When your loved one enters a nursing home, you expect their new caretakers to provide all the necessary services to keep your loved one safe, nourished, and provided for. Unfortunately, nursing homes don’t always have the greatest reputations for delivering quality care — and sometimes, they are negligent in residents’ deaths.
If your loved one passed away at a nursing home and you suspect that the nursing home staff are liable, you can seek compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit. Learn more about pursuing compensation for wrongful death in nursing homes below.
Causes of Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes
The two overarching causes of wrongful death in nursing homes are neglect and physical abuse. Neglect involves failing to provide for your loved one’s physical and mental needs. Abuse involves intentionally injuring a nursing home resident.
While both issues can happen in nursing homes, neglect is a more common cause of wrongful death. If you suspect your loved one was a victim of intentional physical abuse, you may be able to bring criminal charges against the abuser.
Examples of nursing home neglect that lead to wrongful death may include:
- Providing insufficient nutrition and hydration
- Failing to stop fights between residents
- Allowing preventable falls
- Failing to recognize and treat medical conditions
In some cases, wrongful death may occur due to an accident, such as mistakenly switching residents’ medications.
Proving the Nursing Home’s Negligence
Nursing home staff owe a duty of care to residents that includes taking the proper measures to maintain their health and well-being. Failing to care for your loved one in a manner that you would reasonably expect is a form of negligence, which is the basis for wrongful death claims.
To hold a nursing home liable for your loved one’s wrongful death, you’ll need to prove these four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
The fact that your loved one was a resident at the nursing home automatically proves that the nursing home staff owed them a duty of care. Showing that the staff breached their duty of care involves providing evidence that they neglected or abused your loved one in some way.
Much of the evidence in your wrongful death lawsuit will go toward showing causation, or that the nursing home’s breach of duty directly caused your loved one’s death. Causation can be unclear in nursing home lawsuits because residents often experience health issues that could also lead to death.
Your attorney can help you collect the following evidence to prove causation:
- An autopsy showing the cause of death
- Medical records showing that the resident was not on the brink of death before the incident
- Testimony from the resident’s physicians detailing how the breach of duty could have led to death
Wrongful death in nursing homes can lead to several different monetary damages, or expenses. You’ll need to show evidence of all the economic and non-economic losses your loved one and your family incurred from the wrongful death.
Pursuing Compensation for Nursing Home Wrongful Death
Pursuing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit may feel overwhelming as you struggle with grief over your loved one’s death. But the earlier you pursue compensation, the more evidence you’ll be able to acquire — and the sooner you can begin moving forward from this tragic event.
You can pursue compensation through an insurance claim, a lawsuit, or both. Before beginning either process, strongly consider hiring a wrongful death attorney to assist you. Wrongful death cases can be complicated and drawn out, and your chances of success greatly improve with professional legal guidance.
Filing an Insurance Claim
To submit a wrongful death insurance claim, follow these steps (with your attorney’s assistance):
- Contact the nursing home and alert the staff of your intention to file a wrongful death claim.
- Reach out to the nursing home’s liability insurance provider.
- Provide evidence of the wrongful death as part of your insurance claim.
- Wait for the insurer’s payment offer.
- Accept the offer or negotiate for a higher payout.
Taking Legal Action
Often, nursing homes do not have enough insurance coverage to completely cover the expenses associated with your loved one’s death. An insurance claim also won’t cover non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Your attorney may advise you to take legal action against the nursing home instead. Only close family members, like the victim’s spouse, child, parent, or heir, can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
You’ll need to submit paperwork with the Orange County courts to initiate the lawsuit, then someone will serve those papers to the nursing home. Your attorney will spend time collecting evidence to support your case. You’ll have the opportunity to settle out of court or proceed with a trial.
What Damages Can You Seek in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Expanding your compensation options is one of the primary advantages of taking legal action instead of settling for a wrongful death insurance claim. Through a lawsuit, you can seek compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages compensate you (and your family) for your loved one’s death. They include economic expenses, such as:
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
- Time off work
They also cover the non-economic losses your family has faced, such as:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
Wrongful death in nursing homes often constitutes punitive damages as well. These damages punish the nursing home for egregious or reckless behavior. Severely neglecting or physically abusing your loved one is an example of this type of behavior.
Your attorney will help you calculate your case’s value and request adequate financial compensation from the nursing home.
Has Your Loved One Passed Away in a Nursing Home?
If you suspect that neglect or abuse in a nursing home led to your loved one’s premature death, you have a right to seek compensation. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney can ease the burden of your legal case, allowing you time to grieve.
The attorneys at Khalil Law Group have extensive experience helping clients across Orange County navigate wrongful death in nursing homes. Call Khalil Law Group today at 714-617-7870 for assistance.