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Abuse or neglect of nursing home residents is not only immoral but against the law, and when it occurs, abusers must be held accountable. The team at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath is here to demand accountability.

If your loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home in Fort Myers or surrounding areas, contact us to speak with a Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorney who will fight for justice.

fort myers nursing home abuse attorney

What to do if you suspect abuse at your loved one’s nursing home in Fort Myers

Following these important steps can help protect your loved one and stop abusers from hurting other residents.

1. Make detailed notes of possible abuse

Document details of the suspected abuse. If you notice injuries, describe them. If you notice missing property or strange banking activity, note those details. If you notice a strained relationship between your loved one and a staffer, write down what you observed and when you observed it.

2. Gather evidence to support your suspicions

Evidence of abuse may include testimony from your loved one, what other residents or staffers have witnessed, photos of injuries, bank statements, or notes regarding changes in your loved one’s behavior or demeanor.

3. Contact a nursing home ombudsman

Nursing home ombudsmen work on a volunteer basis to advocate for residents of nursing homes. Ombudsmen work to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints made by residents or on behalf of residents. If you suspect abuse, contact an ombudsman to start an investigation and advocate for your loved one’s safety.

Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program

The mission of Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program (LTCOP) is to “improve the quality of life for all Florida long-term care residents by advocating for and protecting their health, safety, and welfare and rights.”  Florida statutes govern the LTCOP, whose work is carried out by 13 district offices covering the state.

4. Consult a Fort Myers nursing home abuse lawyer

Abusers must be held accountable, and victims must receive justice. Contact a Fort Myers nursing home attorney from our team to start working toward those goals.

Reporting abuse in Fort Myers

In Florida, anyone who suspects or witnesses incidents of nursing home abuse is mandated by law to report it. Through the Florida Department of Children and Families reporters can file online or call the abuse hotline.

Within one hour of receiving the report, hotline counselors send it to the county investigation office where the victim lives. If the victim is at immediate risk, the investigator will respond as soon as possible, and if there is no imminent risk, will respond within 24 hours.

A person who knowingly makes a false report can be charged with a felony. Those who report in good faith are not subject to liability.

Types of nursing home abuse Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath can help with

Nursing homes care for some of the most vulnerable members of our population. Older adults rely on these facilities to provide them with everything they need to live, including food, medical and personal hygiene care, shelter, and safety.

Unfortunately, there is no end to the ways vulnerable residents can be harmed, but most types of abuse fall into the following categories.

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Physical abuse

Actions causing physical injury, including inappropriate use of restraint and improper administration of medication, are examples of physical abuse.

Emotional abuse

Victims who are belittled, intimidated, berated, or otherwise manipulated have been emotionally abused.

Neglect

While other forms of abuse are intentional, nursing home abuse may not be. However, it still stands as abuse. For example, some residents are uncared for because of understaffing. Other times, staffers intentionally neglect a patient’s needs, failing to give them medication, food, opportunities to socialize, or allowing them to go without bathing or clean clothes.

Financial abuse

Stealing property or money from residents, using their credit cards, stealing or manipulating victims into disclosing personal information to set up accounts, or taking money from the resident’s accounts are examples of financial abuse.

Sexual abuse

Whether abusers perform unwanted sexual acts on residents, force residents to engage in sexual acts, or force them to watch sexually explicit material, they have committed sexual abuse.

Common injuries we’ve seen in nursing home abuse cases

Family and friends of residents should stay on high alert for signs which can include:

  • An unsanitary environment
  • Sudden or significant weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration
  • Bruising around the wrists or ankles where restraints used
  • Pressure sores
  • Injuries caused by a fall
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Fear of facility staff or tense interactions with staff
  • Being over or under medicated
  • Painful urination or injury to genital areas
  • Missing property
  • Unusual bank account changes

Elderly adults with dementia are more at risk

Residents experiencing dementia have an elevated risk for abuse since they often cannot communicate clearly, remember exactly what happened, or have their allegations dismissed as symptoms of their diminished cognitive condition.

Failure to prevent wandering

The University of South Florida (USF) published a troubling statistic, showing almost 1,000 nursing home resident elopements during a recent five-year period. Whether caused by neglect or understaffing, these instances of wandering amount to abuse.

Nursing home abuse claims have filing deadlines

Florida has a two-year statute of limitations, or legal deadline, from the abuse incident for filing nursing abuse claims. However, not all abuse is discovered right away, so the statute allows for filing years from the time the abuse was, or could reasonably have been, recognized.

Need help filing a nursing home abuse claim in Fort Myers? Turn to Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath

Florida Statute 415.1111 establishes who can file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. Claimants include:

  • The abuse victim
  • The victim’s guardian – When residents can not make personal or financial decisions for themselves, the state may appoint a legal guardian to assume these responsibilities.
  • Another person acting on behalf of the victim, typically a family member who would need consent from the victim’s guardian to file.
  • The personal representative of the victim’s estate – If the abuse results in wrongful death, the estate representative can file. If there is no representative, the court will appoint one.

Our nursing home abuse attorneys fight to get you the maximum recovery for your or your loved one’s abuse.

Nursing home abuse claims fall under personal injury laws, and claimants may collect compensation for economic and non-economic damages and additional punitive damages. If your loved one dies from their abusive experience, you can seek wrongful death damages.

Economic damages

Any elements of the abuse that affected your loved one’s finances are economic damages. For example, medical expenses or stolen money or property. A settlement can cover these expenses or recover the losses.

Non-economic damages

The effects of the abuse on your loved one’s emotional and psychological well-being and quality of life are acknowledged through non-economic damages. Physical abuse can lead to limited mobility and worsened physical health. Sexual abuse leads to emotional distress, whether from pain, fear, or feelings of shame.

If your loved one was kept isolated, unable to have any social interaction or enjoy activities, they likely experienced diminished quality of life. Abuse of any sort can trigger psychological distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Punitive damages

Punitive damages punish the abuser and act as a deterrent, preventing the abuser from repeating the abuse or neglect and deterring others from engaging in such injurious behavior.

To collect punitive damages, Statute 400.0237 states claimants must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the offender “actively and knowingly participated in intentional misconduct, or engaged in conduct that constitutes gross negligence and contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the claimant.

Victims of nursing home abuse often feel stripped of their dignity and suffer physical and emotional consequences. Holding their abusers legally accountable can restore a sense of dignity along with compensation for their losses and provide a measure of justice. Our team of Fort Myers nursing home negligence lawyers will work to get your loved one the highest settlement possible.

Determining liability: How Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey &Fronrath identifies who’s at fault

Abusers can have a variety of identities. There are many parties involved in the facility’s upkeep and care of residents. When your Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorneys investigate your loved one’s case, they will expose all abusive parties.

Nurse or caregiver

Nurses or other caregivers on the “front lines” of caring for your loved ones can become overwhelmed or overworked and respond by abusing your loved ones, either by injuring them or neglecting them.

Nursing home facility

If a nursing home facility does not comply with state regulations or hires enough workers, or defrauds your loved one of money, they have committed abuse.

Third-party device manufacturer

Some residents rely on medical devices for their well-being. If these devices are defective, assembled improperly, or do not come with necessary warnings, your loved one’s health and safety can be compromised.

Third-party trespasser or contractor

A lack of adequate security may allow trespassers to enter the facility and harm your loved one. Even contractors who are there for a purpose may not be vetted and use their access harmfully.

Lytal, Rieter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath fights for your right of quality care

Florida, like many other states, recognizes the importance of protecting nursing home residents and has equipped them with a bill of rights documented in Florida Statutes chapter 400.022.

All nursing homes must inform residents of these rights and treat them accordingly. Under the law, residents have, among other rights, the right to:

  • Be treated with respect and dignity
  • Receive medical care
  • Live free of abuse or neglect
  • Engage in social activities or programs
  • Report grievances without experiencing retaliation
  • Private and uncensored communication, whether in person, via mail, telephone, or electronic means
  • Overnight visitation away from the facility, with the doctor’s approval
  • Access to legal, medical, social, or other services from practitioners of their choice and to stop these services
  • Immediate access to representatives as established in the statute, regardless of facility visiting hours

If you file a nursing home abuse claim, your attorney will investigate your loved one’s situation with great care. With extensive knowledge of nursing home residents’ rights and Florida’s personal injury laws, your attorney will build a case to prove the abuse and demand a just settlement.

Establishing negligence and securing settlements in nursing home abuse cases

Proving abuse or negligence and collecting a subsequent settlement requires evidence of four components of negligence.

First, you must prove the defendant owed your loved one a “duty of care.” A duty of care is an obligation to support your loved one’s safety and avoid actions compromising their safety. The Florida Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights codifies this duty.

Next, you must show that the facility breached, or failed to uphold, its duty of care. Your nursing home abuse in Fort Myers will investigate the situation to discover evidence of the breach, or breaches.

Then, your attorney will have to prove the connection between the breach of duty and your loved one’s injuries, showing the facility’s breach caused those injuries. For example, a staffer’s over-medicating of your loved one led to medical consequences. Or consistent verbal abuse left your loved one anxious and depressed.

Finally, you must prove your loved one’s injuries left them with quantifiable damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer in Fort Myers will know how to value your loved one’s injuries, whether they are concrete physical or financial injuries or non-tangible emotional injuries.

Risk-free representation: Pay us only when we win your case

Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath works on a contingency basis for nursing home abuse cases. This means we do not accept any payment until we have secured your loved one’s settlement. Even your initial consultation is free. A percentage of the settlement covers our fees.

Our Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorneys fight for justice and uphold dignity

Pursuing claims of nursing home abuse can be an uphill battle, but fighting these battles is essential. We cannot allow those who abuse the most vulnerable among us to get away with their appalling, immoral, and illegal behavior. Your loved one deserves justice, and others in nursing home facilities deserve to be cared for and protected.

Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath will treat you and your loved one with compassion and respect while fighting fiercely to hold abusers accountable. Reach out for a free consultation from a Fort Myers nursing home abuse lawyer who will fight for your loved one’s rights.

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