How a Death in a Nursing Home Qualifies as Wrongful Death

  • Elderly abuse is a topic that many people haven't heard about. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, hundreds of thousands of elderly adults over the age of 60 are abused, financially exploited, or neglected each year. This significant health problem often occurs in nursing homes, and in the worst cases can lead to wrongful death.

    What is wrongful death?

    Wrongful death is a legal term that is used to describe a situation where an individual has died as a direct result of the conduct of another person or entity. In the case of nursing homes, wrongful death lawsuits are often filed when an elderly patient has died due to nursing home neglect or abuse. Wrongful death lawsuits can also apply when there has been misconduct that results in an otherwise preventable death.

    Can wrongful death apply to nursing home deaths?

    Nursing home residents often face numerous health issues. However, while some deaths are a direct result of these health issues, many times elderly nursing home patients experience abuse or neglect that lead to a wrongful death. There are many reasons that a wrongful death might occur. These reasons, as well as the type of neglect or abuse that might have occurred, include:

    • Medical neglect, whereby the nursing facility fails to attend to the medical concerns of the resident. Under medical neglect, a patient might be willfully abused by a nursing home staff member.
    • The neglect of basic patient needs. Common occurrences of this type of neglect include failing to give the nursing home patient a safe and clean environment with the proper access to food and water.
    • The professional negligence of a staff member that results in a nursing home patient's death. This negligence could include the failure to properly complete job tasks that result in the death of an elderly patient.
    • The failure of the nursing home facility to provide the right diagnosis, care, or medication to a patient. This type of abuse might also include repeatedly emotionally abusing the resident or neglecting to provide the assistance needed with daily tasks, such as brushing their teeth, bathing, or other good hygiene practices.

    Who can sue for wrongful death?

    Each state has different laws regarding who is allowed to sue in the case of a wrongful death. In certain states, the financial dependents, putative spouses, or life partners are allowed to sue. However, in other states, anyone who suffered financially as a result of the death is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, in Maryland the decedent's estate is allowed to recover "such damages as might have been recovered by the deceased himself had he or she survived the injury and brought the action."

    What can you do?

    Before a wrongful death can even occur, it is important that family members, friends, and care takers ensure that their loved ones are being properly taken care of by nursing home staff members. Through early action, neglect can be spotted and the abuse of elderly nursing home residents can be stopped before the damage is irreversible. However, if a family member has died due to nursing home neglect or abuse, then it might be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit with the help of a trusted attorney.