It was in September that Pennsylvania legislators introduced a bill that shielded nursing homes from liability related to COVID-19. In late November, that bill was passed and it is going to make things much more difficult for families trying to hold nursing homes accountable.
The law provides nursing homes with immunity from civil liability in the event that a resident becomes ill or passes away due to COVID-19. Legislators promoted the law as protecting nursing homes from liability for something they could not prevent. Unfortunately, nursing homes can often prevent the spread of infection in their facility and simply fail to do so.
Gross Negligence and the Law
Although the new law provides immunity to nursing homes, there are still times when nursing home residents or their families can hold them liable. This is when gross negligence or willful misconduct on the part of the nursing home staff members or owners contributed to a resident contracting the virus.
Gross negligence is a much higher standard than standard negligence that occurs in most personal injury claims. The bill is still very new and so, it is not yet clear what gross negligence may include. Gross negligence would likely apply when a person’s conduct was so egregious that it showed a complete disregard for a resident’s safety.
For example, nursing home staff members might conduct all the requisite testing and render proper assistance when needed. However, if the staff member did not provide the proper medication to a resident and an elderly individual died as a result, that would likely be considered gross negligence.
Individuals that want to file a lawsuit against a nursing home for gross negligence have a much higher burden of proof than those filing a simple negligence claim. Standard negligence means individuals can file a lawsuit against a nursing home when the owner or staff members are careless. Proving gross negligence is much more challenging and so, it is always advised that family members work with a personal injury attorney.
Filing a Claim for Wrongful Death
The new law would also protect nursing homes in the event that a resident passed away due to COVID-19. However, the same standard of gross negligence applies in these cases, as well. If families can show that nursing home staff members acted with gross negligence and their loved one died as a result, they can file a wrongful death claim against the nursing home.
Call a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer
It is always important to work with an Allentown personal injury lawyer when you want to file a claim against a nursing home, but the new law has made it even more crucial. If your loved one has suffered from COVID-19 while in one of these facilities, call our experienced attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin today. We know how to help you prove gross negligence so you have the best chance of securing a favorable outcome. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.