Is There a Legal Difference Between Abuse, Neglect and Malpractice that May Occur in a Maryland Nursing Facility?
Yes. There are definite and specific differences associated with these three types of legal terms as they apply to the mistreatment of nursing home residents here in Maryland; and each of which could result in potentially serious or even life-threatening results due to the actions of one or more individuals or entities. Before we begin, it is important to state that tens of thousands of lawsuits are filed against nursing homes across this country every year, though very few may actually go to trial and certainly a fair percentage may end with a less than favorable judgment for the plaintiff.
Since a great deal can hang in the balance when it comes to eldercare-related personal injury lawsuits, it is important to understand the differences between neglect, abuse and malpractice whenever a victim considers filing a personal injury lawsuit.Abuse of a Maryland Nursing Home Resident
First off, while the frequency of mistakes is surprisingly high, even in the most highly rated elder care facilities, instances of patient abuse should in no way be confused with those more simple, yet thoughtless errors in judgment often encountered in an eldercare environment. Rather, in Maryland nursing facilities the term “abuse” refers to an intentional and wrongful act committed against a resident, which causes either physical harm or mental injury — and in some of the worst cases, even death. Since aged nursing home residents are often unable to defend themselves against such abuse, the victim’s vulnerability makes this type of mistreatment all the more abhorrent.
Physical abuse encompasses a wide range of situations and levels of severity. Outright hitting, punching or otherwise physically assaulting an eldercare resident is often a clear-cut and wholly indefensible act of nursing home abuse. Gray areas exist, however, which is why it is important to consult a qualified personal injury attorney when contemplating a legal action against a Maryland elder care facility.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we understand that dealing with elderly patients can be a challenge, especially in cases where dementia or other cognitive problems complicate the daily caregiving routine. As difficult as any patient might be, however, the use of excessive force on an Alzheimer’s or mentally challenged nursing home resident can definitely cross the line and be considered an abusive act.
For example, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a staff member at a Maryland nursing home might lose patience with a difficult resident and actually tie him or her to the bed or sedate the individual with daily medication — these are two clear-cut examples of abusive treatment.
Unlike physical abuse, mental or emotional maltreatment is often much more difficult to identify. Being subtler, at least from the standpoint of a third party observer, mental abuse of a Maryland nursing home resident can come in a variety of forms. Excessive verbal scolding or haranguing of a patient, threatening to withhold care or sustenance, and bullying are just a few examples. Sadly, it is very difficult to sue a nursing home solely for mental abuse on the part of a staff member. As seasoned personal injury lawyers, we know that viable lawsuits against elder care facilities usually don’t include mental or emotional abuse alone; there typically needs to be some level of physical abuse as well.Nursing Home Neglect Cases
By law in the state of Maryland, eldercare facilities and nursing homes are obligated actively monitor and administer care to their elderly residents. When, as a matter of course, that care fails to occur a nursing home can be liable if injury to the patient results. The question usually arises in cases of nursing home neglect of what level of care was required and why it was not met.
For instance, at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we know that one common type of neglect claim relates to lack of proper nutrition. Every elder care facility has an obligation to ensure that its patients are eating and drinking correct and sufficient quantities to maintain their health. Depending on the patient’s needs and circumstances of their care, this may mean more than just placing a food tray in front of them.
If for some duration the nutritional needs of a Maryland nursing home resident have not been met on a regular basis, there may be justification for a negligence claim against the staff or the facility itself. A seasoned personal injury lawyer should be able to help you determine whether or not a lawsuit is in order and what the victim’s legal rights to compensation may be.Medical Malpractice in Nursing Facilities
Nursing homes offer patients help with daily living needs as well as provide ongoing medical care and treatment. Should the resident of a nursing home be injured in the process of rendering medical care, the individuals involved as well as the facility itself may be held liable for medical malpractice. Malpractice claims differ from that of abuse or neglect lawsuits in that the plaintiff will need to show whether or not the medical treatment provided by the nursing home (its staff, doctors, nurses, etc.) was consistent with accepted medical standards of care.
The legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, has decades of collective experience across a wide variety of personal injury litigation, of which medical malpractice cases make up a significant percentage. When it comes to “full-service” Maryland nursing homes, it is not uncommon for many legal claims of negligence to end up being treated as medical malpractice cases; this is mainly because dedicated nursing facilities are themselves deemed to be healthcare providers.
If you believe that a friend or elderly relative is the victim of nursing home abuse, neglect or medical malpractice, we recommend that you contact a seasoned personal injury attorney with experience in handling Maryland eldercare lawsuits. Our skilled legal team is ready, willing and able to provide guidance when deciding whether to bring a personal injury claim against a Maryland or Washington, D.C., nursing home. Please contact our law offices to arrange a free, no-obligation initial consultation. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to fight for your right to appropriate compensation under the law.