What is Considered Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes?

In a nursing home setting, wrongful death is defined as the death of an individual due to the actions or behavior of another agency or person. Wrongful death lawsuits are similar to personal injury claims, except the injured individual is unable to sue because he/she passed away.

The following are the parties who can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a senior resident:

  • Spouses - Anyone who is legally married to the deceased individual and fulfills the requirements of a common law marriage can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Even spouses who are going through a divorce or were separated can file. However, those who finalized their divorce cannot bring a claim.
  • Children - Adult children--either biological or adopted--of the deceased can file a claim. If the children have yet to reach 18 years of age, they have the right to file a claim once they become of legal age.
  • Parents - Biological and adoptive parents can file a claim. This doesn’t include foster parents or stepparents.

Other family members and loved ones that cannot file a lawsuit include siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, fiancés, as well as boyfriends and girlfriends. If none of the deceased person’s spouse, children, or parents file a claim within three months from the date of the death, then the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate can file a claim.

Common causes of wrongful death in nursing homes include:

  • Physical abuse - Whether it’s physical or sexual assault, such abuse occurs frequently in nursing homes. Common forms of assault include hitting, kicking, pinching, shaking, or pulling. When it comes to injuries, staff members tend to blame the resident’s falls or own actions.
  • Slips and falls - Since seniors have brittle bones, muscle weakness and experience instability, slips and falls can be life-threatening. Staff members are required to ensure residents are safe and their needs are addressed.
  • Infections - Common infections include urinary tract infections and staph-type infections. They can develop due to lack of proper hygiene provided by staff, careless catheter care, and failure to provide proper medical care.
  • Dehydration and malnutrition - The older you get, the more difficult it is to eat, chew, or swallow. Malnutrition occurs when staff members do not assist or feed residents with meals or offer better foods to eat. While patients may avoid drinking fluids because they are afraid of not being helped to the restroom, some staff members purposefully withhold fluids to prevent residents from wetting the bed.

It is not uncommon for nursing home staff to blame the death on “old age” or an underlying medical condition. Facilities are reluctant to tell loved ones what really occurred and most deaths are never investigated.

If your elderly family member suddenly passes away while under the care of a nursing home in Orange County, CA, contact our experienced legal team at the Law Office of Marshall Silberberg and schedule a free consultation today.

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