There comes a time in the lives of many older Americans when they are simply no longer able to live at home. At this point, it may be necessary for them to move to a nursing home or assisted living facility. While many of these homes offer great care, others are rife with mismanagement, abuse, and neglect.
If your family member died while living in a nursing home, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the facility if their death was the result of abuse or neglect. A wrongful death settlement can provide your family with the financial compensation necessary to recover from the loss. It can also provide a way to seek justice for your loved one.
At the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, we are committed to helping nursing home residents and their families get the compensation that they deserve for their injuries. We have decades of combined experience helping victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a New York nursing home abuse lawyer, give our law firm a call today.
What Is a Nursing Home Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is when a person dies because of something that someone else did or failed to do. There is a common misconception that a wrongful death must be based on something like an intentional murder. In reality, a wrongful death claim is often based on things like carelessness, indifference, or even poor supervision.
Nursing home wrongful deaths can be the result of intentional or reckless conduct, such as a physical assault or failing to render medical aid in an emergency. However, most often, nursing home wrongful death cases are based on negligence or carelessness. In other words, the person responsible might not have meant to cause harm – but their action or inaction still caused a nursing home resident to die.
Examples of nursing home wrongful death include:
- Improper medical care
- Pressure ulcers (bedsores)
- Medication errors
- Falls caused by a lack of fall protection strategies
- Physical assault or abuse
- Broken bones
- Untreated medical conditions
For example, consider a situation where a nursing home is understaffed. A nurse administers the wrong medication to a resident, which ultimately leads to their death when it interacts with another prescription. While the nurse did not intentionally give a patient the wrong medicine, their negligence caused a wrongful death. Both the employee and the nursing home can be held financially responsible for the death.
The above example highlights how management issues often lead to preventable deaths at nursing homes. Poor training, inadequate staffing, and improper supervision can all cause wrongful deaths at nursing homes. While abuse is sometimes a factor in nursing home deaths, most cases involve unintentional conduct.
Unfortunately, given the age and physical condition of many nursing home residents, deaths are often assumed to be of natural causes. If you suspect that your loved one might have died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, reach out to our law firm to schedule a free initial consultation with a New York nursing home wrongful death lawyer.
When Can I File a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In New York, a wrongful death is defined as “a death that is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default.” Essentially, if the deceased person (decedent) could have brought legal action for personal injury had they survived, then their heirs may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
A wrongful death claim can be based on almost any wrongful act or omission that caused a death. This can include negligent conduct, medical malpractice, or intentional conduct. For example, if a nursing home fails to implement a fall prevention strategy, and a resident dies as a result of a preventable fall, then that person’s survivors may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home and other responsible parties, such as nursing home staff members
Under New York law, a wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative or executor of the estate. Unlike other states, this claim is brought on behalf of the estate – not a particular family member. However, any compensation (known as damages) that is won as a result of the wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs just as other assets of the estate would be.
Wrongful death claims must usually be brought within 2 years of the death, which is the statute of limitations for this type of case. They may then write a demand letter that will be sent to the nursing home and its insurance company.
Compensation for a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Claim
In a nursing home abuse wrongful death lawsuit, the estate may recover damages for all of the losses suffered as a result of the death. These damages fall into three categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages compensate a victim for their losses, while punitive damages punish someone who engaged in intentional or reckless behavior.
Economic damages in a wrongful death case include money for a person’s direct financial losses, while non-economic damages pay for intangible losses. Examples of damages in a nursing home wrongful death case include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Reasonable medical expenses related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
- Financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family
- The value of support and services the deceased would have provided to the family
- The value of parental nurturing, care, and guidance to surviving children
- The survivors’ lost inheritance
- Any conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased due to the final injury or illness (i.e., if they were alive for a period of time between the injury and death)
Importantly, survivors in a wrongful death case cannot recover financial compensation for their pain and suffering, loss of companionship, or mental anguish.
Finally, in some cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the responsible party acted intentionally or recklessly. Punitive damages are meant to punish someone who did something wrong and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. An example of when punitive damages may be appropriate is a case where staff noticed that a nursing home resident was in distress, ignored them, and the resident died of an illness that could have been treated.
Nursing homes – and their insurance companies – rarely want to pay survivors the financial compensation that they deserve for their losses. If your loved one died as a result of nursing home abuse, then the best option for getting maximum compensation is by working with an experienced New York nursing home abuse lawyer.
Settlements in Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death claims are a type of personal injury lawsuit. They typically start with a free initial consultation, where an attorney will listen to your story and advise you of your legal rights and options. If you decide to hire a law firm, they will get to work right away to build a case.
This process typically involves gathering documentation from the nursing home, seeking photos and videos, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing medical records. At the same time, your legal team will perform legal research on New York law. They will then write a demand letter that will be sent to the nursing home and its insurance company.
A demand letter sets out the facts of the case, explains the legal reason why the insured is responsible, and then makes a demand for compensation. Insurance companies often respond to a demand letter with a counteroffer. The parties will then go back and forth in an attempt to negotiate a wrongful death settlement.
The majority of personal injury claims are resolved outside of the courtroom. That being said, it is often still necessary to file a lawsuit to preserve your legal rights. After a lawsuit is filed, the parties will exchange information in a process known as discovery. Negotiations will often continue throughout the pre-trial phase, right up to the eve of the trial.
Wrongful death settlements should include compensation for all losses experienced by the deceased person and their loved one, in accordance with New York law. Our law firm aggressively negotiates settlements on behalf of deceased nursing home residents and their loved ones. If an insurance company won’t offer a fair nursing home settlement, we will take the case to trial and ask a jury to return a verdict in our favor.
The average nursing home wrongful death settlement can vary considerably based on the facts of a particular case. The best way to get maximum compensation for your loss is by working with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Our team has filed hundreds of nursing home lawsuits, including wrongful death nursing home claims, and will fight for your family’s right to full compensation.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
A nursing home facility should be a safe place for your loved one to live out their final years. Too often, however, nursing home negligence or intentional conduct can result in death. If you experience the untimely loss of a family member, our law firm is here for you.
Based in White Plains, the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan represents victims of nursing home abuse throughout New York. We offer free initial consultations and handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a New York nursing home wrongful death lawyer, give us a call at 914-220-1086 or fill out our online contact form.