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Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Wrongful Death?

Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Wrongful Death?

If a member of your family died in a nursing home because of negligence or an intentional act, can you sue a nursing home for wrongful death? How that may play out depends on the facts and applicable laws. There may be an arbitration clause in the admission paperwork. That clause can’t stop a wrongful death claim, but it might not go to court.

Under Texas law, there can be liability for a wrongful death claim if you can show:

  • An injury caused a person’s death.
  • The injury was caused by an individual, a group of individuals, a company, or a corporation, or an agent or employee of the individual, company, or corporation.
  • The party committed a wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness.

When can you sue a nursing home for wrongful death? A wrongful death case must be filed within two years of the person’s death. The representative of the person’s estate, the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, or parents can file the claim.

You may get compensation for:

  • Lost financial support
  • Lost companionship
  • Mental anguish
  • The deceased’s pain and suffering
  • Medical bills
  • Funeral and burial costs.

Punitive damages are possible if you can show that the party committed a willful act or omission or an extreme level of negligence, known as gross negligence. Punitive damages punish the party responsible for the death and discourage them, and others, from taking similar actions.

Is It Hard to Sue a Nursing Home for Wrongful Death?

It all depends on what happened, how clear the nursing home’s wrongdoing was, and how easily it can be proven. Wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes are very common. They’re filed in Texas and across the country.

  • The daughter of Twilla Morin, who died from the coronavirus in a Washington state nursing home, has filed a fraud and wrongful death lawsuit against the facility. Forty-three virus-related deaths occurred there, according to KLTV. The legal action claims neglect and negligence caused Morin’s death and employees covered up facts about the nursing home’s coronavirus outbreak.
  • A wrongful death lawsuit filed by a widow of a Wyoming nursing home resident concerns the death of a 49-year-old, reports the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. It claims that neglect caused Ronald DeLong’s death. He entered the nursing home after he suffered a stroke in 2016. Four months after admission, he was admitted to a nearby hospital. He was diagnosed with acute renal failure, severe upper gastrointestinal bleeding, severe sepsis, urinary tract infections, severe constipation, and breathing problems, all suffered while under the nursing home’s care.
  • The cousin of a 79-year-old Waco resident has sued four local nursing home facilities. He claims negligent care caused Aaron Franklin’s death in May 2019. The lawsuit states that Franklin was in and out of nursing homes and a hospital starting in 2012, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. He allegedly suffered multiple injuries and neglect under their care, including pressure ulcers, infections, left leg amputation, pain and suffering, malnutrition, and dehydration.

When Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Wrongful Death? After the Facts Are Known.

Most nursing home wrongful death cases are based on negligence. It’s a legal theory that may hold parties accountable for their mistakes. The family member (the plaintiff) would need to establish that …

  • The nursing home (the defendant) had a legal obligation to do something or not do something, because of its relationship with the deceased (he or she was a resident, so the nursing home owed a duty of care).
  • The nursing home’s actions or inactions caused an injury that lead to the resident’s death.
  • The resident and plaintiff were harmed.
  • Under Texas law, the nursing home is obligated to compensate the plaintiff.

There are many possible negligent acts a nursing home could commit. Here are some of them:

  • Failure to keep the nursing home reasonably safe and free of hazards: There were dangers to the residents that management and its staff knew about, or they should have been aware of them through reasonable diligence, but they failed to correct them. Problems could be an out-of control-resident who attacks others, chronic understaffing or neglect.
  • Negligent hiring and supervision: An employee is hired without a background check, wasn’t properly trained or supervised. As a result, the employee neglected, abused, or intentionally harmed the resident.
  • Failure to maintain health and safety policies: The facility wasn’t kept clean and sanitary. As a result, it was unsafe and deadly infections spread among residents.
  • Medical malpractice: Staff failed to provide adequate medical treatment and supervision that met the medical standard of care. Medical conditions weren’t monitored and worsened. Staff failed to get a physician to address a medical issue. They failed to transport the resident to a hospital soon enough to prevent a condition from becoming fatal.

Nursing Homes Use Arbitration to Short-Circuit Your Legal Rights

Is it hard to sue a nursing home for wrongful death? It may be difficult to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court. Probably every nursing home in the state has language in admission documents forcing legal disputes to go to arbitration.

Arbitration involves one arbitrator, or a panel of them, to decide your wrongful death claim — not a judge or jury. The arbitrators, usually attorneys or retired judges, are chosen by the nursing home or both sides pick them.In cases like these, consulting an Austin wrongful death attorney can be crucial. They hold a private trial with their own set of rules.

There are many downsides to arbitration for plaintiffs, but they are a fact of life for many nursing home claims. There may be problems with an arbitration agreement in your case. It may or may not be valid or enforceable. Generally, the law favors arbitration, so it can be hard to have these contracts voided.

Most nursing home wrongful death claims settle before a trial or arbitration hearing takes place. Often plaintiffs reach a fair outcome without having to deal with the stress or uncertainties when others decide how a case will be resolved. If your claim goes to arbitration, we have represented clients in these proceedings and have gotten positive outcomes for them.

Contacting an Attorney Who Handles Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases

Evans/Reilley Law Firm attorneys understand how the death of a family member affects survivors. For many, monetary compensation matters less than ensuring that someone is held accountable for the loss of their loved one. If you want to know whether you can sue a nursing home in a wrongful death case, call us at (512) 732-2727 today. Find out how we can help you seek justice for your loved one.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]