Nursing Home Abuse in Virginia
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Did you or a loved one suffer abuse in Virginia? There are federal and state laws to protect nursing home patients. A nursing home should be a long-term care facility where patients can live comfortably with the care they need. However, there is still the risk of nursing home abuse or neglect. Thankfully, laws protect the rights of the abused, and competent Virginia nursing home abuse attorneys can help.
Federal Laws Protecting Against Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing Home Reform Act (1987)
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 created a stringent set of protocols for nursing home facilities to maintain. This law was passed after a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine determined that there was rampant elderly abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Under this law, Virginia facilities must:
- Document and assess residents’ health status and individual needs.
- Create a written strategic plan for each resident.
- Assist residents in maintaining an active lifestyle.
- Keep accurate health records for each resident.
- Maintain the correct number of staff required to adequately care for patients and avoid neglect.
- Provide proper hygiene and nutrition.
- Maintain adequate supervision and implement devices to prevent falls and other injuries.
Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights
Part of the Nursing Home Reform Act implemented a Bill of Rights for nursing home residents. This creates an outline of the benefits entitled to you or a loved one in a quality Virginia nursing home and includes items such as:
- Privacy and discretion with health-related issues
- Ability to make their own decisions (if mentally sound)
- Ability to voice issues or complaints without fear of retribution or harassment
- Sufficient health care and treatment from nursing home staff
Elder Justice Act
The Elder Justice Act went into effect in 2010 to fight against elder abuse and neglect. This act mandates that the nursing home staff must report possible incidents of elder abuse and neglect. The Elder Justice Act created the following applicable provisions:
- Employee Background Check Database – Gives nursing homes the right to be more selective in their hiring process. The goal is to prevent abuse by screening potential employees for past incidents.
- 60-Day Closure Window – Nursing homes cannot close without first notifying their home state and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The staff must also relocate all residents to proper nursing homes.
- Elder Justice Coordinating Council – This coalition meets twice annually to discuss new methods of deterring elder abuse and neglect. The Council also drafts reports with recommendations to Congress on how to improve safeguards for the elderly.
State Laws Protecting Against Elder Abuse and Neglect
Each state has its own laws pertaining to this matter. While states rely on the guidance of the federal laws mentioned above, it is entirely within a state’s rights to pass additional protective laws for elder abuse and neglect. States with a higher percentage of nursing home residents typically have more laws than those without.
The Virginia Office for Aging Services provides information to citizens that suspect they know a victim of elder abuse. If the person in question is in immediate danger, they recommend calling 911 as soon as possible. Otherwise, they also list a 24-hour hotline for the Department of Social Services’ Adult Protection Services. You can call 1-888-832-3858 or contact the closest department to get an investigation started. If they find evidence to support your claims, they may recommend the case to a district attorney.
Can You File a Lawsuit in Virginia for Nursing Home Abuse?
Yes, you can and should seek maximum compensation. Victims of nursing home abuse or neglect (or their power of attorney) can file a lawsuit in civil and criminal court depending on the nature of the abuse. It is possible to reach a settlement and receive financial compensation before filing a lawsuit. However, if there is an argument about fair compensation or who bears responsibility, a lawsuit may become necessary.
Virginia’s Board of Long-Term Care Administrators has links to relevant laws and regulations to consider. This government entity has the authority to oversee all facilities in the state that care for adults and elders. Accordingly, they have information relevant to the process, from reporting incidents to seeking civil redress. Having a trusted legal advisor who understands the roles of each rule can prove crucial to your success in court.
How Can You Receive Compensation Through a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
Victims of nursing home abuse or neglect in Virginia can pursue compensation through a civil lawsuit, and multiple ways exist for victims to receive compensation:
- Verdict – In this case, a trial jury hears case evidence and determines whether the defendant (nursing home/nursing home staff) is at fault. If they find the nursing home liable, the jury decides how much compensation to tender to you or your family as the plaintiff.
- Settlement – A lawyer helps you avoid costly settlement mistakes. This settlement phase is when both parties agree on a compensation amount without a jury weighing in. All parties sign a legally binding document that often prevents further legal action. If the plaintiff signs this document, it ends a trial if one has started or prevent one if it not.
- Restitution – For criminal cases, victims will likely receive compensation through restitution. This is a way for the guilty party to make up for the harm caused through financial compensation.
The compensation awarded via a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit can help pay victims’ medical bills, physical therapy, mental health therapy, costs for relocating to a new nursing home, and overall pain and suffering.
Civil and Criminal Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
A civil court handles most nursing home abuse cases. However, there are times where victims can file both kinds of cases. For example, if a nursing home staff member pushes a victim who falls over and breaks a bone, that worker can be criminally liable. Later, they may face a suit in civil court for the same thing.
The judiciary that handles your nursing home abuse case in Virginia depends on the damages you seek. For example, a general district court generally hears cases worth up to $4,500. However, they share jurisdictions with circuit courts for civil disputes of up to $50,000.
What Types of Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits Exist?
Most Virginia nursing home abuse lawsuits fall under two major categories: tort and breach of contract. Out of these two, tort lawsuits are the most common because victims seek compensation for direct harm whereas a breach of contract lawsuit often carries more limited compensation amounts.
Tort Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
Tort lawsuits are when the victim seeks compensation for pain and suffering caused at the hands of the nursing home. There are multiple types of tort lawsuits that correspond with the different types of crimes:
- Abuse – Victims are intentionally harmed; could lead to severe bodily injury.
- Medical malpractice – The nursing home health care professionals acted outside the standard procedures of their position, and their mistreatment lead to injury.
- Neglect – When the nursing home fails its duty to adequately care for a patient. Neglect specifically deals with nursing home staff being lazy, careless, or indifferent to patient care.
- Wrongful death – If a patient dies from a nursing home’s negligence, medical malpractice, or purposeful abuse, the surviving family can sue the nursing home.
Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer in Virginia
If you plan to file a lawsuit against your nursing home for abuse or neglect, seek the assistance of a qualified Virginia attorney specializing in the rights of senior citizens. Nursing home abuse attorneys can help you collect the necessary information required, locate corroborating witnesses, draft the lawsuit, and move to trial if required.
Are you looking for an experienced Virginia nursing home abuse attorney to help your family? We can even help you connect with an attorney across Virginia state lines.
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