Nursing Home Liability For Personal Injuries And Wrongful Death

By harley erbe

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One type of case that we handle as Des Moines personal injury lawyers is nursing home matters. It’s unfortunately shameful and common for nursing home residents to be injured and even killed because of a nursing home’s lack of care. These can be very emotionally charged cases because the resident and the resident’s family have placed their trust and faith in the nursing home, only to see that trust violated. But when that happens the nursing resident and the family have strong legal rights under Iowa law.

Common to all nursing home cases is the investigation conducted by the state or federal government after a nursing home resident’s death or injury. Under Iowa law, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals investigates nursing home deaths and injuries and enforces the Iowa Administrative Code’s regulations for nursing homes. Iowa has a detailed set of administrative regulations that govern nursing homes’ relationships towards their residents, including topics such as patient safety and welfare.

If the Department of Inspections and Appeals determines that a nursing home has violated any of those rules, it can punish the facility through fines or other types of punishment. Those findings, and the Department’s investigatory report, can later be used in any personal injury or wrongful death claim against the facility. That can be a very powerful tool when confronting a nursing home over the death or injury of a resident.

There are three main categories of nursing home claims involving personal injury or wrongful death:

  • Denial or failure of medical care.
  • Attacks by other residents or staff.
  • Failure to protect the resident from self-injury.

I’ll summarize each in turn.

Denial or failure of medical care is essentially a medical malpractice claim against the nursing home. Many nursing home residents have their medical need attended to right on the premises. So Iowa’s basic medical malpractice law applies, as well as the additional medical care requirements that state and federal regulations impose, to medical care provided to the residents at the facility.

Attacks by other residents or staff could be considered a form of premises liability claim as well. Nursing homes have a duty to protect residents from attacks or assaults by other residents or staff, just like any business has a legal obligation to protect visitors from attacks by third parties or employees. Plus there’s an added component for nursing home cases because state and federal regulations have strict rules about admitting and retaining dangerous patients and the hiring and retention of staff.

Failure to protect the resident from self-injury can cover both accidental and intentional resident self-harm. Accidental injuries would include such things as falls or choking while eating. Intentional injury usually refers only to suicide attempts, which do happen in care facilities. In the mid-1990s, a court awarded $100,000 to a surviving daughter in an Iowa nursing home case after the mother committed suicide while under the facility’s care. Just like with the other main categories of nursing home claims, state and federal regulations require nursing facilities to monitor and guard against patient self-harm whether it be accidental or intentional.

Please feel free to contact us if you need the assistance of a Des Moines nursing home injury lawyer.

By Harley Erbe

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