What Do You Do if a Loved One Dies in a Nursing Home?

At Evans Moore, LLC, we all too frequently receive a call from a heartbroken family member or friend regarding the death of a loved one within a nursing home or assisted living facility. If someone is denied access to medical care, which includes mental health care, and later dies, the family of the decedent often has grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. This applies in cases involving suicide deaths as well. One reason being that often times the patient is 100% reliant on medical staff to provide him or her with access to medical care.

Handling a lawsuit against a nursing home or assisted living facility is particularly complex due to the number of rules and regulations that govern these facilities. Your lawyer needs to know what questions to ask and how to locate and gather video surveillance, applicable policies and procedures, medical records, investigatory files, and other evidence. Your lawyer should also have access to qualified nursing home experts and medical experts who can assist you in effectively litigating your case before a judge and jury.

Reasons to Contact a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney

If a loved one or family member dies in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is crucial that you contact a lawyer immediately who has experience handling this specific type of case. Time is of the essence for a number of reasons:

  • Requesting an Independent Autopsy – You have the right to demand that an independent autopsy be conducted. Without a reliable autopsy, it can be very challenging to prove the manner of death.
  • Preserving Evidence – Another reason why it is important to contact an experienced, qualified attorney is to help preserve any evidence regarding the circumstances leading to his or her death. You or your lawyer should quickly serve the facility with the appropriate “Do Not Destroy” letter. Many times, the video surveillance, photographs, medical records, and other evidence is destroyed, deleted, or misplaced. If a “Do Not Destroy” letter is properly served, you may have additional rights and advantages in the event the evidence you requested to be saved is destroyed or no longer available.
  • Statutory Limits on Filing a Wrongful Death Case – There are statutory limitations on how much time you have to file suit for wrongful death.

Although it is difficult to think about finding a lawyer when someone you love has just died, acting quickly is the only way to ensure that your rights are preserved.

What to Do Before Filing a Wrongful Death Case Against a Nursing Home

Before bringing a wrongful death case, you should consider the following:

  • Private or Public Facility?You or your lawyer must determine whether your loved one or relative was in a private, governmental, or charitable facility at the time of his or her death. Filing a lawsuit against a private, for-profit medical provider can have many advantages. For example, private, for-profit companies generally are not afforded with protections and immunities that the government possesses. If the facility is public, your attorney will need to have experience handling lawsuits against governmental facilities. The time period to file a lawsuit can also differ based on whether the facility is private, charitable, or governmental.
  • Active Abuse, Misuse of Restraints, Neglect and/or Medical Malpractice? There are several different of misconduct that can lead to death in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Of those, active abuse is the easiest to observe, although may be difficult to detect. Some examples of active physical abuse include pushing, slapping, punching, pinching, and kicking. Although misusing restraints is against federal nursing home regulations, it is still a common type of abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Restraints are only permissible for medical reasons and should only be used for a short and definite period. However, when restraints are used for discipline or convenience they become dangerous to the patient and can even cause death by positional asphyxia or suffocation. Neglect is another type of abuse that is usually not intentional but is instead caused by understaffing and lack of resources at a nursing home.  Examples of physical neglect include not providing the necessary food, clothing, and sanitary environment that a patient needs to survive and maintain their dignity. A common cause of death as a result of neglect can be dehydration or sepsis as a result of bed sores or pressure ulcers.

Recoverable Damages

Details of your case will determine what damages are available in a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, family members may recover actual and compensatory damages, which includes damages for the pain and suffering your loved one endured leading up to his or her death, as well as any damages you have suffered as a result of losing a family member or loved one. Punitive damages can also be recovered under certain circumstances to punish the defendant for its misconduct.

Contact a South Carolina Nursing Home Negligence Law Firm

If your loved one or family member has died as a result of abuse, neglect, or other misconduct at a nursing home or assisted living facility, you have the right to shed light on any injustices he or she suffered. At Evans Moore, LLC, our South Carolina attorneys will work with you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy against the facility responsible for the misconduct that you or a loved one has been made to suffer. Our goal is to hold the responsible party accountable, to ensure that it does not happen again, and to work as hard as we possibly can to fully compensate you for your loss. To speak with one of our attorneys, contact us today at (843) 995-5000 for a free consultation or visit one of our offices, conveniently located in Georgetown and Charleston, South Carolina.