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Phoenix Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawyer

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.

Understanding a Wrongful Death Claim in Arizona

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:

  • Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act (APSA), which would have allowed resident to sue for injury caused by the nursing home
  • The wrongful death statute, which allows the claim for damages to survive the death of the resident

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.

Common Phoenix Nursing Home Safety Concerns

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:

  • Falls
  • Neglect, including poor nutrition, dehydration, poor hygiene, and medication mistakes
  • Physical abuse from staff members
  • Abuse from other residents
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Development of pressure sores
  • Exposure to a deadly virus
  • Stolen personal items and stolen medications
  • Denial of patient’s rights
  • Inadequate heating or cooling

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:

  • A lack of assistive equipment such as walkers, canes, rails, and grab bars
  • Lack of supervision
  • Inadequate staffing which may result in one staff member attempting to lift or move a resident when two are required
  • Clutter, debris, and inadequate lighting

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.

When is the Nursing Home Liable?

When is the Nursing Home Liable?

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:

  • That the nursing home management and staff had a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent injury to the elderly resident
  • That they breached this duty by acting negligently or with wrongdoing
  • That the breach of duty of reasonable care directly caused the injury and death
  • That the resident’s family members sustained economic damages and emotional anguish from the death

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:

  • Negligent hiring and training of staff
  • Negligent staff monitoring
  • Failing to provide sufficient necessities such as food and water, or failing to ensure that residents intake adequate food and water
  • Failing to provide adequate medical care
  • Failing to provide adequate assistive equipment for safe resident walking, moving, or transporting
  • Unreasonable use of restraints
  • Failing to prevent and/or treat bedsores

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.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Arizona

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:

  • The deceased’s spouse
  • A child of the deceased resident
  • A parent of the deceased resident (in the event that the deceased wasn’t elderly, but was  a young, impaired, or comatose patient residing in the facility who has living parents)

In some cases, a personal representative of the surviving close family member makes the wrongful death claim on behalf of the family.

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in Arizona?

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:

  • If a close family member who is eligible to make a claim is under age 18 at the time of the death, the 2-year statute of limitations begins when the minor turns 18
  • If the cause of the loved one’s death isn’t discovered until months after the death, the statute of limitations begins on the date that family members made the discovery, or should reasonably have discovered, that the death was caused by negligence

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.

Wrongful Death Damages

Arizona’s wrongful death statute provides for two types of damages:

  • those suffered by the deceased and the deceased’s estate
  • those suffered by the deceased’s surviving family

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.

Dealing With Insurance Companies After a Wrongful 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:

  • Calling immediately after the death to pressure family members into a fast settlement offer which is almost always far less than they could gain by filing a claim for all of the damages associated with the loved one’s death
  • Seeking medical authorization to review the cause of death and then examining the elderly resident’s medical history for pre-existing conditions they can claim caused the death
  • Recording phone conversations and then using your words out of context against you
  • Delaying the claim process until you’re willing to accept a low settlement offer
  • Discouraging grieving family members from hiring a lawyer

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.

Phoenix Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawyer

Will I Have to Go to Court for a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Case?

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:

  • Reviewing the medical examiner’s report, the resident’s medical records, and resident-care records
  • Reviewing eyewitness testimony
  • Gathering photo or video evidence
  • Examining the histories of nursing home employees in the case, including any criminal records or past complaints

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.

Get Legal Help for Nursing Home Wrongful Death in Phoenix, AZ

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.

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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.