Wisconsin Nursing Home
Abuse & Neglect Lawyers
Protect Your Loved Ones by Standing Up Against Abusive and Negligent Care Facilities
Many of our relatives will spend their final years in a nursing home or similar long-term care facility. We all want to believe that these establishments will provide skilled, compassionate care to our loved ones; but the reality is that many nursing homes fail to meet even the minimum standards of care required by state and federal law; s a result, residents are often the victims of abuse or neglect.
The government can take certain steps to protect residents by inspecting nursing homes and enforcing standards; yet it is often left to individual residents–and their families–to act when specific acts of abuse or neglect occur. If you are in this position, our Wisconsin nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can help.
At Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Butler, LLC, we can assist you with investigating a nursing home that is not meeting its legal, ethical, and moral responsibilities. When misconduct or negligence has occurred–in any form–we can advise you on taking appropriate legal action. This includes both filing complaints with the appropriate regulatory agencies as well as seeking monetary damages against a nursing home. You should never feel that abuse or neglect should be tolerated when it comes to nursing home and long-term care.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse in Wisconsin?
All nursing homes and similar facilities in Wisconsin must follow strict regulations implemented by both the United States government in conjunction with administering federal Medicaid and Medicare funds, as well as the State of Wisconsin. These regulations define what misconduct qualifies as “abuse” or “neglect” with respect to resident care and living conditions.
In broad terms, federal regulations define nursing home abuse as the “willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.” The different forms of abuse meeting this definition include:
- Physical abuse. This includes staff or other residents making any form of unwanted physical contact with a resident, such as hitting, slapping, or kicking. It also covers any attempt to exert physical control over a resident, such as using or threatening “corporal punishment.”
- Sexual abuse. Any non-consensual sexual contact with a nursing home resident is a form of abuse. This also applies to any sexual harassment or attempt to use sex as a means of coercion against a resident.
- Verbal abuse. The use of threats of harm or injury against a resident is considered verbal abuse. This can include both verbal threats of physical abuse or threatening to withhold certain rights from a resident, such as the ability to see their family.
- Mental abuse. In addition to verbal abuse, any other conduct that has the potential to humiliate, intimidate, shame, or degrade a nursing home resident is considered mental abuse.
Another common form of nursing home abuse is financial exploitation, also referred to in the law as misappropriation of resident property. Because many nursing home residents are in a vulnerable state, they are especially prone to unscrupulous individuals trying to take their money and other property. For this reason, Wisconsin has stringent rules defining what qualifies as misappropriation, which can include any of the following:
- intentionally taking, using, or retaining of a resident’s movable property without their consent and with the intent to deprive said resident of that property.
- making false promises or false representations to obtain a resident’s property from them, including running any sort of financial fraud.
- abusing their position of trust to convert a resident’s property into their own without the resident’s knowledge or consent; or
- stealing a resident’s personal identifying information, such as a birth certificate or Social Security number, to obtain credits, money, or government benefits for their own use.
What Is Nursing Home Neglect in Wisconsin?
Even when a nursing home or long-term care facility is not directly abusing a resident as described above, there can still be neglect. Wisconsin regulations define nursing home neglect as an “intentional omission or intentional course of conduct” that is contrary to a facility’s own policies or a resident’s treatment plan and that either through “substantial carelessness” or negligence leads to any of the following:
- the resident’s death, pain, or injury.
- violation of the resident’s rights under Wisconsin law; or
- causes, or would reasonably be expected to cause, emotional or mental damage to a resident.
To be clear, not every case of inefficiency or deficient performance in a nursing home is considered neglect under the law. But when a facility routinely disregards the standards of care for nursing home residents, that can give rise to a claim of neglect. Some of the more common signs of neglect include:
- residents do not receive adequate food and hydration.
- residents do not receive adequate medical, mental, or dental care.
- residents do not receive prescribed medications.
- residents do not receive adequate hygiene care, such as assistance with bathing or using the toilet.
- nursing home staff fails to regularly clean and sanitize areas accessible to residents.
- the facility fails to maintain adequate staff to properly care for residents.
- the facility does not provide adequate safety and security for residents.
- the facility does not provide assistance when requested by residents;
- the facility does not provide appropriate activities and additional therapies required by residents.
Just as with abuse, neglect can quickly lead to a serious decline in a nursing home resident’s physical, mental, and emotional state. And in many cases, neglect is a direct or substantial contributing factor in a nursing home resident’s death. When that happens, the family is understandably left looking for answers–and justice.
What Can Be Done About Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Wisconsin?
Nursing home abuse and neglect is against the law. This means that in some cases, nursing home staff can face criminal charges for their actions that harm residents. But it also means that the resident–or their family if the resident is incapacitated or has passed away–can file a civil lawsuit. Such lawsuits can be based either on a breach of contract or violation of a nursing home resident’s civil rights as established by federal and Wisconsin state laws.
It is important to note that a nursing home owner can be held liable for acts of abuse committed by individual employees. Like any employer, a nursing home is considered vicariously liable for the acts of its agents. This means that you do not have to prove that the nursing home’s owner knew about or participated in the abuse beforehand. Although in certain situations–such as neglect brought about by intentional understaffing–the ownership is responsible for what happened.
In a successful nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit, the victim can seek damages as financial compensation for their injuries. These damages include:
- compensation for any additional medical or rehabilitation costs incurred because of the abuse or neglect.
- in cases of financial exploitation, compensation for the resident’s loss of money or other property; and
- compensation for the resident’s ongoing emotional distress and pain and suffering.
When a resident has died as the result of nursing home abuse or neglect, their estate or next of kin may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility. Damages in a wrongful death claim are designed to compensate the family members for their loss of their loved one, as well as for the victim’s final medical, funeral, and burial expenses. It is also possible to file a survivorship claim to seek damages for the pain and suffering the resident endured prior to their death because of abuse or neglect.
Why You Need to Work with a Qualified Wisconsin Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney
As with any type of personal injury claim, it is always a good idea to engage an experienced attorney before taking any legal action. This is especially important when it comes to cases of nursing home abuse and neglect. There are a few reasons for this:
The first is that these cases are often more difficult to prove than you might realize. Nursing home residents are often reluctant to come forward with abuse or neglect claims. And oftentimes, they are in no physical or mental condition to come forward in the first place. It is therefore left to family members and friends to try and gather all the necessary evidence of abuse or neglect. Collaborating with a lawyer can make this process go much smoother.
The second thing to consider is that there are a number of highly technical rules and regulations that must be observed when bringing a nursing home abuse or neglect case. For example, Wisconsin has a three-year statute of limitations on most claims. If a family waits too long to act, they may be barred from taking any legal action at all.
That is why you should not hesitate to contact a Wisconsin nursing home and abuse attorney if you have any reason something is not right with your spouse, parent, or other family member’s care. Contact Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Butler, LLC today to schedule a free consultation. You will not pay any attorney’s fees unless we win.
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