Not surprisingly given the weakened state of many residents of nursing homes and other supervised care facilities, many cases of abuse and neglect result in the death of the resident. Wrongful death can occur from any health condition that resulted from the negligence or deliberate actions of the nursing home, including physical or sexual abuse, medication errors, malnutrition and/or dehydration, the injuries suffered in falls, injuries suffered after the resident wandered away from the facility, and bed sores that reach advanced stages.
At Knapp & Roberts, a Phoenix nursing home wrongful death attorney cannot erase the tragedy of a wrongful death, but we want to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
In some cases, the abuse and neglect might not be discovered until after the death of the resident, when the coroner reports the autopsy findings. The resident’s death does not relieve the nursing home from responsibility, of course. That would allow the nursing home to benefit from the very wrong that it committed. Instead, Arizona (like every other state) has a “wrongful death” statute that allows specified people to bring a suit against the nursing home. In essence, the wrongful death can’t help the deceased nursing home resident, but it does serve to prevent the institution from escaping responsibility for its actions, and it does provide some benefit to the deceased patient’s heirs.
The wrongful death statute applies to all wrongful deaths, not just those of nursing home residents. The Arizona statute defines a wrongful death as one caused by neglect, default or “wrongful act.” It allows a wrongful death claim to be brought in court if the person who died could have filed a personal injury suit based on the wrongful conduct.
In the case of claims for the death of a nursing home resident, that means that the wrongful death suit usually rests on two statutes:
Under the wrongful death statute, claims can be brought by the deceased’s estate, and by the following relatives/protectors of the deceased: spouse, child, and parent or guardian. If any of those people have died, their personal representative can sue.
Most relatives of elderly loved ones do their absolute best to find a safe, comfortable location for a senior family member to live out the last years of their life with the care, dignity, and respect they’ve earned and deserved. Sadly, despite the glossy brochures and salesy reassurances by management that they offer a safe, enjoyable living environment for a senior’s golden years, abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and financial exploitation are still rampant problems in nursing homes in Phoenix and the surrounding communities. Arizona Auditor General, Lindsay Perry reports that none of the 5 recommendations her agency made to the Department of Health Services to prioritize investigations of complaints had been implemented 30 months later, potentially leaving residents at all risk of incidents of abuse and neglect. According to the report and other studies, common nursing home safety concerns for elderly residents include:
Poor hiring practices, understaffed facilities, and overwhelmed staff members are the largest contributing factor to abuse, neglect, injuries, and wrongful death in nursing homes. Falls are the number one safety issue and the leading cause of serious injuries and wrongful death in nursing homes. The majority of falls in nursing homes result from:
When an elderly nursing home resident dies due to preventable injuries, abuse, or neglect in a nursing home, the surviving family members deserve compensation, justice, and a voice for their lost loved one.
Arizona law requires nursing homes and long-term care facilities to provide residents with an adequate level of care. If they fail to provide adequate monitoring, nutrition, healthcare measures, and other services to protect the safety and health of their residents, they could be held liable for damages in both personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death cases. Liability occurs in nursing homes when the staff fails in this duty. Proving nursing home liability requires the plaintiff to demonstrate the following legal points of liability:
Failing to provide essential care, supervision, and other services meant to secure the safety and health of residents leaves the facility liable for damages. Common examples of negligence in nursing home injury and wrongful death claims include:
When evidence shows any of the above examples of negligence and the result of the negligence was the death of a resident, the facility is liable for wrongful death damages.
Like all states, Arizona places limitations on who may file a wrongful death claim, including for nursing home deaths. This limit prevents distant relatives from exploiting the senior’s death. In Arizona, only the following close family members may make a wrongful death claim:
In some cases, a personal representative of the surviving close family member makes the wrongful death claim on behalf of the family.
Like all states, Arizona places time limits for filing lawsuits, including in wrongful death cases. Arizona’s statute of limitations for nursing home wrongful death claims is 2-years from the date of the death. The statute of limitations for civil lawsuits serves to ensure claims are filed while evidence and witness testimony to the event remains fresh and available should the matter come to court for litigation. The process of making a claim with the insurance company, back-and-forth negotiation, and obtaining an adequate settlement for all of the available damages can take time. Beginning the process promptly after the loved one’s death helps ensure there is time remaining under the state’s statute of limitations to file a lawsuit if the parties can’t reach an acceptable settlement agreement.
In rare instances, the courts may temporarily suspend the ticking clock on the wrongful death statute of limitations. This is called tolling. Tolling of the statute of limitation for wrongful death lawsuits may occur only in the following circumstances:
It’s important to file wrongful death claims in a prompt, diligent manner to ensure that a case is within Arizona’s statute of limitations should it require a lawsuit. A Phoenix nursing home wrongful death lawyer can answer your questions about whether or not your case falls within the state’s statute of limitations.
Arizona’s wrongful death statute provides for two types of damages:
Damages for the deceased’s estate include funeral and burial expenses that are paid by the estate, compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering prior to death and, though rarely relevant in a case based on the death of a nursing home resident, lost wages the deceased would have earned had he or she not died.
Damages for the deceased’s survivors are for their loss of care, companionship, and guidance, as well as compensation for their own pain and suffering as a result of their loved one’s death.
Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, which they do by taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims. Often this means they’ll use tactics that a seasoned wrongful death attorney recognizes and knows how to counteract. Some tactics insurance companies might use to try to deny or undervalue a wrongful death claim in Arizona include the following:
Insurance company representatives may try to tell you that hiring a lawyer will slow the process and cost you a part of your compensation, but the truth is that a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney can help you gain compensation for both economic and non-economic damages that typically amounts to far more than the settlement an insurance company initially offers, even after your attorney takes a small percentage for their fee.
Like the vast majority of personal injury claims, most wrongful death cases settle out of court so grieving family members never have to see a courtroom. Your assisted living abuse lawyer in Phoenix will investigate your loved one’s death and gather evidence of liability to craft a compelling case for compensation. Gathering evidence in nursing home wrongful death cases typically includes:
Once your attorney compiles evidence and sends an evidence-backed demand letter to the insurance company, In most cases, insurance company representatives realize that they’ll spend more money arguing a case in court than they’d lose by offering a substantial settlement.
In the unlikely event that negotiating with the appropriate insurance company does not result in an ample settlement, the attorneys at The law firm of Knapp & Roberts are more than ready to defend your rights and best interests in court.
The time after the wrongful death of a nursing home resident is chaotic and emotional. Unfortunately, this is the time when the survivors and estate should be thinking about holding the nursing home responsible. The first task in the wrongful death suit is establishing that the wrongdoing of the nursing home caused the death, which requires that evidence of the connection be identified and secured before it is lost to time.
Getting the advice of an experienced Phoenix nursing home wrongful death attorney allows the family to focus on the family trauma. The Phoenix personal injury lawyers at Knapp & Roberts are experienced in wrongful death claims against nursing homes, with a track record of success both in settling the claims out of court when possible and going to trial when necessary. We understand how difficult this time is for you and treat all our clients with integrity and compassion.
Call and tell us what happened in your case. There’s no charge for consultations or for handling the case unless we succeed. Legal time limits are in place, so don’t risk losing your opportunity to obtain justice. Contact a Phoenix elder abuse attorney at Knapp & Roberts today.
The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.