According to data compiled by the 2016 American Community Survey, Pennsylvania is among the top ten states with the highest median age population. Given the advanced age of many residents, it should come as no surprise that Pennsylvania is home to a significant number of residential nursing facilities. Many of these facilities take great care in the treatment of their residents. Unfortunately, some facilities fail to live up to the standard their residents deserve. If you suspect your relative has sustained injuries through nursing home abuse, an Altoona personal injury attorney may be able to help hold the facility accountable.
When your loved one has endured mistreatment at a nursing home, he or she is entitled to seek compensation for their injuries. When a nursing home violates its duty to care for and protect a resident, an Altoona nursing home abuse lawyer could file a lawsuit and help to seek justice on behalf of your loved one.
Rights of Nursing Home Residents in Pennsylvania
While the federal government adopted certain protections for nursing home residents in 1987, Pennsylvania took similar steps nearly a decade prior. Under the Health Care Facilities Act of 1979, nursing homes, their owners, and their employees must guarantee certain rights to nursing home residents. These rights include:
- Freedom from abuse
- Freedom from unneeded restraints
- Safe, clean conditions
- The right to respect and dignity
- The right to refuse medical treatment
- The right to manage their finances
- The right to established visiting hours
- The right to be informed of their legal rights in writing
When a nursing home violates the rights of a resident, an Altoona attorney with experience in nursing home abuse cases could file a lawsuit to hold it accountable.
What Are Some Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Unfortunately, abuse and neglect in nursing homes can often be hard for family members to identify, especially when impacted victims are either too afraid to speak out about their mistreatment, or are too physically or cognitively impaired to communicate what is happening to them. Some common signs to be on the lookout for may include:
- Malnutrition, dehydration, or infections like bed sores
- Unexplained injuries such as bruises, lacerations, or bone fractures
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Increased restlessness and/or tendency to wander
- Sudden changes in behavior or mood
- Strange behavior around particular staff members
- Unusually frequent illnesses or injuries
What Should Be Done Prior to Filing Suit?
Under the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA), both staff members and administrators in nursing homes have a legal obligation to report any suspicions of abuse or neglect in their facility to the Area Agency on Aging, which for Altoona is Blair Senior Services, Inc. Additional reporting is required for any of the following:
- A serious injury that causes severe pain and/or physical impairment
- A catastrophic injury that results in permanent disfigurement or has the potential to be fatal
- Any instance of sexual abuse
- Any death that could be considered suspicious
Family members who suspect their loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home can either contact the facility in question to ensure the abuse or neglect stops, or they can call the Pennsylvania Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505.
Proving Negligence in an Altoona Nursing Home Case
Nursing home abuse comes in many forms. There is a wide array of potential injuries a resident could endure, but many cases involve instances of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and neglect.
Pennsylvania law requires that Altoona residential facilities provide their residents humane and dignified treatment. The failure to meet these standards could result in liability for the nursing home or its employees.
To recover damages in a nursing home abuse case, an Altoona nursing home abuse attorney must show the nursing home, or its employees were negligent. To do so, the plaintiff must establish four elements:
- The nursing home owed the resident a duty of care;
- The nursing home breached that duty;
- The breach caused injuries to the resident, and
- The resident suffered damages due to the breach of duty.
A plaintiff and their attorney must also show a defendant’s breach resulted in the plaintiff’s damages. In nursing home cases, a common example would be a resident’s medical bills and any pain and suffering resulting from neglect from the nursing home.
What Filing Deadlines Apply to Nursing Home Mistreatment Claims?
Although these cases tend to be complicated, they still must meet the applicable statute of limitations. With only a few exceptions, anyone seeking to file suit over nursing home maltreatment in Altoona must start the litigation process no later than two years after the date the mistreatment started. However, in some rare instances, this filing period may be “tolled”—or delayed—if the victim could not reasonably have discovered that abuse was occurring or that a nursing home resident had been hurt, such as if the facility conceals facts from the victim or his or her family.
Contact an Altoona Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Altoona nursing home residents deserve to live free of injury, fear, or neglect. When a facility fails to protect its residents, it could face liability for damages those residents suffer. If you believe your loved one in a nursing home suffered abuse, contact us to speak with an Altoona nursing home abuse lawyer right away.