Nursing Home Wrongful Death - What is Wrongful Death?

Nursing Home Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes

Quick Answer

On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed a Florida nursing home’s air conditioning system, exposing the elderly residents to extreme heat. Twelve residents died even though a hospital was only 100 yards away. As a result, prosecutors charged four staff members with aggravated manslaughter. As nursing home wrongful deaths continue to claim lives today, families should know how to take action so others do not suffer.

What Is a Nursing Home Wrongful Death?

When an elderly nursing home resident dies due to the negligence of administrators and employees, it may be considered a wrongful death. These awful and preventable tragedies claim the lives of elderly family members who may have otherwise lived for many more years.

Seniors and their immediate families rely on nursing homes to provide high-quality care. And while some elderly people may die in a nursing home, their families never expect that the nursing home could be directly responsible. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case.

Nursing home wrongful deaths may occur if staff members: 

  • Abuse or injure residents
  • Fail to break up resident-on-resident violence
  • Make medication errors
  • Neglect residents’ health care needs

Nursing home wrongful deaths are heartbreaking and awful. Enduring the loss of a spouse, parent, or grandparent is hard enough. When the death stems from nursing home abuse or neglect, it’s even worse knowing that the elder might still be alive if they had received better care.

Families affected by nursing home wrongful death have legal options available. For example, they may be able to file a lawsuit against the facility and its staff, awarding them with financial compensation and helping them enact change.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of nursing home abuse lawsuit that can benefit families in a few different ways.

Nursing home wrongful death lawsuits may: 

  • Award families with financial compensation to pay for medical and funeral expenses
  • Encourage the nursing home to enact changes so other residents stay safe
  • Hold the nursing home financially responsible for the wrongful death
  • Make local, state, or national headlines, bringing more awareness to the problem

Sometimes, injury-related nursing home lawsuits can become wrongful death lawsuits if an elder dies as a result of the harm they suffered.

Families can typically file wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes and the larger companies that own them.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Generally speaking, a senior’s next of kin can file a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit.  Depending on the situation, other loved ones may be able to take legal action in the event of wrongful death.

Those who may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Immediate family

    Close family members, including spouses and children, can file a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit in every state. In some states, financial dependents, life partners, and putative or common-law spouses may also be able to file wrongful death lawsuits.

  • Other family members

    Some states allow brothers, sisters, cousins, and other relatives to file wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of the deceased person.

  • People who have suffered financially

    Sometimes, a person who has suffered from some kind of economic loss due to wrongful death may file a lawsuit, even if they are not directly related to the victim. These can include adopted children or the elder’s estate manager.

Regulations that affect nursing home wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state. Because of this, there are some limits as to who can file these lawsuits and how much time they have to do so. Families should consult with a lawyer to learn how these laws — known as statutes of limitations — may impact their case.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death Attorneys

To file wrongful death lawsuits, many people work with nursing home abuse lawyers. These lawyers understand how devastating a wrongful death is and will do everything in their power to help families receive compensation.

Nursing home abuse lawyers specialize in handling elder abuse cases in which innocent seniors suffered serious injuries from staff members or other residents.

While families can file a wrongful death case without a lawyer’s help, they may make mistakes that prevent them from receiving financial compensation. Filing a lawsuit without an experienced lawyer’s help can be time-consuming and extremely challenging.

Working with a lawyer makes the legal process easier, as attorneys know how to properly file lawsuits and build the best case on their clients’ behalf.

Nursing home abuse lawyers:

  • Collect evidence
  • File the case with the appropriate courts
  • Understand federal, state, and local nursing home abuse laws
  • Work quickly and effectively toward a conclusion

The best lawyers will also work without pay until they win the case for their clients, meaning there is no risk for victims and their families to work with them.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death Settlements

To end a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit, most cases are settled out of court.

In a nursing home abuse settlement, the defendants (those being sued) pay the plaintiffs (those who filed the lawsuit) a lump sum of money, and the lawsuit is dismissed. Lawyers tend to favor settlements because they allow families to receive financial compensation faster than if the case would go to trial.

Settlement amounts can vary with each case, but some plaintiffs have received large sums of money in the past.

For example, a nursing home and a pharmacy paid nearly $13 Million to a former judge’s family in June 2019. The lawsuit claimed that nursing home staff members failed to administer antibiotics to the former judge who was fighting an infection. The infection returned, leading to his death.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death Verdicts

If lawyers for both the plaintiffs and defendants cannot reach a settlement, the case goes to trial. During a trial, a judge and jury will decide the case through a nursing home abuse verdict.

Nursing home attorneys tend to avoid trial verdicts, as they typically take longer than settling a case. In addition, they are riskier — if a judge or jury sides with the nursing home and its staff, the victim’s family will receive nothing.

That being said, successful verdicts may award families with more money than a settlement.

In April 2019, a California jury awarded $42.5 Million to the family of a 77-year-old woman who entered a nursing facility in late February 2012 and died a month and a half later.

Attorneys for the family claimed the woman was given medications without her consent, which caused her to choke while eating. After being rushed to the emergency room, the woman was found to be suffering from pneumonia and could not swallow water.

Filing For Nursing Home Wrongful Death

Wrongful death is something that no family should ever have to experience. But all too often, nursing homes fail to provide even the most basic care needs for parents, grandparents, and other elderly relatives.

In light of this fact, nursing home wrongful death cases can help families get back on their feet. While money cannot make up for the emotional loss, it can at least cover the associated medical and funeral expenses.

A wrongful death lawsuit also sends a message to the nursing home and its employees: Things must change, and no other families should suffer. All nursing homes must properly care for their residents.

If you believe your elderly loved one’s death could have been prevented, get a free case review today. You can connect with trusted legal partners and learn if you may have a case.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

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.

View 3 Sources
  1. Kobin, B. (2019, June 11). Nursing home, pharmacy to pay family nearly $13M in retired Louisville judge's death. Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2019/06/11/kentucky-nursing-homes-former-judges-estate-gets-13-m-death/1420416001/.
  2. Scutti, S. (2019, August 27). More arrests expected in 12 deaths at Florida nursing home, police say. Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/27/health/florida-nursing-home-4-charged/index.html.
  3. Stanton, S. (2019, April 25). Elder care giant's CEO on $42.5 million verdict in elder abuse lawsuit: 'Eskaton will survive'. Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article229700034.html.
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