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What Is the Difference Between Nursing Home Neglect vs. Abuse in Indiana?


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The terms abuse and neglect are often tossed around interchangeably in the context of nursing home injuries and lawsuits. While both are grounds for the victim to file a civil case to recover damages for their harms, it is important to know the distinctions so that you can properly evaluate your case.

Neglect is a type of nursing home injury whereby the staff or management of the facility fails to provide the basic necessities to which residents have rights. Abuse typically involves more intentional type of conduct. When neglect or abuse causes a resident to be injured or exacerbates an existing condition, they can seek damages for the requisite medical care and pain and suffering that result.

To discuss the finer points of your case so that you can determine what is best for you and your loved ones, call the Indiana nursing home abuse lawyers at Wruck Paupore for a free case assessment today.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse in Indiana?

Nursing home abuse is a catch-all term used to refer to any mistreatment of residents at an accredited nursing home or assisted living facility in the State of Indiana. Nursing home abuse could occur in a variety of ways, including neglect. However, when you hear about nursing home abuse, it typically concerns intentional infliction of harm by administrators, staff members, or other residents under the nursing home’s care.

For instance, abuses like physical assault are more common than we would care to consider at our state’s nursing home facilities. Slapping, kicking, and pushing can result in serious harm to nursing home residents, who are already particularly susceptible to physical damage. Nursing home residents may also fall victim to sexual predators on staff, so the facility management must use proper vetting procedures during the hiring process. Under Indiana’s Stropes standard, you can likely sue the nursing home for the intentionally harmful acts of a staff member if the nursing home management authorized the staff member to make regular physical contact to perform tasks within the scope of their employment.

In addition, nursing homes have an obligation to protect your loved ones from abuse at the hands of other residents. All to commonly, sexual misconduct and physical assault occurs at the hands of other residents, rather than employees of the nursing home. Nevertheless, the nursing home has an obligation to provide a safe environment and offer appropriate protections from other nursing home residents who may act inappropriately.

Nursing home abuse does not have to be physical. Emotional abuse is a recognized form of nursing home abuse. It can result from public humiliation, name-calling, and deprivation of certain rights, such as the freedom to see visitors or use the phone.

Some nursing home residents have petty cash or expense accounts at their facilities that are managed by the administrative staff. Unfortunately, this mostly unguarded well of assets is ripe for theft and unauthorized use. Therefore, nursing home abuse may also be financial in nature.

Our lawyers do not directly handle claims of financial abuse, but frequently financial abuse is also a sign of physical and emotional abuse. If you suspect any of these types of abuses, they should be reported to the home and to law enforcement.

What Is Nursing Home Neglect in Indiana?

While neglect is often thrown in under the banner of nursing home abuse, it consists of different factors than the rest of the types of abuses outlined above. Generally, nursing home neglect results from failures to meet certain obligations to residents. Some of these seem fairly basic, like basic access to food, water, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Nursing homes must also institute reasonable sanitary and hygienic protocols throughout the facility. Administrators and managers must regularly conduct inspections of the premises for potential hazards and install handrails and other safety features.

Some of the other duties owed by nursing homes come from the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA). The NHRA is a package of federal legislation passed in 1987 to combat eroding conditions at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Any facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid in Indiana must abide by the rules laid out in the NHRA.

According to the NHRA, nursing home residents are legally entitled to all of the following:

  • Privacy
  • Freedom from neglect, abuse, and mistreatment
  • Freedom from restraints
  • Freedom to refuse medical treatment
  • Access to medical records and care plans
  • Open communication
  • Dignified treatment
  • Freedom to complain without fear of retribution or reprisal

If a nursing home administrator or staff member deprives a resident of any of these rights, the resident may have a valid cause of action to bring a lawsuit for nursing home neglect.

Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Lawsuit in Indiana

To successfully bring a civil claim in court against a nursing home or a staff member for their abuses, a victim will have to demonstrate that they suffered harms as a result of the abuse or neglect. The court will then assess the harms to determine how much the nursing home should compensate the victim for their experience.

Compensation is based on both economic and non-economic consequences of the harm done by the abuse or neglect. If the court determines that the wrongdoer deserves additional punishment, there may also be additional damages.

Economic Damages

Some harms resulting from nursing home abuse can be directly quantified in terms of dollars and cents. For instance, a nursing home resident who suffers physical injuries or contracts disease because of nursing home abuse or neglect can pursue recovery of the cost they must spend on medical care to treat their condition. This includes situations where the abuse or neglect caused a resident’s preexisting condition to worsen.

Non-Economic Damages

Perhaps the most substantial harms that a nursing home abuse or neglect victim may suffer are those that are more personal in nature. Your South Bend nursing home abuse attorney can help you quantify what you could recover in return for the pain and suffering you have and will continue to experience as a result of the nursing home’s wrongdoings.

Punitive Damages

In certain instances where the abuse was intentionally malicious or so egregious that it warrants punishment, courts can award punitive damages. This is particularly common in nursing home abuse cases if the nursing home knew about physical or emotional abuses and did not act to stop them. However, punitive damages may also be awarded in nursing home neglect cases if the neglect was so substantial and harmful that the court finds the nursing home’s behavior to be malicious.

Victim of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse? Wruck Paupore Can Help Today

When you call the dedicated Indianapolis nursing home abuse attorneys at Wruck Paupore, you can obtain a free personalized case assessment for your first call to our offices at (219) 322-1166.

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