About 30 miles southwest of Chicago is Joliet, the fourth-largest city in Illinois with a population nearing 150,000 people. Joliet is known for its cultural and economic diversity and strong Roman Catholic roots, and is also home to Joliet Junior College, the country’s very first public community college. Nearly one-third of the population is between 25 and 44 years of age, while another one-third (approximately) is under 18 years of age, ranking Joliet among the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest.
We at Mike Agruss Law are proud to serve the people of Joliet in personal injury cases, including when you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, and we are fully committed to protecting your rights and ensuring that the other party is held legally accountable when negligence occurs. We will fight until the very end to ensure that you receive full financial compensation for all injuries and losses, including medical expenses and pain and suffering, and you won’t owe us a dime for our services. Contact a Joliet nursing home abuse lawyer for a free consultation today.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
Elder abuse in nursing homes is a widespread problem in the United States. The American Association of Justice releases annual statistics on nursing home abuse in the United States. According to a report titled “Nursing Home by the Numbers:”
- An estimated 13 of every 14 nursing home abuse cases is not reported to the proper authorities;
- Over 90% of nursing homes are not adequately staffed to care for residents;
- An estimated 1.5 million people currently live in U.S. nursing homes.
Assisted living facilities are a $75 billion-per-year industry in the United States, and unfortunately the profit-motive compels many of these facilities to cut costs by any means necessary, which leads to serious problems like understaffing, inadequate employee training, and abuse of residents. Any resident of a nursing home who has been abused deserves full compensation for all injuries and losses, including medical expenses and pain and suffering, and our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers will fight for you to the very end and see that justice is served.
Types of Nursing Home Negligence
Bedsores – Although they are preventable, bedsores can have serious and even fatal complications in some cases. Many employees in nursing homes lack the proper training and/or experience to identify, treat, and prevent bedsores.
Belittling – Verbal belittling/harassment from nursing home employees qualifies as mental abuse, as it can cause emotional and psychological trauma, and victims may be entitled to compensation.
Choking – Physical abuse such as hitting or choking often results from inadequate supervision of residents, especially those who may require supervision while eating.
Emotional abuse – Emotional trauma and associated depression and/or anxiety are unfortunately common in nursing homes due to abuse and neglect, and this can be a subcategory of “pain and suffering,” which is a larger category of damages in personal injury claims.
Falls and fractures – Nursing homes owe their residents a legal duty of care regarding safe premises and adequate supervision, and failure to meet either obligation can result in a fall and subsequent injury for which the victim may be entitled to compensation.
Financial exploitation – Financial exploitation, including theft, forgery, and undue influence, is among the most common types of nursing home abuse.
Inadequate staffing – This is a common problem in nursing homes nationwide. Despite staffing being governed by law, some nursing homes still attempt to save time and resources by hiring fewer caregivers, which can result in a variety of negligence-related problems as well as greater health-risks for residents who require prompt medical care.
Malnutrition – Malnutrition can result from neglect and inadequate care, and also puts residents at greater risk for other illnesses.
Medication errors – Under-dose, overdose, and confusing one medication for another are common examples of medication errors which can be life-threatening for some residents.
Sexual harassment – Residents who have been sexually harassed in nursing homes are often reluctant to come forward about physical or sexual abuse due to discomfort with discussing the matter, fear of retaliation, or uncertainty of exactly who was responsible for the abuse, but victims are encouraged to speak out and consult with a nursing home abuse attorney to seek justice and compensation for the damages.
Sepsis – The elderly are more susceptible to sepsis than other age-groups, and risk-factors in addition to age include cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease. Combating sepsis can require prompt medical attention from experienced caregivers, and negligence or malpractice in these situations may result in a personal injury claim.
Staff administration failure – Types of negligence in this category include failure to provide adequate food, water, or medication, as well as things like failing to fix a bedrail or other faulty piece of equipment.
Unreasonable restraints – There are only extremely-limited circumstances in which a nursing home resident can be physically restrained, and wrongly or unlawfully restraining a resident can cause physical and/or emotional suffering.
Wrongful/inappropriate care – Wrongful or inappropriate care of any kind which results in an illness or injury may be considered negligence or malpractice for which the victim may be entitled to compensation.
Wrongful death – If your loved one died in a nursing home as a direct result of abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses with the help of an experienced attorney.
State and Federal Laws
Here are the federally-protected rights of nursing home residents. These residents have the right to:
- Have visitors;
- File complaints about inadequate medical care;
- To not be abused or unnecessarily restrained;
- Personal privacy respect, especially pertaining to medical records and information;
- Have and use clothing and other personal belongings;
- Full medical disclosures of all treatments and their costs;
- Personal care from a physician;
- Handle all personal finances;
- Understand all policies and procedures of the nursing home.
And here are some state-protected rights of nursing home residents in Illinois:
- File complaints or grievances regarding abuse, neglect, or inadequate medical care;
- See and retain copies of all personal medical records;
- Amending and adding information to your records;
- File a complaint with the Illinois state department, Office for Civil Rights, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
- Sue in Illinois Circuit Court regarding your medical records.
The assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney is essential to accurately estimate the potential value of your case, as these cases and their potential outcomes depend on a wide range of factors. These include:
Patient’s age – While it may not be fair, nursing home negligence lawsuits involving younger plaintiffs tend to result in higher settlements than those involving older plaintiffs.
Patient’s health – Nursing home abuse cases involving healthier plaintiffs tend to be more valuable than those involving plaintiffs who are less healthy and/or have pre-existing conditions.
Patterns of care – Nursing homes which have patterns of abuse or neglect may be more inclined to settle an abuse case than facilities without reports of such problems.
Insurance companies – Some nursing homes’ insurance companies are more willing to settle abuse cases than others.
Jurisdiction – Jurors tend to more aggressively value cases in large metro areas, such as Chicago, which can result in higher average settlements.
Family involvement – A nursing home which has been accused of abusing or neglecting your loved one may look at the extent of your family’s communication and involvement with him/her during their time in the assisted living facility to try to judge your sincerity as opposed to financial motivation.
Medical Record Reviews
If you believe that abuse or negligence has occurred within a nursing home, one of the first steps to take involves obtaining medical records and the conduction of a “medical record review” by a medical expert. These reviews are able to identify deviations from standards of care by physicians working within the home and explore the root causes of these problems.
HIPAA regulations make it quite difficult to obtain medical records from nursing homes, and many people lack understanding of the applicable laws to such a situation. Particular laws state that patients are entitled to view their medical records at any time during their care, treatment, or recuperation, and any authorized representative who is also permitted to view the records must be listed on that patient’s contract upon his/her admission to the facility. Patients also have the right to keep their medical records private and confidential if they choose.
If you are seeking a medical record review due to possible abuse or negligence, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- You are not required to explicitly tell the facility why you are requesting medical records. This may be best kept private if previous efforts to address negligence were ineffective, but this is your decision.
- Keep records for future reference of your requests to medical experts for a medical record review.
- Reasons to see medical records are usually well-founded and may potentially expose negligent or abusive practices, so don’t ignore any instincts or “gut feelings” that something may be wrong.
Here are the three most common forms of damages in nursing home lawsuits:
Also known as “compensatory” or “specific” damages, this form of damages is meant to compensate victims for out-of-pocket expenses which resulted directly from the unlawful incident in the nursing home. These damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages (if applicable), and replacement of lost or damaged property.
Also known as “general” or “nominal” damages, non-economic damages are meant to compensate victims for intangible injuries, particularly disfigurement and pain and suffering.
Punitive damages are occasionally awarded in cases of extreme negligence in which a jury strongly intends to deter the defendant’s unlawful conduct, and these damages are awarded in some nursing home cases.
Records for Deceased Loved Ones
If your loved one was in a nursing home and passed away without a will in place, Public Act 97-623 in Illinois state law permits you, as an immediate relative or surviving spouse, to obtain copies of his/her medical records. In almost all other cases, attorney-representation is necessary to obtain copies of your loved one’s medical records, while he/she always has this right under federal law.
The surviving spouse of a deceased nursing home resident can request his/her medical records in writing from the nursing center, assuming that your loved one did not appoint a “health care power of attorney” or formally objected, in writing, to disclosures of his/her records. If the resident did not have a surviving spouse or immediate family members (an adult son, daughter, or sibling) or parent may request the records.
Nursing home residents are permitted under federal law to obtain their medical records from the nursing facility, which generally must comply with the request within 24 hours; a fee for photocopies may be necessary. We recommend making these requests in writing and using a confirmed delivery method, and here are some other important guidelines:
- If your mother, for example, is a nursing home resident and you are her legal representative, provide paperwork to confirm this;
- Keep copies of your requests for medical records;
- Be sure to ask for complete copies of your loved one’s charts;
- Don’t tell the nursing home why you are requesting the records;
- Some nursing homes are given up to thirty (30) days to respond to your request, so start the process as early as you can.
Nursing homes are responsible for maintaining accurate medical records for their residents for a variety of reasons; they are highly beneficial for loved ones to stay up-to-date on the resident’s condition and can sometimes even provide insight on the origins of an injury or illness. These records are especially valuable when litigation for abuse and neglect is necessary, as they can help shed light on the nursing home’s negligence and how it directly resulted in your loved one being harmed. Always keep copies of all paperwork and documentation related to your loved one’s care in a nursing home, and speak with a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible if your loved one has been abused.
Statute of Limitations
In Illinois, a claim for nursing home abuse must be filed within two (2) years of the date the injury was discovered or “reasonably should have been discovered,” or within four (4) years of the date the injury was sustained.
Contact us Today
If you or a loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse in the Joliet area, you need an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact Mike Agruss Law for a free case evaluation. We are a Chicago-based personal injury law firm, and helping our clients is about counseling, advocating, and ultimately solving problems. With years of experience successfully representing the people and not the powerful, we will take care of the insurance company, your medical bills, your property damage, and your lost wages under the attorney client relationship. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Lastly, Mike Agruss Law works on a contingency fee basis and is not paid attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.