Nursing Home Litigation

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The importance of quality nursing home care has grown exponentially in the United States with the nation’s rapidly growing elderly population.   Unfortunately, negligent nursing home care has increased along with growth in the nursing home industry.  If you or a loved one has suffered at the hands of nursing home staff, who are unable or unwilling to provide the quality of care that all nursing home patients deserve, you should consult with attorneys who have experience in the complex arena of nursing home litigation.  Lupetin & Unatin, LLC, has that experience. We encourage you to contact our law firm for a free consultation.

Nursing home litigation requires a mastery of health care issues and a solid understanding of the complex maze of federal and state regulations that apply to nursing institutions.  The fact that a person resides in a nursing home usually means that he or she has multiple chronic medical conditions, has difficulty performing more than one activity of daily living, and may have some degree of cognitive impairment.  A nursing home patient’s well-being, therefore, often depends entirely on nursing home staff providing quality nursing care in all aspects of the patient’s life.

In addition to understanding medical issues related to gerontology, an attorney needs to understand how a team of various healthcare professions (e.g., internal medicine, physical therapy, and nutrition) are expected to work together day-to-day and shift-by-shift to provide individualized nursing care.  Proper nutrition and hydration, proper procedures in the transfer of non-ambulatory patients, and proper inspection and care of bedridden patients to prevent the onset of bedsores, are just a few of the areas of nursing home care that must meet specific professional and legal standards of care.  The failure to meet those standards too often results in horrible injuries to extremely vulnerable nursing home residents, who may not have the ability to speak up for themselves when faced with overworked or indifferent nursing home staff.

Federal law for the nursing home industry is controlled under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, 42 U.S.C. § 1395i-3, and its regulations, 42 C.F.R. 483.1, et seq. The federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws and regulations is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.  Under federal law, states are responsible for inspecting nursing home facilities, and the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services is responsible for determining whether the states are performing their duties.  Through its Department of Health, Pennsylvania, like other states, promulgates and publishes state regulations in compliance with federal law, and also publishes the results of state inspections county by county. These federal and state laws and inspection reports are valuable legal tools when dealing with cases of nursing home negligence.

Note on Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements:  When admitting a nursing home patient, most nursing homes now request the newly admitted patient, or someone with the legal authority to speak for the patient, to sign an arbitration agreement, which waives the patient’s right to a jury trial in the event that the patient is injured through negligence of the nursing home or its staff.  The agreement replaces a jury with a panel of professional arbitrators, who know that their ability to continue to receive work depends in large part on whether nursing home administrators approve of their rulings.

Nursing homes that accept Medicare payments are not permitted to require arbitration agreements as a condition of care.  Arbitration agreements must be separate from the nursing home’s admission agreement.  If you or someone you know needs nursing home care, and you are asked to sign an arbitration agreement, tell the nursing administrator that you will need time to review the arbitration agreement before signing it.  Have it reviewed by an attorney first.  Your right to a jury trial provides significant protection from nursing homes who fail to live up to their responsibilities when caring for patients.

If you have signed a nursing home arbitration agreement, have it reviewed by an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  Most, if not all, arbitration agreements allow for revocation of the agreement within 30 days of its execution.  Moreover, arbitration agreements are often invalidly executed by persons lacking either the legal or mental capacity to waive important legal rights.  An attorney with experience in nursing home litigation should be able to guide you through all of your rights and obligations under a nursing home arbitration agreement.

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