Every year, many South Carolina residents are forced to come to terms with the difficult decision of putting a loved one in a nursing home. This is often a very emotional process, and the absolute last thing we want to think about is the possibility that our loved one will be mistreated. A lot of trust is placed in the operators, and staff, of nursing homes. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect is dishearteningly common. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 10 percent of nursing home residents face some form of abuse or neglect. Sometimes these incidents results in very serious injuries, or even death. Everyone needs to remain vigilant in order to ensure that their loved ones are adequately protected. In the event that your loved one has been abused, you can take legal action to hold the guilty parties accountable. Victims of nursing home abuse are entitled to several different categories of damages.
Nursing home abuse victims are entitled to a full recovery for any needed medical expenses. This includes:
- All hospital bills;
- Any costs associated with rehabilitation;
- The costs of any necessary medical equipment;
- Costs for mental health treatment related from the abuse; and
- Any other expenses related to medical recovery.
In these cases, the calculation of medical expenses can get very complicated. Often, Medicare, Medicaid, or even private insurance companies will initially pay for the medical expenses. However, it is still critical for the victim to get an accounting of the full extent of medical damages. This is because in nursing home abuse cases, the economic losses will generally be used to help establish the baseline for non-economic losses. Since, in nursing home abuse cases, the non-economic damages are usually much greater than the economic damages, is it vital to prove the full extent of the baseline damages.
Another form of economic damages is lost wages and earning capacity. Victims are entitled to compensation for the full extent of their losses in this regard. In many nursing home abuse cases, this will not be a factor. Clearly, many nursing home residents no longer work. However, it is not uncommon for residents of assisted living facilities to maintain some form of part time employment. To the extent that their earning ability has been negatively impacted by abuse or neglect, fair compensation is deserved.
Non-economic damages are generally the most fiercely disputed issue in a nursing home abuse case. Victims are entitled to a full recovery, but calculating these damages can be challenging. Non-economic damages include all intangible losses, such as:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of life enjoyment; and
Many people wonder how you put a dollar figure on pain and suffering. The answer is that there is no definitive mathematical calculation that will be used in every South Carolina nursing home abuse case. However, there are some key general guiding principles. Pain and suffering damages are typically awarded as a multiple of the victim’s medical expenses. A common multiplier is three, but courts will routinely use anything between one and five. As an example of how this works, imagine that your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse and sustained damages that resulted in $20,000 in medical expenses. A South Carolina court may decide to use a multiplier of three. In that case, your loved one’s pain and suffering damages would be valued at $60,000, and that figure would be added on top of the medical expenses damages and any other damages When non-economic damages are at stake, it is critical that you have an aggressive nursing home abuse attorney on your side. Negligent nursing homes must always be held accountable. Your loved one deserves a fair calculation of non-economic damages.
In the horrible event that a death occurs as a result of abuse or neglect, an experienced attorney becomes especially important. The South Carolina Wrongful Death Act provides the survivors with a legal remedy. Actions under this act are generally brought by the immediate family members (the spouse, children or parents) or by the estate of the deceased. Compensation available in nursing home wrongful death claims includes:
- Any medical expenses that have been paid out by the survivors;
- Any death related expenses, including funeral and burial expenses;
- Mental pain and distress associated with losing an immediate family member;
- Loss of companionship, love and support; and
- Recovery for any other form of damage that has been sustained by the survivor.
Finally, in some South carolina nursing home abuse and neglect cases, the victim may be entitled to punitive damages. Receiving this class of damages is relatively rare, but it is possible in cases where the worst forms of abuse or neglect have occurred. Ultimately, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the negligent actions of the defendant. This has the broader purpose of further disincentivizing similar behavior from others. Ideally, this will help protect other nursing home residents in the future. Punitive damages are not meant to directly ‘compensate’ the victim, but they will still be awarded to the victim. They are also notoriously difficult to calculate. On a case by case basis, courts will consider
- The nature of the bad acts;
- The extent to which the bad acts violate public policy; and
- The prior behavior of the defendant.
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Nursing home abuse and neglect remains far too common. Our vulnerable loved one deserve the very best protection. If you believe your loved one has been abused, or neglected, in a nursing home, you need to take immediate legal action. Remember, nursing home abuse is often very difficult to pinpoint. If you feel like something is wrong, you need to follow up on the issue. The experienced Charleston nursing home neglect attorneys at David Aylor Law Offices are standing by, 24/7, ready to help you and your family. If you have any questions about nursing home abuse, please contact our office today to schedule a free initial consultation. Our firms proudly serves clients throughout South Carolina, including in Charleston, North Charleston, Walterboro and Myrtle Beach.