Types of Physical Abuse & Warning Signs
Physical abuse of nursing home residents involves willful infliction of physical pain and injury or unreasonable confinement. Abuse can occur in many situations. Physical abuse may occur while residents are being moved, eating, taking medicine, bathing or if they refuse to comply with instructions from a nursing home staffer.
A nursing home aid may become angry and lash out when a resident refuses to follow directions, shows resistance or behaves in a way to cause a staff member extra work. Lack of adequate training of nursing home staff to handle difficult and unruly patients is a contributing factor in some cases of physical abuse.
The forms of physical abuse include:
- Corporal punishment
- Holding a resident’s nose to force him or her to open their mouth
- Using force to hold a resident
- Tying down a resident
- Placing improper restraints on a patient
- Forced sexual contact
State and federal laws in North Carolina protect residents from mistreatment and abuse. Unfortunately, physical abuse in nursing homes often goes unreported because the victims are infirm and unable or scared to report the abuse for fear of reprisal.
If your loved one acts unusually agitated, anxious, nervous or frightened around a particular nursing home staff member or becomes suddenly socially withdrawn, it may be an indicator of some type of abuse.
Any kind of unexplained bruises, black eyes, welts, cuts or burns should raise questions as to how the injury occurred. Repeated bruising or injuries may be a sign of physical abuse by a nursing home staff member or another resident. Unusual attentiveness by a staffer member or a staff member’s unwillingness to leave a nursing home resident alone with family members may be an indicator of abuse.
Holding a Facility Accountable for Physical Abuse
Nursing homes and adult care homes in North Carolina are legally responsible for the welfare and safety of residents. They must take reasonable precautions to protect residents from harm. Residents have a right to treatment that is respectful and appropriate. They have a right to be free of physical, sexual or verbal abuse, physical punishment, seclusion from other residents or exploitation of any kind.
Nursing homes and adult care homes may be held legally liable if a resident suffers physical abuse due to lack of adequate supervision on the part of nursing home staff and administration. Some nursing homes have inadequate staffing and try to cut corners on training, exposing residents to increased risk of harm. A nursing home may fail to properly screen job candidates and retain a problem employee even after multiple complaints.
The N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation Nursing Home Licensure and Certification Section receives about 2,000 complaints about nursing homes each year. If state inspectors find a problem, they may cite the facility with a statement of deficiency and issue penalties.
Nursing homes are unlikely to admit their employment practices or disregard for patient safety contributed to the physical abuse of a resident. In many instances, your family may not know with certainty whether your loved one has suffered abuse unless you have a knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer conduct an independent investigation.
You can take steps to protect your loved one. If the facts warrant, then the family of a nursing home resident who has suffered physical abuse may file a civil lawsuit against the company that owns the nursing home or other potentially liable party. The purpose of a civil lawsuit is to obtain monetary compensation for the harm the nursing home resident suffered.
Holding a nursing home liable for harm to your loved one can focus attention on a serious management issue at a long-term care facility and prevent other nursing home residents from suffering similar harm.
Liability for Physical Abuse in NC Nursing Homes
You may suspect that your loved one who resides at a nursing home has suffered physical abuse, but be uncertain who is liable. Many parties may be held legally liable for physical abuse of a nursing home or adult care home resident in North Carolina. They include:
- Nursing home staff who have intentionally caused physical abuse or failed to provide adequate care
- Nursing home supervisors who fail to supervise properly the staff members who are providing direct care to residents
- The corporate owners and operators of the nursing home that establish management policies and staffing levels of their facilities.
Determining liability for nursing home physical abuse requires the involvement of a law firm experienced at investigating nursing home abuse. A personal injury attorney at Hardison & Cochran will determine whether the nursing home staff or management placed a resident in danger by its actions or failure to act such as failure to supervise its staff.
In some cases, more than one party may be liable for nursing home abuse. Recovering Damages for Physical Abuse
If your family member who suffered physical abuse in a nursing home or adult care home is unable to file a lawsuit, you may be able to act as your loved one’s representative and pursue legal action against those responsible for the abuse.
A nursing home abuse lawsuit generally seeks the following kinds of monetary compensation, depending on the specific facts of the case:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
If your loved one has suffered fatal injuries as a result of physical abuse at a nursing home, you may be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the nursing home or other liable party. The nursing home wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation on behalf of your deceased loved one’s estate and his or her legal beneficiaries who typically are the surviving spouse and children.
In addition to the types of compensation listed above, a wrongful death lawsuit may seek compensation for funeral expenses and punitive damages to punish a wrongdoer for willful or malicious conduct. Not every wrongful death lawsuit seeks punitive damages.
If your loved one has died unexpectedly in a nursing home and you suspect physical abuse, it is essential that you contact an experienced North Carolina wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to review the details. North Carolina law requires that wrongful death lawsuits be filed within two years of the date of the wrongful death. Because of the amount of time required to gather evidence and file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Our Raleigh Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm Today
The attorneys at Hardison & Cochran are committed to being strong legal advocates for those least able to protect themselves from physical abuse as a result of age, infirmity or disability. Our dedicated attorneys handle nursing home abuse cases on a contingency fee basis. There is no legal fee owed unless our law firm is successful in obtaining an insurance settlement or jury award in your case. If you suspect that your loved one has suffered physical abuse in a nursing home in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, or elsewhere in Wake County, contact Hardison & Cochran, Attorneys at Law for a confidential consultation about your rights. With over 30 years of experience helping injury victims throughout North Carolina, we have the experience and skills to fight the big nursing home corporations.