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The elderly deserve the best from nursing homes and rarely get it. Unfortunately, in many instances, the elderly are neglected and suffer injury or death.

That’s why our Huntsville nursing home abuse lawyers are here to help. We take nursing home abuse and neglect cases seriously and have significant experience in this area of the law.

Our job is to get to the bottom of what happened. To find answers. To uncover the truth.

How We Handle Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence Cases

Our nursing home abuse lawyers evaluate these cases with a team of experts to see if medical negligence occurred.  Here’s our process for evaluating a nursing home abuse or neglect case:

  1. Schedule a free consultation to explain the process and the Alabama nursing home laws
  2. Obtain all medical records and, if applicable, the death certificate
  3. Collect photos of the injuries and any other relevant evidence
  4. Compile the ADPH deficiency data on the at-fault nursing home
  5. Compile the CMS staffing data on the at-fault nursing home
  6. Have our client and other witnesses write out their recollection of what occurred
  7. Obtain a nursing home consulting expert witness to review the records, photos, and written statements

If our expert believes the nursing home violated the standard of care and this caused injury or death, then we pursue the case.

We review the case for free and we only get paid if we take the case and win. We aggressively litigate these cases until we expose the root cause of the neglect and are able to achieve financial compensation for the harm suffered.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in six adults aged 60 or older have experienced abuse in community settings. However, the National Council on Aging believes that the number of cases of abuse is drastically underreported, with one study suggesting only 1 in 24 cases are reported. 

Unfortunately, many forms of abuse can harm residents of nursing homes, including:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse includes making harmful or offensive physical contact with the resident. Examples of physical abuse include doing any of the following to the resident:

  • Hitting
  • Shoving
  • Pushing
  • Kicking
  • Spitting on them 
  • Restraining them
  • Overmedicating them to control them

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can take many forms that cause psychological harm to the victim. Common examples of emotional abuse include:

  • Criticizing the victim
  • Name-calling
  • Intentionally humiliating the victim
  • Harassing the victim
  • Threatening the victim with physical harm 

Sexual Abuse

Sometimes, nursing home staff take advantage of vulnerable residents in their care and sexually abuse them. They may fondle, rape, or coerce sexual favors from residents.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse occurs when a nursing home staff member exploits the resident for financial gain. Staff members may take advantage of the resident’s declining mental capacity or isolation to:

  • Steal from them 
  • Improperly take control of their money
  • Get them to change their estate planning documents to provide for them in their will or trust
  • Get them to authorize transactions by signing a power of attorney document 
  • Coerce them to sign a deed or title of property to them

Neglect

Neglect occurs when the nursing home fails to take care of the residents’ needs. Examples of neglect include not:

  • Providing appropriate medical care
  • Providing eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other devices the residents rely on
  • Maintaining a clean environment
  • Manually moving elderly residents to prevent bedsores
  • Providing adequate nutrition and hydration
  • Bathing or cleaning the resident

How Are Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Paid?

If we do not win the case, we do not get paid.  Therefore, there is no financial risk to you by having our nursing home abuse lawyers review your case.

Like other types of personal injury claims, our attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis.  Additionally, we also recoup our costs, such as expert witness fees and filing fees, from the settlement or verdict.

We Have Experience Handling Cases Against Nursing Homes

Attorney Tommy Siniard has handled the most nursing home injury and death cases of any attorney in north Alabama. For that reason, in the Huntsville legal community, he is considered one of the best nursing home lawyers in Alabama.

The attorneys of Siniard Law have reached successful settlements in hundreds of cases against North Alabama nursing homes.

We have recovered over $20 million in compensation for nursing home abuse and neglect victims and their families. 

Types of Nursing Home Injuries

The most common cases of neglect we see involve

  • bedsores (i.e. pressure ulcers)
  • fractured bones
  • head injuries
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition

By far the most preventable injuries/complications are “bedsores” or pressure ulcers. Failure to reposition the patient is the primary cause of this injury. Listen to more about nursing home pressure ulcers:

Why So Many Injuries Happen in Nursing Homes

In our experience, the neglect isn’t because of bad nursing. Rather, the neglect results from the corporations that own and manage nursing homes that put profit over patient safety.

Nursing homes reduce the amount of nursing personnel in the nursing home to make a higher profit.  When there are not enough nursing personnel for the number of elderly patients, then many preventable injuries and deaths occur.

It is not the nurses and nursing assistants who are negligent. It is the for-profit corporations that run these facilities. Our job is to make them pay when they forget what’s most important — the health and safety of the elderly. — Tommy Siniard

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

One of the best ways to stop nursing home abuse is to recognize the signs early and get your loved one out of a bad situation. The signs of abuse often depend on the type of abuse the perpetrator is committing against the victim, but there can be some overlap. Signs of different types of nursing home abuse include:

Physical Abuse

Signs of physical abuse may include:

  • Aggressive behaviors by caregivers 
  • Fearfulness of certain caregivers
  • Unexplained physical injuries, such as broken bones, bruises, sprains, cuts, welts, or burns
  • Presence of restraining marks  
  • Broken personal items
  • Delirium or other signs of overmedication
  • Frequent need for medical assistance
  • Medical records that do not align between the staff member’s report of the incident and the injuries
  • Staff refused to allow family members or others to visit the resident

Emotional Abuse

A resident who is being emotionally abused may show various warning signs, such as:

  • Demonstrating fear around particular caregivers
  • Showing depression, anxiety, or other psychological harm 
  • Sudden changes in behavior or personality 
  • Rocking, sucking their thumb, or demonstrating other childlike behaviors
  • Withdrawal from normal activities and familiar people
  • Agitation or aggressive behavior 

You may also notice staff members acting in a demeaning way toward patients or not allowing you to be alone with your loved one. 

Sexual Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse may include the following:

  • Social isolation
  • Fear around certain caregivers or residents
  • Unexplained STDs or STIs
  • Torn or bloody clothing 

Financial Abuse

Signs of financial abuse are often transactional and may include:

  • Sudden large withdrawals from your loved one’s bank account or many small withdrawals
  • Transfers between accounts or cash withdrawals
  • Switching or closing bank accounts
  • Unexplained changes in your loved one’s will, trust, or power of attorney
  • Changes in titles or deeds
  • Unpaid bills 

You may also notice the loss of your loved one’s possessions or a caregiver acting overly concerned about spending any money. 

Neglect

Various signs of neglect may arise, such as:

  • Sudden or excessive weight loss 
  • Dirty quarters
  • Lack of basic hygiene, food, or nutrition
  • Sullied clothes 
  • Lack of medical aids, like glasses or dentures
  • Reports of patients leaving the nursing home
  • Presence of pressure sores
  • Deteriorating health
  • Unattended medical needs
  • Frequent infections
  • Smells of feces or urine
  • Abnormally pale complexion 

These are just a few possible signs of abuse or neglect. But sometimes, you might simply feel something is off. Trust your gut and contact an experienced Huntsville nursing home abuse lawyer to learn about your legal claim.

Risk Factors for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect 

While abusive staff can harm any resident in their care, there are risk factors that make some residents more vulnerable than others, including:

  • Immobility – Elderly individuals who are immobile may be unable to escape abuse and may be unable to turn to prevent bedsores, increasing their reliance on caregivers.
  • Cognitive impairment – Individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other cognitive issues are more vulnerable because they may not understand what is happening or be able to report it. Their statements may also be dismissed by relatives or other staff. 
  • Difficulty speaking – Strokes and other conditions that come with advanced age can cause the loss of the ability to speak. Residents who are unable to communicate may not be able to notify others of the abuse. 
  • Isolated – Individuals who are isolated from their families or other loved ones are more likely to be targeted for abuse or neglect.
  • A propensity toward aggression or anger – Individuals who have a history of being aggressive or angry may not be believed or may be blamed for the mistreatment. 

There are also certain risk factors for caregivers to abuse or neglect their patients. These include understaffed nursing homes, a history of substance abuse, fatigue, and inadequate training. 

The 6 Steps to Take if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, there are 6 steps you should take:

  1. Remain calm: Do not let your emotions cause you to do something you will regret.
  2. Gather evidence: Take pictures and videos. Obtain medical records and other relevant documents.
  3. Ask for a meeting: talk with the Director of Nursing at the nursing home to demand answers.
  4. Contact the AL Department of Public Health: file a complaint on the ADPH website
  5. Contact the Ombudsman Program.
  6. Call a nursing home attorney.

For more details on these 6 steps, read our full article about the Six Steps.

Our Complete Guide to Nursing Home Abuse

Whether you are looking to find the best nursing home or looking to take legal action against one, we are the right resource of information related to nursing homes. If you suspect your family member is suffering nursing home abuse or neglect, read our Complete Guide to Nursing Home Abuse. It provides all of the information you need to know to take action. 

How to Know Which Nursing Homes Are the Worst?

Read this helpful article to find out how to determine which nursing homes are best and which ones you should avoid. They are not all created equal and you need the best care for your loved one.

Nursing Home FAQs:

How do you prove nursing home negligence?

The first thing to do is obtain the patient’s medical records from the nursing home. In addition to the medical records, any photos, videos, and notes will likely be helpful. In Alabama, an expert witness must review the nursing home records and other evidence to determine whether the nursing home breached the standard of care. Generally speaking, a breach of the standard of care is similar to a healthcare provider making an “F” on their report card. We have a network of nursing home expert witnesses who review cases for our firm to determine whether there was a breach of the standard of care.

What should I do if I suspect the nursing home is abusing my mother or father?

Take all the pictures you can. Pictures are more powerful than words, whether it’s bruising, signs of dehydration, or that huge “goose egg” on your mother’s head. It’s possible that someday those photos could be compelling evidence in court. After you get photos, we always recommend you immediately notify the nursing home administrator or the director of nursing (“DON”) of your concerns. The next step is to notify the Alabama Department of Public Health and fill out a complaint. Lastly, you should contact an attorney who handles nursing home abuse cases.

Are nursing home arbitration agreements enforceable?

It depends on who signed it and whether the patient was mentally competent at the time of the signature. The agreement will be enforceable if the patient signed the arbitration agreement and is competent. Conversely, it will not be enforceable if the patient signed it and was incompetent.  If the patient’s family member signed the arbitration agreement on behalf of the patient, then whether it will be enforceable depends on whether the family member had a power of attorney and also depends on the competency of the patient.

What is nursing home arbitration?

Arbitration is a process that is similar to a trial but different in many aspects. Like a trial, you present evidence about the case and get to make arguments.  However, in arbitration, there is no judge and no jury. The arbitrator makes all decisions in the case – who wins, who loses, and whether the money will be paid or not. An arbitrator is a neutral third party (usually an older attorney or retired judge) that decides all of the issues in the case.

What nursing home injuries are usually the result of neglect or abuse?

The most common nursing home injury we see is what many people call “bedsores.” Medically speaking, “bedsores” are referred to as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, or, more recently, pressure injuries.  Pressure ulcers occur when a nursing home patient is not properly repositioned or is not provided adequate nutrition. The area surrounding the tailbone is the most common area of the body where a pressure ulcer develops. This is called a sacral pressure ulcer.

Other common injuries that result from nursing home negligence include broken bones and head injuries from falls, medication errors that cause health complications, and dehydration.

I’m not sure I want to file a nursing home lawsuit, but can I report a nursing home to law enforcement for its failures?

Absolutely. If you believe there has been nursing home negligence or abuse, you should contact the Alabama Department of Public Health to report a complaint. To fill out a report, go to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s reporting website. After that, the ADPH will notify you of the results.

Are there any laws about what nursing homes have to do for patients?

Yes, there are many such regulations. Federal and state regulations govern how nursing homes care for patients. If the nursing home does not follow these regulations, there is a strong argument to be made by a nursing home negligence lawyer that the nursing home was negligent. The regulations are found in 42 CFR § 483.

Contact Our Huntsville Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers for Help

If you suspect your loved one is being abused in a nursing home, do not hesitate to contact Siniard Law, LLC for help. Our experienced Huntsville nursing home injury lawyers can demand that your loved one be treated with dignity and respect and fight for the compensation your family deserves. Call us today for a free consultation.