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Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After Nursing Home Abuse

February 11, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Recently, a story regarding a wrongful death in a nursing home shone light on the negligence elders often experience in long-term care facilities. The story became well-known because the wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a resident, who once played guard for the Steelers and went to the Super Bowl in the 1970s as team captain. The resident was found at the bottom of the stairs, 14 hours after he went missing in the facility. While the manager of the nursing home is stating that the resident had a heart attack, the story is much more involved than that.

The resident suffered a head trauma several years ago and his physical and cognitive health has declined rapidly since that time. Still, the nursing home staff members allowed him to remain on the second floor with access to a private stairwell. It was at the bottom of that staircase that the resident’s body was found. The lawsuit that followed is sadly, only one of many that deals with wrongful deaths in nursing homes. It also underscores why anyone with a loved one in a nursing home should know how to file these claims.

What is Wrongful Death in a Nursing Home?

Federal and state laws clearly state that nursing homes and their staff members must provide residents with the highest quality of care at all times. Nursing homes are expected to protect the safety of their residents and shield them from certain hazards. Some of the common dangers nursing homes must protect their residents from include malnutrition and dehydration, bed sores, and infections.

However, what is considered safe for residents often must be determined on a case-by-case basis. In the most recent story, while access to a private stairway may be considered safe for some residents, that is certainly not the case for all seniors. In the case of the resident, for example, he was suffering from dementia and could not see or walk properly. These conditions clearly show that allowing him private access to a stairway was unsafe.

Any time a nursing home violates the law by not ensuring the safety of their residents, and someone dies as a result, it is considered a wrongful death.

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim After Nursing Home Abuse

In Pennsylvania, only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. If a representative is not named in the individual’s estate plan, the court will appoint one.

When filing a wrongful death claim, the personal representative must prove four elements of the case, which are as follows:

  • The nursing home owed the elder a reasonable standard of care,
  • The nursing home breached their duty and acted with negligence,
  • The negligent act caused an accident, and
  • The resident died as a result of the accident

Proving wrongful death is always difficult, but when a death occurs in a nursing home, it becomes even more challenging. Nursing homes are not always forthcoming about the cause of death when a resident passes away, which makes obtaining evidence very difficult.

Our Pennsylvania Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Can Help with Your Case

No one should lose a loved one due to the negligence of the very people entrusted with an elder’s care. If you have lost someone due to nursing home abuse or neglect, our Allentown nursing home negligence lawyers are here to help. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know how to conduct an investigation and obtain the necessary to prove your case, and will give you the best chance of recovering the damages you need. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.



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