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Can I sue a nursing home in Pennsylvania if my family member is injured?

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Answered by: Lee Anthony Ciccarelli

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If your parent or another family member needs nursing home care, you expect the facility and staff to provide them caring and professional attention. If instead your loved one suffers abuse or neglect resulting in injury or death, you have the right to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Common Good For Seniors

Our state is one of only four in America that defines itself as a commonwealth. It simply means that we all work for the common good of everyone who lives here. With baby boomers aging, there are more people who need nursing home care. Part of that common good is the expectation that our elderly will receive appropriate care in nursing homes.

There are about 700 nursing homes in Pennsylvania. The state requires that the homes are staffed by at least one nurse for every 20 residents. There must always be at least two staff members on duty. Each resident is required to get almost three hours of general nursing care every day.

The homes frequently fail to meet those requirements. That can lead to abuse, accidents, injuries, stress and understaffing.

A Failing rating

Families for Better Care, a nursing home advocacy group, rated the Keystone State’s nursing home quality among the worst in America. The analysis was based on several important things, including reports of:

  • Abuse
  • Dangerous living conditions (usually directly related to understaffing)
  • Neglect
  • Nursing/aide understaffing
  • Mistreatment

Four hundred nursing homes were mentioned as needing special attention due to ongoing problems.

Warning Signs of elder abuse and Neglect

Emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all forms of elder abuse. Warning signs can include:

Physical abuse:

  • Bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Broken glasses
  • Dehydration
  • Dislocations
  • Emergency room visits
  • Failure to take medication
  • Falls
  • Marks on the wrists
  • Refusing to allow you access to your family member
  • Scars
  • Sprains
  • Welts

Sexual abuse:

  • Bruises on around the breasts or genitals
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained or bloody underwear

Emotional abuse:

  • Belittling behavior
  • Controlling caregivers
  • Patient wanders away from the facility
  • Threats
  • Unusual behavior from a family member who has communications problems. Signs: rocking, sucking and mumbling

Neglect:

  • Abandoning nursing home residents at a public place
  • Dehydration
  • Physical problems
  • Hygiene
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Unsuitable clothes for the weather

Protect your Parent If they received substandard care

If you think your loved one is receiving insufficient care or suffered a serious injury in a nursing home, you might have legal options. Your first step if you suspect abuse or neglect is to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Nursing Home Care Facilities.

You can also review your case with a personal injury lawyer. An experienced attorney can help you collect evidence that you will need to bring an injury claim. The nursing home might not take your case seriously until you hire an attorney who has successfully handled nursing home injury claims.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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