Q1. Are there laws or regulations that apply to nursing homes?
A. Both state and federal regulations apply to the operation of nursing homes in the State of Ohio. These regulations cover all aspects of the care and treatment that a resident of an Ohio nursing home is entitled to receive.
These rights extend not only from the right to appropriate and necessary medical care but also the right to have privacy, to open their own mail and handle their financial affairs.
Q2. Can an Ohio nursing home be sued for injuring or causing the death of a resident?
A. Yes, nursing homes are subject to being sued in the State of Ohio for acts of negligence. Negligence is the failure to follow the appropriate standard of care as established either by the law or through established practice throughout the medical industry. The resident themselves, Power of Attorney or representative of their estate, if they have passed, can bring an action against a nursing home for any harm that has resulted from negligence on behalf of the nursing home and its employees and/or agents.
Q3. Can I file a claim against a nursing home without a lawyer?
A. Technically the answer to this question is yes, if you are filing for an injury to yourself. The answer is no, if you are attempting to file on behalf of a loved one over whom you have a Power of Attorney or as a representative of an Estate. The State of Ohio requires that only attorneys represent others with respect to claims brought in Ohio Courts.
A claim against a nursing home is a medical malpractice claim. It is a complex area of law requiring a number of prerequisites in order to file a law suit. One of those items is an Affidavit of Merit. These affidavits must be from experts in the field of medicine who in their affidavits state that the nursing home was negligent and that negligence caused harm to the resident of the nursing home. This typically is not something that can be done by a layperson and requires the expertise of lawyers to appropriately handle the case and meet all the technicalities of bringing a claim under Ohio Law.
Q4. Does an autopsy need to be performed to have a case investigated?
A. No, it is not mandatory to have an autopsy performed to pursue a claim against a nursing home. The majority of wrongful death claims against nursing homes are not situations in which an autopsy has been performed. While an autopsy may be helpful in a situation in which the resident has died while at the nursing home and an independent examination of the resident does not exist because they were never transferred to a hospital, you should not feel that you cannot have the case investigated because you did not choose to have an autopsy performed at the time. Many times the family is involved in the grieving process at the time of death and the question of whether or not to investigate a claim of neglect or abuse which caused the death does not arise until after the loved one has already been put to rest. The fact that the family was grieving and did not choose to have an autopsy performed is not a barrier to the pursuit of an investigation into the question of whether appropriate care was provided.
Q5. How long do I have in order to bring a claim against a nursing home for harm to a family member?
A. The medical malpractice statute in the State of Ohio is one (1) year. That means you have one (1) year from the date you knew or should have known that an injury occurred, in order to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the injured individual. In the case of death, a claim by the beneficiaries for their lost under Ohio’s wrongful death statute will expire two (2) years after the date of death. Accordingly, there are two (2) different dates to be aware of. A claim on behalf of the resident for their injuries, their medical bills and their pain and suffering has a one (1) year statute of limitations. A claim on behalf of the beneficiaries in a death case for their loss of society, companionship, and all the other losses associated with losing a loved one has a statute of two (2) years from the date of death.
Q6. My family member fell at a nursing home and was hurt, do I have a claim?
A. The answer to this question will depend upon the medical history of your family member and the assessments performed at the nursing home. While all medical experts will agree that not all falls can be prevented, the role of a nursing home is to perform assessments to determine whether or not someone is a fall risk, i.e, have they fallen in the past, are they on medications which affect their balance, do they suffer from an underlying disease which affects balance or their ability to walk.
Having performed those assessments was your family member a fall risk? If yes, were appropriate interventions put in place; instructions to use a call light; being placed on a toileting program; using physical assistance to help them ambulate to and from the bathroom and/or wheelchair? If they have fallen in the past and are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s and are continuing to attempt to ambulate on their own, has the nursing home put in place such items as pull-tab alarms or pressure alarms to alert the staff as to whether or not your loved one is attempting to ambulate on their own. If there was an alarm in place, was it in proper working order at the time the fall took place; was the alarm sounding; was the staff attempting to respond to the alarm prior to the fall? All of these things go into a determination as to whether or not neglect has taken place when a fall occurs.
Q7. My family member has a bedsore, is that nursing home negligence?
A. Nursing homes are required to prevent the formation of bedsores to a resident at the facility or the advancement of bedsore which a resident has when they enter the facility. However, there are bedsores which are preventable and there are bedsores which are unavoidable. Before bedsore can be considered unavoidable under the regulations, the nursing home must have put into place all interventions available to them such as, a pressure relieving mattress; a turn schedule from side to side (if the resident is bed bound); a pressure relieving device for chairs (when the resident is sitting); and a proper nutrition and hydration plan. If the home has not followed the proper procedures and has failed to implement and/or follow all of the interventions necessary to prevent the formation of bedsore, this would be considered neglect.
Q8. My family member is in the hospital and the doctor told me they are suffering from dehydration. Is this neglect?
A. Generally, a case in which dehydration results in hospitalization is a sign that neglect may have taken place. There are certain instances despite best efforts that a nursing home cannot get a resident to take in enough water to maintain a proper hydration status. This, however, is the exception rather than the rule. Typically, most cases of dehydration occur in residents who have Alzheimer’s or dementia or who suffer from physical ailments where they can not physically bring a cup of water to their own lips. In these instances, almost every case is the result of the failure to provide appropriate and adequate nursing care to that individual.
Q9. Who can I call if I am unhappy with the treatment of a loved one in a nursing home?
A. There are a number of individuals and agencies that you can call. First, if a loved one has been hurt while in a nursing home you should call an attorney who can represent that individual for the injuries they have sustained. The Ohio Department of Health also has a nursing home hotline number which you can call and report any instances of neglect or abuse you believe have taken place, which will result in the State of Ohio conducting an investigation of that facility. The facility may or may not be cited for a violation, however, that agency will not seek to compensate the resident or the resident’s family for any harm that occurred. Their investigation is merely administrative. You may also call the state’s long-term Ombudsman, who will attempt to work through any ongoing problems that exist between a resident and the nursing home.
If you have any questions, please contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation. Call us at 1-888-534-4850 on any day of the week including weekends and evenings or send us a website message.