If a loved one died while in a nursing home, you deserve answers and information about their death.
Although many nursing home residents die from natural causes, many more are wrongfully injured, abused, neglected, or otherwise subjected to unnecessary harm. If the victim died due to another party’s negligence or wrongful actions, you may have the right to pursue compensation.
A settlement won’t bring your loved one back. Recovering compensation will, however, hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and provide your family with a sense of justice for your loss.
During this time of grief and pain, you are likely to have many questions about wrongful death nursing home settlements. A Washington personal injury attorney can answer your questions and provide the information you need to move forward.
What Is the Average Nursing Home Wrongful Death Settlement?
When wrongful death attorneys discuss average nursing home wrongful death settlements, they are often hesitant to commit to a number. Realistically, every case of nursing home abuse and neglect is different, and the details do affect case value. Having a basic understanding of how claims are valued is important if you plan to pursue legal action, but that still doesn’t answer your question.
A study conducted by Health Affairs in the early 2000s determined that the average nursing home wrongful death settlement amount was $406,000. Adjusted for inflation, that value would approach $600,000 today. It is important to note that this is simply an average and, consequently, the value of your claim will depend on the details of your case. A wrongful death attorney can review your case and provide you with a more accurate estimation of your potential claim value.
COVID-19 and Nursing Home Wrongful Death Claims
Washington served as ground zero for nursing-home-related COVID-19 cases. The many families that lost loved ones needlessly may have a solid basis for taking legal action. How nursing home residents contracted this (or any other) disease is important, but it is not as important as how the facility handled the situation once the first case was identified.
Most nursing homes must comply with federal regulatory requirements. Additional requirements and restrictions were implemented specifically in response to reported cases of coronavirus. These additional requirements included the limiting and monitoring of visitors. If a facility failed to implement appropriate practices to protect its residents and, as a result, your loved one died, you may have a valid wrongful death claim.
Talking to a Washington nursing home injury lawyer can give you the answers you need. The compassionate personal injury attorneys of Kapuza Lighty, PLLC, offer a complimentary consultation and case evaluation. If you lost a loved one in a nursing home for any reason, call us at 509-822-2189 or contact us today for help.
How Are Nursing Home Wrongful Death Claims Calculated?
Damages in a nursing home wrongful death settlement usually include compensation for economic losses. You may be entitled to recover damages such as:
- The victim’s medical treatment before death;
- Burial, cremation, and funeral costs;
- Lost future gifts or inheritance;
- Loss of companionship and comfort; and
- Pain and suffering.
Talking to an attorney can help you determine the potential value of your case. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a settlement with the nursing home’s insurance company or you may pursue your case in court by filing a civil suit.
The Role of Understaffing in Nursing Home Abuse & Wrongful Death
As the elderly population in Washington State continues to expand, understaffing becomes more and more of a problem.
According to some estimates, as many as 90 percent of the long-term care facilities in the state may be dangerously understaffed.
Understaffing is even worse during nights, weekends, and other low census periods.
Understaffing has real consequences for nursing home residents. Some facilities lack the personnel to attend to basic resident needs. Other facilities hire dangerously unqualified people to fill important positions.
Either way, understaffing often results in wrongful death.
Wrongful Death Causes in Washington Nursing Homes
Wrongful death is almost never “accidental.”
At some level, negligence is usually involved. That negligence triggers a wrongful death settlement, and the amount of that settlement could be substantial.
Generally, the neglect in nursing home wrongful death settlements involves a lack of ordinary care. Some examples include:
- Bedsores: If caught early, pressure ulcers often heal on their own. But if they are not caught early, bedsores are usually life threatening. Many understaffed nursing homes do not watch residents closely enough or help them rotate positions in bed.
- Physical Assault: Most nursing home residents are physically frail and/or suffer from at least one adverse physical condition. As a result, a little force causes serious injury. That physical force could come from another resident or from a staff member.
- Falls: Slip-and-fall injuries are generally the leading cause of nursing home wrongful death settlements. The majority of nursing home residents fall at some point, and falls are a leading cause of unintentional death for persons over 65.
Honorable mention, or perhaps dishonorable mention, goes to prescription medication errors. In busy, understaffed nursing homes, it’s easy to give a resident the wrong pill or the wrong medication dosage.
Think you might have a wrongful death case? Please contact our attorneys by filling out the form below.
First Party Liability
In nursing home wrongful death cases, the plaintiff may introduce direct or circumstantial evidence of negligence.
Assault cases are a good example of direct evidence matters. Generally, someone saw the incident. Or, the incident may be recorded on video. So-called “granny cams,” which are hidden surveillance cameras in nursing home rooms, are generally legal in Washington State.
Falls, on the other hand, often involve indirect evidence of negligence and the res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”) rule. If negligence probably caused the victim’s injury or illness, and the landowner had exclusive control over the area where the incident occurred, the defendant may be negligent as a matter of law.
Res ipsa loquitur cases are complex legal claims which have lots of moving parts.
Third Party Liability in Washington State
In nursing home wrongful death settlements, individual tortfeasors (negligent actors) often do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensations. In fact, in many cases, they may have no personal insurance at all.
Fortunately, Washington State has very broad third party liability rules. These rules give plaintiffs an additional source of compensation. Some common theories include:
- Respondeat Superior: This doctrine often comes up in negligence cases, like bedsore injuries. The employer is responsible for the negligent acts of an employee which are committed during the course and scope of employment.
- Negligent Hiring/Negligent Supervision: These doctrines, which are very similar to one another, often apply in assault and other intentional tort cases. Nursing homes and other employers have a duty to properly hire and supervise workers, especially when these workers provide health care services.
Washington State is a modified joint and several liability state. So, if there are multiple tortfeasors, the judge usually apportions damages among them based on their percentage of fault.
Rely on an Experienced Lawyer
Nursing homes are risky places for your loved one. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Yakima, contact Kapuza Lighty PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Yakima County and nearby jurisdictions.