Nursing Home Abuse in California

When the people we love get older we want to make sure that they have the best quality of life. Since we often lack the time and ability to take care of our loved ones ourselves, we often turn to nursing homes for help. When our loved ones move into a nursing home, we trust that they will be well cared for and safe. Unfortunately, nursing homes abuse is very real in California. In fact, reports of abuse have increased in recent years. Some blame poor oversight while others blame greedy nursing home companies.

Has your loved one has experienced abuse in a nursing home? If so, it is important for you to understand your legal rights. Filing a lawsuit can help you recover compensation for your loved one’s harm while holding a negligent nursing home accountable.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse can be broadly defined to mean conduct or behavior that harms an elderly resident. This harm can be physical, emotional, or even financial. In California, there are actually many different types of nursing home abuse.

Physical Abuse: Physical abuse involves the harmful touching of a nursing home resident. A nursing home resident who experiences physical abuse will experience a physical injury and/or pain. Examples of physical abuse can include:

  • Hitting
  • Pushing
  • Sexual abuse, and
  • The use of excessive restraints.

Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse can be just as devastating as physical abuse. This type of abuse occurs when a nursing home subjects a resident to behavior that is likely to result in psychological trauma (e.g., anxiety, depression, fear). Examples of emotional abuse can include:

  • Yelling
  • Using derogatory slurs and phrases
  • Intimidation, and
  • Bullying.

Abandonment: Abandonment occurs when a nursing home or caretaker deserts an individual it was entrusted to care for. Abandonment is much more common when we trust individual caretakers or family members to watch out for our loved ones.

Neglect: Neglect is perhaps the most frequently reported form of nursing home abuse in California. Neglect occurs when a nursing home fails to provide adequate care and aid to a resident. Examples of neglect can include failing to:

  • Provide adequate food and nutrition
  • Ensure residents receive appropriate medications
  • Bathe or assist residents with personal hygiene
  • Protect residents from safety and health hazards, or
  • Provide adequate medical and mental health care.

Financial Abuse: Nursing home residents are actually at an increased risk of experiencing financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs when a nursing home exploits a resident’s money, property, or assets without consent. Examples of financial abuse can include:

  • Staff members stealing cash and/or property from a resident
  • Staff or administration making purchases using a resident’s credit card or bank account
  • Forging a resident’s signature on personal checks, and
  • Forcing or fraudulently convicting residents to sign a new will or legal documents.

What are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

There are two primary signs of nursing home abuse: physical and emotional.

Physical signs of abuse include:

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Bed sores
  • Extreme and unexpected weight loss
  • Limited mobility, and
  • Complaints of pain.

Emotional signs of nursing home abuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Unexplained bouts of anger or rage
  • Isolation
  • Agitation, and
  • Confusion.

These signs will not always mean that your loved one is experiencing abuse. However, it is important to speak with your loved one and the individuals in charge of their care if you do notice any physical or behavioral changes.

What Can I Do If I Recognize Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is both a criminal and civil offense in California. The first thing you should do is report the abuse to local authorities. The next thing you should do is consider filing a personal injury lawsuit for damages. In California, anyone who assumes responsibility for the care of your elderly loved one may be liable for injuries.

In most cases, individuals or entities whose willful conduct or negligent behavior causes your loved one to suffer harm will be liable. This could include nursing home companies, administrators, nurses, caretakers, and other staff. Regulatory and government agencies in charge of oversight may also be responsible for any harm your elderly loved one suffers.

What Damages Can I Get If I File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?

Nursing home abuse can be devastating for you and your family. Fortunately, you have the right to file a lawsuit for damages. Money will not undo the abuse, but it can help to alleviate some of the financial stress you experience. In California, you will likely be able to request both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages help to compensate for your financial costs. Non-economic damages help you with more personal and intimate harms.

Commonly awarded damages in nursing home abuse lawsuits include those for:

  • Medical bills (both present and future)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Medication
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Emotional distress.

If your loved one suffered abuse that was willful, fraudulent, or malicious, you may also be entitled to an award of punitive damages. These are intended to punish the abuser and are paid in addition to other damages.

Nursing home abuse can be traumatic for your loved one and your family. Do you want to learn more about how you can file a personal injury lawsuit? Contact an experienced California nursing home abuse attorney at Citywide Law Group – citywidelaw.com. They will help you understand your rights and answer any questions you have. You can also check out our guide on finding a good personal injury lawyer in California.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Determining liability after a California car accident can be difficult. Fault and liability are often heavily disputed, requiring the need for thorough investigations into the crash. Why is it so important to find out who is responsible for causing an accident? In California, anyone who contributes to the cause of an accident can be on the hook for damages. If you’ve been injured in a crash, you’ll want to know everyone who can be held financially responsible for your injuries.

Contributory vs. Comparative Fault

There are two primary types of fault: contributory and comparative. Some states embrace the law of contributory fault, which bars anyone who is responsible for an accident from recovering compensation for their injuries. In contributory negligence states, you are only entitled to an award of damages if you played no role in your accident or injury. However, you could still be on the hook for damages if someone else was injured in your accident.

Some states, including California, embrace the rule of comparative fault, which is generally considered to be more lenient and victim-friendly. There are two important things you need to know about comparative fault:

  1. Anyone who contributes to the cause of an accident can be held financially responsible for damages, and
  2. You are not barred from recovering compensation for your injuries if you shoulder some of the blame for your injury.

Apportionment of Fault

What happens when more than one person is responsible for causing your accident and injury? California law explains that responsibility for damages will be apportioned between responsible parties. This basically means that 100 % of your damages will be divided between anyone who caused your accident. In order to determine how much each at-fault party will be responsible for paying, it is necessary to determine their role in causing the accident. The larger their role, the greater their share of responsibility for damages.

Example #1: A, B, and C are involved in a crash at a Los Angeles intersection. An investigation shows that B was texting at the time of the crash, while C attempted to speed through a yellow light. A sustained serious injuries in the crash and has suffered $100,000 in damages. It’s determined that B and C were equally responsible for causing the accident. As a result, B and C will both be responsible for paying half of A’s damages (or $50,000 each).

Example #2: A, B, and C are involved in a Los Angeles car accident. A suffers extensive injuries in the crash and has damages of $100,000. An investigation finds that B was drunk at the time of the crash and C was driving on a suspended license. As a result, B is assigned 90% of the fault, while B assumes the other 10% of the blame. B would be responsible for 90% of A’s damages ($90,000) and B would be responsible for 10% of A’s damages ($10,000).

Fault of Victim

Victims who contribute to their own accident are barred from recovering compensation in states that embrace the rule of contributory negligence. In California, however, a victim is not barred from recovering compensation as long as they share the blame with another person. In other words, victims are only prohibited from recovering damages if they are 100% responsible for their own harm.

While victims are not barred from recovering damages, the amount they can get is reduced by their own degree of fault. This can apply to circumstances that (a) contribute to the accident or (b) aggravate the severity of their injuries. The more responsibility they shoulder, the less they’ll be able to recover.

Example #1: A, B, and C are involved in an accident. A suffers significant injuries in the crash and has damages of $100,000. The investigation finds that A, B, and C were all speeding at the time of the crash. A’s ability to recover compensation will be reduced by her own degree of fault. As a result, she will only be able to get 66.6 percent of her accident-related damages. B and C will share equal responsibility in paying these damages.

Example #2: A and B are involved in an accident, and both suffer extensive injuries in the crash. Each has damages of $100,000. An investigation finds that A is 70% responsible for causing the accident. As a result, A will only be able to recover $30,000 in damages ($100,000 reduced by 70 percent fault) from B. At the same time, B will be able to recover $70,000 in damages ($100,000 reduced by 30 percent fault) from A.

Do You Need More Info?

If you’ve been involved in a car accident you should contact an attorney. Determining fault and liability can be difficult, but an attorney can help to make sure that your case is handled properly. Visit our guide on how to find a good personal injury attorney for more information.

Car Accident with an Uninsured Motorists in California

Have you been involved in a California car accident with an uninsured driver? You may be entitled to compensation. However, it can be difficult to recover the full amount of money to which you are entitled. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case will help to ensure you are properly compensated for your accident-related injuries. See our guide on how to find a good personal injury lawyer in California for more information.

Minimally-Acceptable Car Insurance Coverage in California

California law requires all drivers to purchase and maintain minimally-acceptable car insurance coverage for all vehicles registered with the state. Minimally-acceptable coverage requires:

  • $15,000 (death or injury of one person)
  • $30,000 (death or injury of multiple people), and
  • $5,000 (property damage).

When a driver is involved in an accident, their car insurance policy can be used to cover the cost of bodily injury and property damage, up the amount of their policy limit. Drivers who do not carry 15/30/5 coverage are in violation of the law.

Uninsured vs. Underinsured Drivers

Even though all California drivers are required to purchase and maintain minimally-acceptable car insurance coverage, not everyone does. In fact, approximately 13 percent of all drivers on the road are “uninsured.” This means that they have no car insurance coverage to protect them or others in the event of an accident.

Other drivers have some insurance, but not enough to satisfy California’s legal requirement for what is acceptable. These drivers are considered “underinsured.”

When you are involved in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, things can be complicated.

What Can I Do If I’m Injured By an Uninsured Driver?

If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, there are two main options for recovering damages. First, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurer for benefits. Second, you have the right to file a personal injury claim for damages.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC)

California state law requires all insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) to all policyholders. The purpose of UMC is to cover the cost of your injuries and property damage if you happen to be in a crash with an underinsured or uninsured driver.

While you are not legally obligated to purchase UMC, it can be incredibly beneficial if you are in a crash and subsequently faced with expensive medical bills, lost wages, and costly car repairs.

How does UMC work? It depends on whether the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured:

Uninsured: If the at-fault driver is uninsured, your UMC benefits will essentially take the place of the insurance policy that the other driver should have had. The UMC benefits will be capped at whatever your standard policy coverage amount is. So, if you carry minimally-acceptable 15/30/5 coverage, your UMC will be capped at 15/30/5.

Underinsured: If the at-fault driver is underinsured, your UMC benefits will be used to supplement the at-fault driver’s policy. If the driver only had $10,000 in bodily injury coverage, your UMC would kick in to cover the $5,000 the other driver did not have.

It is important to understand that even though you have UMC, your insurance company will want to limit any benefits that you are awarded. They will try to undervalue your claim and pay out as little as possible. You do have the right to contest their decision by requesting an arbitration hearing. Hiring an attorney to help you navigate your uninsured motorist claim will help you get the money you deserve.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, or if you do not think your UMC benefits will cover the full extent of your damages, you have the right to pursue a civil legal claim. However,  if the uninsured driver could not afford insurance, they may not have the assets or resources to pay monetary damages awarded in a lawsuit.

Does this mean you should not consider a personal injury lawsuit? No. Other at-fault parties with deeper pocket may be able to get you the money you need. In California, more than one person can be liable for an accident. Each person is simply held accountable to the degree they contributed to the accident and/or injury.

Potentially liable parties, in addition to the uninsured driver, include:

It is important to thoroughly investigate your accident to determine all potentially liable parties.

I’ve Been Injured By an Uninsured Driver. What Should I Do?

It is important to treat an accident involving an uninsured driver as you would any other type of crash. The things you do immediately after your accident will affect any future legal claims you decide to pursue.

Report the Accident: Reporting the accident is crucial. Make sure that police are dispatched to the scene and complete a Traffic Collision Report. This report may not be admissible as evidence in court, but it can be incredibly helpful to your attorney. It will contain information about your accident that will likely be lost or forgotten over time (e.g., weather conditions, traffic, eye-witnesses).

Seek Medical Treatment: Your health and safety should be your first priority. A doctor will make sure that all of your injuries are properly diagnosed and treated, reducing the risk of life-threatening complications. The medical report will be useful in establishing a link between your accident and injuries.

Notify Your Insurance Company: Make sure that you tell your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident right away. They will do everything they can to minimize the benefits you recover. Hesitating to report the accident may negatively affect your recovery.

Hire an Attorney: While you should notify your insurance company about the crash, it is important to limit any further communication. The insurance company will try to get you to accept an early offer to prevent you from retaining an attorney. They know that your chances of maximizing the benefits you receive are greatest when you have an attorney at your side.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney in Your Area

Have you been involved in a California car accident? Was the other driver underinsured or uninsured? The sooner you act, the better your chances of getting the money you deserve. Call an attorney in your jurisdiction today to request a free consultation.