How to Prove Negligence in a Personal Injury Case Against a Nursing Home

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When people make the difficult decision to place their loved ones in a nursing home, they expect that their loved ones will be safe and will get the care they need. Unfortunately, however, this is sometimes not the case. As a result of understaffing or inadequate training, nursing home staff sometimes fail to administer adequate care and supervision to nursing home residents. This can result in injury or even death to these residents. If your loved one sustains an injury while residing at a nursing home and this injury is the result of inadequate care or supervision, then your loved one may be able to file and pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home where the injury occurred. Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible nursing home will allow your injured loved one to receive the monetary compensation they deserve for having sustained the injury in the first place. Below, we outline how to prove a personal injury lawsuit against a nursing home, which is based on the theory of negligence.

What is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal theory used in personal injury cases to assert that an injury or even death was caused because another person failed to exercise reasonable care. In order to prove a negligence claim in a personal injury lawsuit, the person bringing the lawsuit must prove each of the following four elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

  • The person or entity responsible for the injury owed the injured person a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances
  • The person or entity breached this duty
  • The breach of duty caused the injury
  • Actual damages resulted

Proving the Elements of Negligence in a Lawsuit Against a Nursing Home

Because a nursing home is not an individual person, proving the elements of negligence may be a bit more complicated when asserting a personal injury claim against a nursing home than when asserting it against an individual person. However, a nursing home may be held liable for employees’ individual acts of negligence, for failing to adequately staff the facility, and for failing to adequately train and monitor its employees.

Duty of Care

When residents enter nursing homes, they, or their loved ones on their behalf, typically have to sign a contract outlining the duties and obligations of both the resident to the nursing home and the resident. In the duties and obligations owed to the resident by the nursing home, there will likely be provisions outlining the level and standard of care that is to be provided to the resident by nursing home staff. In a negligence lawsuit against a nursing home, this contract may be enough to prove that the nursing home owed the injured resident a duty of care. Alternatively, if there is no contract, then state and federal laws governing nursing home care or an expert in the field of nursing home care can be used to establish the nursing home owed the injured residents a duty of care.

Breach of Duty of Care

The next element an injured resident must prove is that the nursing home, either through implementing flawed policies and procedures or through employing staff that breached a resident’s duty of care, deviated from the acceptable standard of care in some way when caring for the injured patient. Usually, the testimony of an expert in the field of nursing home care will be sufficient to prove that the policies and procedures implemented by the nursing home fall below the acceptable policies and procedures that are to be implemented by nursing homes or that the specific nursing home staff member responsible for the injury deviated from the acceptable standard of care owed to the resident. This expert’s testimony will be able to pinpoint what the specific breach of duty of care was and how a reasonably prudent nursing home or nursing home employee should have acted under the circumstances to administer adequate care.

Causation

Causation is perhaps the hardest element of negligence to prove in a personal injury lawsuit against a nursing home. In order to be able to successfully prove this element, an injured resident must be able to produce evidence that establishes causation. This requires evidence that had if not been for the employee’s actions or nursing home’s policies and procedures, the injuries would not have happened.

One way to prove causation is to provide eye witness testimony of the injury and to use medical records or nursing home care records to show that the injury happened immediately after the nursing home employee acted in some way that deviated from the standard of care owed to the resident. Another way to prove causation is to use the testimony of an expert in the field of nursing home care.

Actual Damages

In order to prove this element of negligence against a nursing home, the injured resident must prove that he or he suffered either economic harm, non-economic harm, or both as a result of sustaining his or her injury. Medical bills that accrue because of the injury, photographs of the severity of the injury, and treating physician testimony about treatment of the injury and any long-lasting effects that the injury will have on the quality of life of the resident may be used to prove this element.

Contact a Chatham Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer to Discuss Your Nursing Home Abuse Case Today

Seniors in nursing homes and other care facilities deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Additionally, nursing home staff needs to ensure that patients are safe and secure at all times. If your loved one suffered an injury, or worse, due to nursing home negligence or abuse in New Jersey, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The experienced nursing home neglect attorneys at Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari, P.C. represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Chatham, North Bergen, Sea Girt, and Jersey City. Call (973) 635-5400 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation today. We have an office conveniently located at One Main Street, Chatham, NJ 07928, as well as offices in Jersey City, NJ, Sea Girt, NJ, and North Bergen, NJ.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.