Explanation of California Assembly Bill (AB) 849
Families rely on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to look after their elderly loved ones when they can no longer remain at home. It can be a difficult transition for the patient and their family, increasing concern over their wellbeing. Overcrowded facilities and nursing shortages may mean your loved one isn’t receiving the care they need.
Skilled nursing facility abuse and neglect happens, but there are steps you can take to seek justice if your loved one’s rights are violated. Fortunately, California passed new legislation in 2021 that makes it easier for victims of elder abuse and their families to seek damages and hold others accountable for their actions.
What is California Assembly Bill 849?
This bill recently passed into law and changes who can bring a civil action against skilled nursing and other long-term care facilities in California. Previously, only a current or former patient or resident of a facility could file a civil case against the facility’s licensee when their rights were violated. Assembly Bill 849 now allows personal and legal representatives of the former patient to file a civil action on their behalf.
The new bill also changes the application of damages. Before AB 849, California nursing home residents and patients were limited to $500 in damages per action. AB 849 permits those filing civil actions to seek $500 in damages per violation instead of per action. The changes in the bill apply to breaches of patients’ rights that occurred on or after March 1, 2021. Violations that happened before this date are not affected by the new law.
How California AB 849 Impacts You
The new law makes it easier for victims and their families to receive proper compensation after experiencing violations of their rights in care facilities. This includes compensation for nursing home abuse.
Previously, only elderly victims were allowed to take civil action. Many elderly residents may not be aware their rights are being violated or have the capacity to take civil action. Now families and legal representatives can file civil suits on their behalf.
The changes to how the state awards damages bring more significant benefits to the victim. Now victims and their families can receive damages for every violation instead of receiving one amount per civil suit. When abuse occurs, several violations may take place.
Instead of being limited by the number of civil actions a victim can file, damages are awarded proportionally to the violations that occurred. This also makes the facility’s licensee more liable and acts as a further deterrent against future abuse and infractions.
The Rights of Nursing Home Residents
In 1987, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act, establishing a bill of rights for nursing home residents. It guarantees the right for patients to receive quality care that meets their physical, mental, and emotional needs. This act also sets guidelines for the services and standards nursing home facilities must provide their residents.
The act grants nursing home residents the following rights:
- Freedom from neglect, abuse, or other mistreatment
- Accommodation of patients’ medical needs and their physical, social, and psychological needs
- To be treated with dignity
- Being able to exercise self-determination
- Take part in group settings with other residents and family members
- Having privacy
- Freedom from being physically restrained
- Being able to participate in the development of their care plan and any changes to their care and treatment
- Voicing concerns or grievances without the threat of retaliation or discrimination and communicating freely with others
Nursing homes that cannot provide adequate care or violate their patients’ rights in any way can be held legally accountable. California AB 849 allows victims and their families to seek justice when a nursing home violates a resident’s rights.
Spotting Violations and Signs of Abuse
It’s not always easy to know when the rights of nursing home patients are being violated. Your loved ones are vulnerable and may not realize they are being abused or are afraid to speak up. Violations like neglect and abuse happen in different ways and aren’t always obvious. Knowing what to look for can help you identify violations and prompt you to take action to protect your loved one.
Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Neglect (when your loved one doesn’t receive the standard of care they need) is another violation of their rights. You can take steps when visiting your loved ones to check for signs of abuse.
Check your loved one for:
- Any injuries, bruises, or bed sores
- Unexplained weight loss that could be because of malnourishment or neglect
- Increased confusion or changes to their mental health
- Poor hygiene due to inattentive or neglectful staff
- Social or emotional withdrawal from friends and family
- Unexplained changes in their finances, especially large amounts
These warning signs may indicate problems at the facility and should be further investigated to ensure your loved one’s rights are not being violated.
How Berberian Ain LLP Can Help
Insurance companies and large corporations have benefited financially from the existing wrongful death laws. With SB 447, defendants will no longer have the upper hand and are now liable for the non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. If your loved one has died due to someone else’s negligence or intentional acts, hold them accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Berberian Ain LLP can assist you in your case. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys understand the changing laws and will fight for justice on your behalf. We’ll collect the evidence needed so you can recover the damages your family deserves. Contact us today for a free consultation.