Can You Sue An Assisted Living Facility For Negligence?
Assisted living facilities like nursing homes should be safe spaces where seniors can receive proper medical care in a setting which offers a good quality of life. Unfortunately, many assisted living facilities are overwhelmed with small staff availability and increasing numbers of residents. Accordingly, the potential for negligence occurring and thereby harming the facility resident is actually quite common.
Below we will review what options you and your family have under the law to ensure that in the unfortunate event of assisted living facility negligence, you recover the financial compensation you deserve.
Can You Sue an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home for Negligence?
The short answer to that question is, “yes.” You can sue an assisted living facility for negligence. However, in order to successfully file a complaint against an assisted living facility, the following needs to have occurred:
- The facility was negligent
- That negligence led to a person’s injuries
The complaint would center around the negligent actions of the facility or the facility’s failure to act. An assisted living facility can be held accountable through a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation for the injuries to or death of a resident. However, this can only happen if specific criteria are met.
Before moving forward with a claim against an assisted living facility, be sure that there is enough evidence to make the case valid. The reason for this is that not all injuries are the direct result of negligent actions. These facilities can face lawsuits when residents suffer injuries due to neglect, abuse, negligence, or intentional acts. This is why you should immediately consult with an experienced elder abuse attorney who will provide guidance on how to file a complaint against an assisted living facility.
What Services are Provided in an Assisted Living Facility?
When you decide to move a loved one into an assisted living facility, they will likely have access to the following services from the staff:
- Providing regular meals
- Supervising and distributing medication
- Helping with chores, shopping, and getting dressed
- Providing safe transportation to stores and events outside of the facility
- Providing cleaning services, linen changes, and assistance with laundry
- Managing social events at the facility
Best Practices That Should be Followed by Assisted Living Facilities
Because an assisted living facility provides less care than a nursing home, it must follow best practices in order to prevent a resident from suffering a fall and subsequent injury. These best practices include the following:
- Keeping debris and hazards clear from public areas
- Ensuring that all walkways and hallways are dry
- Providing and maintaining handrails in bathrooms, showers, tubs, and hallways
- Offering an electronic alert system that is provided for every resident to use when help is needed
- Training employees how to respond to a resident who has suffered a fall injury
- Ensure that residents who must use mobility assistance devices do so at all times
What Situations Lead to Lawsuits Against Assisted Living Facilities?
Accidents are common occurrences in assisted living facilities. Sometimes they are completely unavoidable. However, when an accident is caused by the blatant negligence of an employee of the facility, the loved ones of the injured resident can file a lawsuit against the assisted living facility. Employees of assisted living facilities are compensated to care for the residents and are held to a higher standard of care. When they fail to provide that standard of care, the facility can be held accountable.
Below, you will find the most common situations that can lead to a lawsuit against an assisted living facility:
(1) Residents are Left Unsupervised
You moved your loved one into an assisted living facility for a reason: you likely could no longer provide them with the care and attention they require because of work, where you live, or your own health issues. When a loved one moves into one of these facilities you anticipate that they will be supervised by the staff as much as possible. When residents are left unsupervised in an assisted living facility they can suffer injuries from falls and other accidents.
(2) Failure to Seek Treatment for an Injured Resident
If a resident of an assisted living facility suffers an injury, no matter how minor, the employees are required to seek treatment for the resident, if the employee fails to seek treatment, the resident could wind up developing an infection or suffering a more serious injury. The facility must seek treatment either at the facility or at a hospital even if the resident’s injury was not originally caused by negligent actions.
(3) Unsafe Premises
A nursing home or assisted living facility is required to provide residents with a safe place to live. Safety at these facilities should consist of safe hallways, rooms, bathrooms, common areas, outdoor common areas, and doors and windows that lock. When the facility’s staff knows of a hazard and fails to correct it, and a resident suffers an injury such as a broken hip, the facility can be held liable for negligence. The facility can also be held accountable for a resident who is injured because of unsafe premises.
(4) Inadequate Hiring Practices
The employees of an assisted living facility are managed by the facility’s administration. This means that the hiring and firing of staff members must be performed by the facility. If the facility fails to conduct background checks on new employees and an employee with a history of abuse abuses a resident, the facility can be held accountable. On the other side of things, if an employee has a long list of complaints, poor reviews, or issues with quality performance, the employee should be relieved of their duties. If the employee remains employed and harms a resident, the facility can be sued for negligence.
(5) Breaking Health Department Policies
Dining halls and meal delivery services to private rooms are services offered by assisted living facilities. Because of these services, the facility is required to follow all of the rules and policies set forth by the local health department. If a resident becomes sick because of a foodborne illness and the facility failed to follow health protocols, the facility can be held accountable.
(6) Neglecting the Needs of the Residents
An assisted living facility can be held liable if a resident suffers an injury because the staff failed to assist the resident with their needs. Daily needs for residents include getting dressed, eating, bathing, staying hydrated, getting out of bed, and more. Failing to help a resident eat their meals because they can’t feed themselves can lead to malnutrition. Another example would be providing diabetic patients with sugar-free meals and drinks but then failing to ensure that the resident receives the proper meal. If the resident goes into a diabetic coma, the facility can be held accountable.
It is Challenging to Prove Liability and Negligence
The burden of proof in a liability case based on negligence against an assisted living facility will be solely on the plaintiff. The residents of an assisted living facility have more freedom to move around the facility compared to those who live in a nursing home, where care and monitoring are provided 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Many assisted living facilities have private apartments, allow their residents to come and go as they please, walk around the grounds, and much more. The plaintiff will need to prove that the facility was directly responsible for an injury suffered by a loved one because of the lack of supervision provided by the facility on a regular basis.
You can, however, try to show that the facility breached the promise it made with the resident in a lease agreement or contract signed by them. If the facility promised to provide certain levels of care or security and they failed to do so, you can use the broken promise to prove that the facility was negligent.
What Damages Can I Seek in a California Assisted Living Facility Lawsuit?
If you are able to prove that the assisted living facility abused your loved one or acted in a negligent manner that led to an injury, you will next need to determine how much in damages you should seek in the lawsuit.
The damages vary between cases because there are different circumstances surrounding each case. However, damages are commonly divided into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages provide compensation to the family of the victim for expenses the loved one or the family paid out of their own pockets. These expenses include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Costs for rehabilitation
- Expenses for surgery, medication, doctor visits, and other medical needs
It is easy to prove to the court when you seek economic damages in a lawsuit against an assisted living facility because all you have to provide are the receipts. The more challenging type of damages to prove are the non-economic damages because they cannot be quantified. These damages are related to abuse, both physical and emotional, and neglect. You can seek the following non-economic damages in a lawsuit against an assisted living facility in California:
- Limitations placed on the victim to live their life in the manner they did prior to their injury
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
In order to successfully prove that accidents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities were caused by negligence, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Recover Compensation for Your Loved One’s Assisted Living Facility Injuries
If you suspect that your loved one’s injury was caused by negligence at their assisted living facility, seek legal representation immediately. Experienced legal counsel can help you recover compensation for your loved one’s injuries, or to pay for the expenses of a funeral if they died due to the negligent actions of an employee at the facility.
The experienced and compassionate nursing home abuse attorneys at Berberian Ain LLP fight vehemently for those who cannot fight for themselves. We will continue to fight until your loved one has been compensated for their injuries.
We stand up for what is right, and that is providing quality care for the elderly no matter where they live. Call our office at (818) 808-0048, or complete the contact form on our website to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today. We will conduct a thorough investigation so we can build a strong case for compensation.