For as long as there have been nursing homes in South Carolina, there have been concerns over abuse and neglect. Our legislature and state agencies have attempted to put strict regulations in place to protect patients, yet unnecessary harm occurs every day at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. I wrote this article to provide families with a few key facts everyone needs to know about nursing home negligence claims. You can find more information about this subject throughout my website.
1. Falls, bed sores (i.e. pressure ulcers), and malnourishment are among the leading causes of injury at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.
Falls are often attributable to a facility's neglignece. For instance, the nursing facility may not have bed alarms, proper railing, dry floors, or slip-resistant foot wear.
Bed sores can develop into life-threatening, decubitus ulcers if not properly treated. While not every bed sore is preventable, many of them are. Inadequate care (i.e. neglect), malnourishment, soiled sheets, and infrequent repositioning can all lead to dangerous pressure ulcers.
2. The average award in nursing home negligence cases was $406,000.00 a decade ago, and punitive damages were awarded in nearly 20% of these cases.
Along with bed sores and falls, nursing home patients are susceptible to dehydration, prescription medication errors, and abuse. Many of these injuries and ailments would not occur but for the negligence of nursing home employees. I believe that as a society we have a responsibility to care for our seniors, to honor their sacrifices, and to protect them when they are most vulnerable. South Carolina law states that nursing centers must fulfill a number of duties to its patients. When these centers fail to meet their duties, they must be held accountable. To do otherwise would endanger the safety of every senior in our state.
3. Despite photographic evidence, immense suffering on the part of the patient, and in some cases death, insurance companies vigorously defend nursing home cases.
One example of this is defense experts who argue that pressure ulcers are caused by diabetes. Defense attorneys might also assert that a pressure ulcer was clinically unavoidable. Fortunately, a patient’s medical records, including: intake forms, nurses’ notes, lab reports, and discharge summaries will often provide evidence as to whether an individual was properly treated. In those cases where the nursing home failed to properly care for a patient, juries have shown little mercy.
Should you have questions, or if you would like to discuss a case arising from neglect or abuse at a nursing facility, call my Columbia, SC office today at (803) 790-2800.
Stevenson, David and Studdert, David. “The Rise of Nursing Home Litigation: Findings from a National Survey of Attorneys,” Health Affairs, 22, no. 2 (2003): 219-229.