We entrust our loved ones to residential care facilities and skilled nursing facilities with the expectation that they will be treated with compassion and professionalism. But all too often, residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in California are subjected to abuse, neglect, and on occasion, outright cruelty.
Elderly and disabled people living in institutions are often not fully aware of what is happening to them. As the relative or friend of someone who has suffered suspected abuse or neglect in a residential care facility, it is important to take action early.
Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger is a team of attorneys dedicated to holding care facilities responsible for injuries inflicted on residents. If someone you love has been injured or died as the result of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you may call us at 415-906-3764 for a free consultation.
Has A Loved One Suffered Harm In A Nursing Home?
Some of the injuries occurring in nursing homes and assisted living facilities include the following:
- Bedsores (pressure ulcers)
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Injury sustained when wandering off the premises
- Bruises, fractures and broken bones caused by repeated falls
- Failure to seek timely medical intervention
- Injuries caused by assaults by staff or other residents
Our law firm will act quickly to investigate the cause of the injuries or death and document the negligence of all responsible parties.
Causes Of Abuse And Neglect In Residential Care Facilities
Skilled nursing facilities licensed by the California Department of Public Health and assisted living facilities (e.g. RCFEs or Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly) licensed by the California Department of Social Services face cost pressures. Because these facilities operate on a fixed fee basis and not on a fee-for-service basis, there is an incentive to cut costs in order to generate a profit. In fact, that is the only way for these facilities to generate a profit. The biggest expense for nursing homes is staffing. So the easiest way to cut costs is to cut staffing. Unfortunately, the quality and quantity of staffing is the best indicator of quality care, and cutting staffing is a sure way to diminish the quality of care. As a result, skilled nursing facilities and residential care facilities sometimes hire insufficient numbers of staff, hire underqualified staff, fail to properly supervise staff, or cut corners in other ways.
How We Can Help
The nursing home lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have the investigative resources to document these types of negligence. We also have the advocacy experience needed to obtain compensation and justice through the legal system.
We are experienced with the complexities that can arise in elder abuse and dependent adult abuse cases. Because this population is so vulnerable, many of these cases require long-term care planning, adaptive equipment, and increased caregiving to adapt to a new or increased long-term disability. Other cases unfortunately result in wrongful death of the injured person. In a wrongful death case, the surviving relatives may bring a claim for the loss of their loved one and they may bring a separate claim for the pre-death pain and suffering of the person who passed away.
Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger is dedicated to advocacy on behalf of people subjected to nursing home abuse or neglect. We make it our goal to not only obtain compensation for those harmed, but also to create accountability and incentives that will help prevent future abuse.
If you would like to research a facility, whether because you are choosing a nursing home for a loved one, or because you have experienced abuse and want to know if prior incidents have occurred, the following resources can help:
- For residential care facilities licensed by Community Care Licensing (which is within the Department of Social Services), you can search for facilities by name or location here: https://secure.dss.ca.gov/CareFacilitySearch/home/selecttype/.
- To file a complaint with Community Care Licensing, follow the instructions on this page of its website.
- For long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities, licensed by the California Department of Public Health, you can search for facilities by name or location here: http://hfcis.cdph.ca.gov/search.aspx.
- To complain about one of these facilities with the licensing and certification division, you can contact the applicable District Office.
- For a whole assortment of resources for consumers, including information, consumer fact sheets, and advocacy regarding nursing homes, residential care, legislative and safety issues, visit the website of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
Special Protections For Seniors And Disabled Persons
In California Welfare and Institutions Code's Section 15600, the California Legislature declared that seniors and dependent adults have rights as a protected class of persons and deserve special protections.
For the first time in 2015, the legislature has mandated that residential care facilities must carry insurance. This is a critical provision to provide protection, accountability, and compensation for those injured at such facilities.
However, unless there is a way to enforce these regulations in our courts, they don't matter to the corporate "bottom line." That is why the California legislature enacted laws creating special legal remedies for these cases.
The legislature recognized that elders and dependent adults may be subjected to abuse, neglect or abandonment and that our society has a responsibility to protect these persons.
As a result, California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15657 was enacted. It provides special protection and financial damages for seniors (defined as those 65 years or older) and disabled adults who are abused or neglected. At Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, our attorneys are able to use the special protections and remedies of this statutory scheme to protect elders who are abused by their caretakers.
Specifically, California law provides special remedies where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant is liable for physical abuse or neglect and that the defendant has been guilty of recklessness, oppression, fraud or malice in the commission of this abuse.
When we uncover and prove that elder abuse has occurred under this statute, the courts will allow the plaintiff to recover, in addition to all other remedies otherwise provided by law, reasonable attorney's fees and costs, as well as pain and suffering damages up to a maximum of $250,000. Additionally, because the cause of harm is elder abuse rather than medical malpractice, the limits on medical malpractice damages that apply in other cases do not apply in nursing home abuse cases. And where the standards set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 3294 of the Civil Code regarding the imposition of punitive damages on an employer are met, punitive damages are available.
Free Consultation — Contact Our Firm
To learn how we can help you, call Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger at 415-906-3764 or contact us online.