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Florida Nursing Home Abuse Law

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Florida law governs the duties of nursing homes and the remedies available to victims of nursing home negligence or abuse. In addition to state laws governing nursing home crimes, there are guidelines for nursing home staff and patient ratios established by the Florida Department of Health. Every legal nursing home in Florida is required to have at least one physician, dietician, and nurse available while operating.

What Does Florida Law Say About Residents’ Rights?

Florida nursing homes must provide their residents with certain basic rights. They are required to provide a safe, clean, comfortable, and homelike environment.

Florida law provides nursing home residents with the following rights:

  • The right to have family members visit
  • The right to be free from nursing home abuse and neglect
  • The right to private and uncensored communication
  • The right to manage one’s own financial affairs
  • The right to civil and religious liberties
  • The right to be informed of one’s medical condition and treatment
  • The right to refuse medication or treatment
  • The right to receive adequate and appropriate health care services
  • The right to freedom of choice in selecting medical providers and supplies

Other basic rights include access to comforts such as clean clothes, bedding, drinking water, hot water, lighting, and comfortable living temperatures.

Common Nursing Home Injuries

Negligence and abuse are typically discovered from physical evidence. When victims of nursing home crimes are examined by medical professionals or social workers, the following injuries are commonly found:

  • Falls
  • Bedsores or pressure ulcers
  • Infections
  • Malnourishment and dehydration
  • Attacks or assault by other residents or nursing home staff
  • Pharmaceutical errors
  • Sexual abuse
  • Wrongful death

Statute Of Limitations

The statute of limitations for a lawsuit against a Florida nursing home or its staff is two years after the incident that brought the incident to the attention of officials. However, there have been cases of extensions of up to four years given when the incident was not discovered or could not have been discovered within the original two-year period. In a situation where the incident is not discovered until after its occurrence, the statute of limitations becomes two years from discovery or when it should have been discovered. Four years is the maximum extension in most cases, but when the incident was concealed, or there was an intentional misrepresentation of fact that prevented discovery of the injury, the statute of limitations is extended to a maximum of six years. However, under this scenario, the lawsuit must still be initiated within two years of the discovery of the incident.

Requirements to File a Nursing Home Abuse Case

Like medical malpractice cases, Florida law provides certain requirements that must be met before a nursing home abuse lawsuit may be initiated.

Notice of Intent: A notice must be sent to all potential defendants. The notice should inform of a victim’s intention to initiate litigation for medical negligence. After the claimant meets these requirements, they have 30-days, up to 60-days if an extension is requested, to meet with the defendant in mediation to discuss the issues of liability and damages. If mediation fails, then the suit may be filed.

Waiting Period and Pre-suit Discovery: No suit may be filed for a period of 75-day after the Notice of Intent to sue is issued, designed to give defendants and their insurers a chance to investigate. Each defendant is required to have a procedure in place for prompt evaluation of claims. Before the expiration of the 75-day period, the defendant or their insurer must provide the claimant with a written response, either rejecting the claim or making a settlement offer. Failure to provide a written response is deemed a rejection of the claim.

Nursing Home Abuse Cases & Damages

If you or a loved one was injured at a nursing home facility, you might be entitled to three categories of compensation – economic, non-economic, and punitive.

Economic Damages: Economic damages are generally the easiest to calculate because they are the actual damages incurred because of the injury.

Economic damages include but are not limited to:

  • Past medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses

If the claim includes future medical expenses, proving economic damages may be slightly more difficult because you are attempting to place a value on something that hasn’t happened yet. The burden of proving future medical expenses is on the injured party and will require an expert witness who can speak to the future medical requirements of your injury and the cost of those requirements. Not only can the court and expert witnesses take into consideration the types of treatments you will need when determining the amount of future medical costs, but they can also consider other factors, including:

  • Age and life expectancy
  • Overall health at the time of the injury
  • Extent and severity of the injury
  • Cost of treatment performed
  • Stage of recovery completed
  • Cost of treatments performed

Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages are, by nature, more difficult to prove than economic damages because they are subjective. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life. When demanding pain and suffering damages, an attorney must present a specific number considering several factors that overlap with the factors considered for future medical expenses.

Factors such as:

  • The age of the victim
  • The general health of the victim, including any pre-existing condition
  • The degree and severity of each injury
  • The long-term and ongoing consequences of the injury
  • The direct and indirect economic costs of the injury over the victim’s lifetime

Punitive Damages: In addition to economic and non-economic damages, Florida law provides that a claimant may be entitled to punitive damages in certain situations. Punitive damages are awarded not just to compensate the claimant for their injuries but to punish the defendant for their actions. This is generally seen when large corporations are hit with huge punitive judgments so they don't continue behaving in a way that could injure people. In the cases of nursing home abuse, punitive damages may be awarded if the trier of fact (judge or jury) finds by clear and convincing evidence that the nursing home or its staff actively and knowingly participated in intentional misconduct or engaged in conduct that constitutes gross negligence and contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the claimant.

Florida Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If a nursing home or their staff injured you or a loved one, it is important that you contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at The Watson Firm will help you navigate your case and work hard to obtain the damages you deserve. Contact us today by calling (850) 607-2929 or contacting us online for a free consultation.