Since early April 2021, more than 130 thousand residents of long-term care facilities have dies from Covid-19. This data comes from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) which regulates long-term care facilities. Could this result in a wrongful death claim?
It’s not possible to prevent every single death since the elderly are highly susceptible to severe complications caused by Covid-19. But sometimes, the nursing homes didn’t do all they could and take the proper precautions.
This isn’t however a sudden issue. There have been serious systemic problems that plagued nursing homes for many years and they certainly played a big role in putting residents at risk from the virus.
In the event that a nursing home is understaffed, fails to properly isolate infected residents or employs staff that have been in contact with other infected people or another form of negligence, there might be ground for a wrongful death claim.
At Schenk Podolski, no claim is insignificant or too small. We are here to review your situation, to provide proper legal consultation and to make sure that you receive maximum compensation for your loss.
Wrongful death claim due to nursing home’s negligence in fighting Covid-19
The most important and central question in any wrongful death claim is negligence on behalf of the service provider, in this case, the nursing homes.
When we evaluate your case, there are a lot of things we need to assess in order to determine whether the nursing home or its staff was negligent.
Did they know how to slow the spread?
In the last year or so, the medical community has learned a lot about the virus. At the start of the pandemic, back in March 2020 CMS has released guidance on infection control for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. In these guidelines, that are also based on the guidelines defined by the CDC, it was clearly defined how to slow the spread of the virus. The recommendations included:
- That the nursing homes and long-term care facilities actively screen both residents and personnel for respiratory symptoms
- They should restrict visits except in cases of compassionate care
- They should restrict both nonessential personnel and volunteers
These guidelines were constantly updated with new information and measures throughout the pandemic. For example, the nursing homes and facilities were strongly advised to screen anyone who enters the facility, regardless whether that’s a resident, staff member, health care worker or vendor.
Every nursing home and long-term care facility should ask about Covid-19 symptoms and conduct temperature checks. Residents had to have their temperature checked every day and needed to have their symptoms assessed.
For facilities in state where there was a state of emergency, all personnel was advised to wear face masks and to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) whenever they provide care for a resident who shows symptoms of Covid-19, whether they only suspect or have a confirmed case.
Wrongful death claims if nursing homes didn’t comply with the guidelines
Regrettably, not every nursing home or long-term care facility follow the instructions on how to protect their residents, set out by the CMS and the CDC. There were numerous complaints to the Department of Health and Human Services on how nursing home failed to protect their residents and staff. Some of the facilities were accused of:
- Not using PPE when it was available
- Not informing residents and their family member of confirmed cases within the facility
- Not following guidelines regarding social distancing
- Not restricting access to guests
- Not providing PPE to staff in order to prevent them from contracting the virus
- Not quarantining residents that had a positive Covid-19 test and so on
Naturally, there staff wanted to do everything they can in order to protect themselves and their residents, but that has been very difficult because of understaffing. This has been a chronic problem for many years now. However, facilities can still be held responsible for damages that resulted due to understaffing.
Arizona nursing home problems
In December 2020 the Arizona Republic has conducted an investigation and found that only five nursing homes were fined by the state, even though 64 facilities were registered for violating infection control guidelines.
There were also complaints where staff were required to work even though they tested positive for Covid-19.
As you can see, there were some pretty serious violations of safety guidelines, which can mean that you could have a solid case for a wrongful death claim.
Damages from a wrongful death claim
When our attorneys review your claim and you decide that you want to take legal action, we will do everything we can so that you receive proper compensation for the loss of your loved one. In case of wrongful death claims, compensations are usually divided into two main categories:
- Damages that are paid to the family members and
- Damages that are paid to the estate
In case of damages that are paid to family members, a wrongful death claim can compensate you for the pain and suffering caused by the death of a loved one, lost care and companionship. If the negligence was substantial, there is also a possibility of punitive damages.
As for the damages paid to the estate, these can provide compensation for
- Pain and suffering before death
- Medical bills related to the final treatment of your loved one
- Burial expenses and funeral expenses
Determining on your own, whether you have a valid wrongful death case is difficult. Assessing each case requires experience and knowledge to determine if a nursing home or long-term care facility was negligent. So if you suspect that the death of your loved one caused by Covid-19 was caused by the negligence of the care facility or staff, contact us for a consult.