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Can You Sue for Nursing Home Abuse?

How to Know What Steps to Take

Quick Answer

Families of nursing home residents have the right to sue if their loved one is being abused. Nursing homes are obligated to protect the health, safety, and well-being of their residents. When nursing homes allow abuse to occur in their facility, they should be held responsible for their actions.

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Taking legal action is often an important step for families to recover from nursing home abuse. Nursing home abuse can have physical, emotional, and financial repercussions. Filing a lawsuit against a nursing home may help families recover treatment costs for injuries and get restitution for other damages suffered.

What Constitutes Abuse?

An estimated 4 million older Americans are abused each year and experts believe that many more cases go unreported. Elder abuse is generally considered to be an intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver that harms the elder in their care or creates a risk of harm.

Unfortunately, there is not a universal legal definition of elder abuse. Different locations around the U.S. may have different definitions of what constitutes abuse. This can make identifying nursing home abuse difficult. Contacting a local branch of Adult Protective Services (APS) or an elder abuse law firm can help families understand their local laws.

Elder abuse is typically grouped into these categories:

There are many reasons why abuse occurs in nursing homes. Elder abuse is a common problem because the role of caretaker can be extremely stressful in any setting.

In a nursing home, the main catalyst for abuse is understaffing. Employees are often overworked and under a lot of pressure when facilities lack manpower. Other reasons why abuse occurs include poorly qualified staff members, staff with a history of violence, and a reluctance of residents to report abuse.

Nursing homes are responsible for making sure their facilities are functioning well enough to take care of their residents. When abuse occurs under their management, they should be held accountable.

When is it Necessary to Sue?

Because there is no consistent definition of elder abuse, knowing when a lawsuit is necessary can be confusing. An elder abuse lawyer is usually able to help families identify whether a lawsuit is a viable option for their situation. Adult Protective Services may also be able to help families identify and investigate possible abuse.

Adult Protective Services (APS) is a social services program that has local or state branches nationwide. APS agencies are responsible for investigating elder abuse and deciding whether nursing homes are violating elder protection laws. If they detect abuse, they will assign a caseworker to investigate further and monitor the situation.

Whether the abuse is identified by APS or a loved one, a lawyer may be helpful. Abuse in a nursing home is a violation of the resident’s rights and the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. According to the act, any nursing home that receives federal funds through Medicaid or Medicare is required to meet certain standards for providing care.

Nursing homes are required to take care of their residents and protect their emotional, physical, and social health. When nursing homes fail to do so, they should be punished by the state government. Nursing homes can also be held liable through a lawsuit.

Nursing homes can be held liable for abuse if the following can be proven:

  • The nursing home’s owner or employees failed to provide a necessary service
  • The resident’s injury was caused by that failure
  • The nursing home owner or employee’s conduct caused the injury

What are the Signs of Abuse?

Family members should monitor the status of nursing home residents as frequently as possible. Seniors who are being abused may exhibit warning signs, even if they don’t report the abuse. Some seniors won’t report abuse because of embarrassment or fear. Other seniors are not aware or are unable to communicate that the abuse is occurring.

Understanding the warning signs of nursing home abuse can help family members to identify a problem before it becomes serious.

The warning signs of abuse in a nursing home include:

  • Appearing hungry or malnourished
  • Bedsores
  • Bruises or welts on the skin, especially on the face or arms
  • Burn marks
  • Cuts, lacerations, or puncture wounds
  • Fingerprints or handprints on the face, neck, arms, or wrists
  • Lack of proper clothing for the climate
  • Life circumstances that don’t match the individual’s usual financial standing
  • Repeated unexplained injuries
  • Rope marks or welts on wrists or ankles
  • Sprains, fractures, or dislocations
  • Torn, stained, or bloody clothing
  • Vomiting or other signs of internal injury
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

These signs and more may indicate that a senior is being abused. The signs of abuse can vary from completely obvious to very subtle. It may not be easy to identify if a senior has been the victim of financial abuse. However, physical abuse may leave clear marks. Knowing the signs can help families stay vigilant.

How to Get Legal Help

Loved ones who identify the signs of abuse in a nursing home resident should seek legal help as soon as possible. Abuse in a nursing home is unacceptable. A lawyer may be able to help ease the stress of confronting the nursing home. A lawyer may also be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages from the nursing home.

There are many law firms that are able to try cases against abusive nursing homes. Some law firms even specialize in this type of case. Law firms that dedicate most of their time to nursing home abuse cases have the most experience and are often the most effective. If one of your loved ones has been abused at a nursing home, finding the best nursing home abuse law firm is imperative. You can start this process by connecting a trusted legal partner and getting a free case review.

We are dedicated to helping families identify, understand, and recover from nursing home abuse. If you have any questions about nursing abuse or how to file a lawsuit, do not hesitate to contact us. We are also able to connect you with some of the best elder abuse law firms in the country.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team
Julie Rivers HeadshotReviewed by:Julie Rivers, MBA

Eldercare Advocate & Expert

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Julie Rivers is an eldercare advocate with over 15 years of dedicated service to victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Her journey in this field became deeply personal when she assumed the role of an unpaid caregiver during her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.