported to Adult Protective Services.
- 1,666 complaints were made to the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
- 44 complaints were made to the Medicare Fraud Control Unit.
Does nursing home abuse affect only the elderly?
Not at all. Although the majority of people living in nursing homes are age 65 and over, people with other types of serious disabilities, such as traumatic brain injuries, may also reside in nursing homes because their families cannot care for them at home. The South Carolina Vulnerable Adults Investigation Unit of the State Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, received 929 complaints of nursing home abuse for patients of all ages in 2015. Some of the categories with alleged problems include:
- 352 complaints concerning a death
- 161 complaints concerning physical abuse
- 151 complaints concerning substandard care
- 33 complaints concerning psychological abuse
- 29 complaints concerning neglect
- 26 complaints concerning some kind of exploitation
- 19 complaints concerning sexual abuse.
I just learned that the nursing home employee who abused my loved one has a criminal record. Shouldn’t the facility have checked on that before hiring them?
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 92 percent of nursing homes employ one or more individuals who have been convicted of at least one crime. In South Carolina, anyone who is paid by or who has a written contract to provide “hands-on” care to a resident, patient, or client must have a criminal background check. Most applicants qualify for only a state check; federal checks are required only of applicants who have not been a resident of South Carolina or another state for at least 12 months. The decision of whether or not to employ a person after receiving the background check is left up to the employer. However, there are a few notable exceptions, including this one: A facility, if it wants to secure and keep a South Carolina state license to run a nursing home, cannot hire any person who was ever convicted of, or who pled “no contest” (nolo contendere) to, a charge of “child or adult abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, or any other felony.”
What kinds of abuse can happen to my loved one?
Any of the following behaviors or actions can be classed as abuse, and any caretaker in any facility or care situation can be guilty of them:
- Physical abuse: inflicting physical injury or pain
- Sexual abuse: any unwanted sexual contact
- Emotional or psychological abuse: intimidation, threats of abuse, verbal harassment, name-calling
- Willful deprivation: withholding food, liquids, or medication deliberately, including pain medication
- Financial exploitation: misuse or theft of the patient’s financial resources
- Passive neglect: not providing things essential to life, such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care
- Confinement: the use of restraints when there is no medical basis or need
- Chemical restraint: overmedication with anti-psychotic drugs. One-third of all nursing home patients are given anti-psychotic drugs.
What signs could indicate that a nursing home resident has been abused or neglected?
If you observe any of the following signs with regard to your loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you would be wise to explore the situation to determine whether the facility is properly caring for them:
- Weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
- Unexplained bruises, wounds or dislocations
- Bloody or torn clothing or bedding
- Fearfulness and other personality changes
- Frequent illnesses or infections
- Unexplained sexually-transmitted diseases, or injuries to the genitals, anus, breast, or mouth
- Agitation or fretting
- Wandering or attempts to “escape”
- Depression or unresponsiveness
- Unusual or unexplained financial transactions
- Insufficient staff, such as having one nurse’s aide to care for as many as 30 patients
- Seeming distrust, paranoia, or fear of the staff by the patient
- Aggressiveness or distrust of visitors on the part of staff, especially if they won’t leave you alone with the patient.
Who regulates nursing homes in South Carolina?
Nursing homes must be licensed by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, which sets standards they must meet in many areas, such as training, record keeping, medication management, food service, infection control, and building design. All facilities are subject to inspection or investigation at any time, without prior notice. These reports are available to the public upon written request.
What should i do if i have a complaint?
If you have a concern about the operation of a facility, you can call the South Carolina DHEC at (803) 898-DHEC (3432). If you suspect that your loved one has been the victim of physical, sexual or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, neglect or abandonment, contact the SC Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging at (803) 734-9900.
What do I do if I’m unsure that my loved one has been neglected or abused?
It’s best to act in the best interest of your loved one and be proactive. Look for signs of abuse, speak with your loved one, if possible, and don’t be afraid to make complaints to the facility’s employees or management. Once you believe that your loved one has been mistreated and experienced harm from a negligent staff, contact a legal professional for assistance.
How long do these cases take to resolve?
The time frame for a nursing home abuse case varies widely from one case to another. In some circumstances, the matter can be resolved quickly, potentially in a matter of weeks. In others, the process is much longer. However, you can still act to remove your loved one from the facility promptly, while the case progresses.
Why is an elderly resident afraid to speak up about the abuse or neglect they’ve experienced?
The unfortunate reality is that residents who have been mistreated could be afraid to speak up. They might worry about repercussions from their abusers, whether they be staff or other residents. In some cases, they might be unable to articulate their experience. This is particularly true of nursing home patients with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Resources for Elders and Their Families
More information on elder abuse can be found at the websites for:
- South Carolina Adult Protective Services. To report abuse or neglect by phone or postal mail, look up your county.
- National Center on Elder Abuse; 1-855-500-3537 (1-855-500-ELDR)
- SC Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging; 1-202-401-4634
- South Carolina Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. To call or email the Office on Aging, look up your county.
You can also see the Louthian Law Firm’s Nursing Home FAQs page for answers to your questions.
Best and Worst Nursing Homes in Columbia, SC
When you are looking for a nursing home bed for Mom, Dad, or another loved one, it can be difficult—to say the least—to figure out which place will provide the best and most compassionate care. Is it the nursing home that costs the most? The one with the swankiest lobby? The one that doesn’t have a lot of unpleasant odors? The one where the caregivers smile at you the most? If you have hard data available and do your homework, it can be easier to choose a nursing home. We have provided data and sources for you here that we hope will be of use… read more
Seeking Truth, Securing Justice for Seniors
When someone you love has been hurt, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. When this happens, the South Carolina nursing home injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm can review your legal options and work with you to determine the most appropriate next step.
Many South Carolina assisted living facilities are part of a larger chain, complete with its own legal department.
The nursing home’s lawyers may try to dispute abuse and neglect claims, but we have represented victims of neglect or abuse in retirement homes and we understand how to deal with negligent facilities and the nursing home attorneys who represent them. While a lawsuit cannot heal bedsores or restore someone’s health, a South Carolina nursing home abuse claim can help recover the large sums spent on a neglectful or abusive nursing home, as well as medical bills created by that abuse or neglect. You may also be able to hold the abusers accountable for the pain and suffering they caused.
For a free consultation, call our South Carolina nursing home abuse attorneys today toll free at (803) 454-1200, or use our online contact form.