Nursing homes must take reasonable efforts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, including coronavirus. If a facility breaches that duty, and a resident contracts coronavirus as a result, then that resident’s family may bring a lawsuit against the facility.
An experienced nursing home lawyer can determine whether coronavirus in your loved one’s facility was the result of negligence.
If your loved one passed away due to coronavirus in a Georgia nursing home, then you have questions. Our hope is that you can find answers here. We are also a short phone call away. So, please feel free to call us any time for a free consultation (678) 823-7678.
- Coronavirus laws and regulations governing Georgia nursing homes.
- Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 143: Infection Control In Nursing Homes.
- Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 84: Reading Nursing Home Inspection Reports.
- CDC Guidelines for Nursing Homes operating in Georgia.
Why choose use as your coronavirus nursing home lawyer? Because all we do is represent nursing home residents. That dedication and experience can help you and your family.
Can I sue a nursing home because of the coronavirus?
Yes, if a resident contracts the coronavirus due to the negligent actions of the nursing home, then the resident or resident’s family can sue the facility.
But how is a nursing home negligent in preventing the coronavirus?
Nursing homes commit negligence when they violate infection control protocols set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and by the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Nursing homes are highly regulated by Federal and State guidelines. Why? Because seniors with chronic conditions are the most vulnerable to infections. In fact, the coronavirus is most deadly among seniors over the age of 65.
Here are the infection prevention regulations currently in effect for Georgia nursing homes:
The facility must establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary, and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of communicable diseases and infections.
[Nursing Homes] shall have a microbial and infection control program. Policies and procedures for infection control shall be written, assembled and available to all staff members. Procedures shall be specific for practice in the home and shall be included in the training of every staff member.
There are many ways in which a nursing home may be negligent in preventing coronavirus under the regulations.
- Failing to have a written policy on infection control
- Failing to train staff on infection control
- Failing to monitor residents for signs and symptoms of infection
- Failing to contact the Georgia DCH at the first signs of coronavirus.
- Failing to keep up with changing guidelines with regard to coronavirus
How do I know if I have a case against the nursing home?
A successful lawsuit requires a showing that nursing home negligence was the direct cause of your loved one’s contracting of the coronavirus.
Just because your loved falls ill does not automatically mean there is a claim. The coronavirus can spread very easily. The infection spreads person-to-person or by contact with infected surfaces. In short, even if the nursing home does everything required under the law, the coronavirus may spread.
There are two primary components to every case brought against a Georgia nursing home due to injury from coronavirus:
- Fault. Did the nursing home’s actions deviate from the standard of care set forth in the Federal and State Guidelines or by acceptable standards? This is called “negligence.”
- Causation. Did the nursing home’s negligence directly cause your loved one to contract the Covid-19, and did Covid-19 cause your loved one’s injuries or death to the exclusion of other causes? This is called “causation.”
You cannot bring a claim without both of these elements. In other words, having one is not sufficient. There must be proof of both in order to win.
What kind of evidence would I need for a coronavirus lawsuit against a nursing home?
All lawsuits alleging injuries from coronavirus will require proof of negligence and causation. A coronavirus nursing home lawyer can find that proof.
While we are still in a “new era” of coronavirus litigation, here are some key examples of evidence.
- Death Certificate. All death certificates will list a series of causes of death. In Georgia, these causes a presumed accurate unless rebutted by other evidence. Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 88: Obtaining a Georgia Death Certificate.
- Autopsy Reports. An autopsy is a thorough examination of the deceased person conducted by a medical doctor. At the conclusion of the examination, the examiner will issue a report on the findings, including the likely cause of death. Autopsy reports can be valuable because they can often exclude chronic illnesses or other pathologies as the cause of death. Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 77: Requesting a Private Autopsy. Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 80: Requesting a Public Autopsy.
- Facility Citations. A history of citations by the Georgia Department of Community Health can be strong evidence that the nursing home is not following appropriate standards for infection control. Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 84: How to Read Inspection Reports.
- Vitals. Nursing home staff are required to take resident vitals at regular intervals. Starting March 13th, 2020, staff were required to monitor vitals every shift for signs and symptoms of the coronavirus. Fever, cough, and respiration are important indicators of infection.
- Employee Training. Nursing homes are required to provide training in infection control protocols. This includes in-services, one-on-one training, and continuing education. Failing to have an educated staff can lead to improper care and negligence. Evidence that the nursing home has not provided appropriate training can be critical. Nursing Home Abuse Podcast Episode 91: Nursing Home Staff and Their Roles.
How is a coronavirus lawsuit different from other nursing home neglect?
Suing a nursing home for negligently handling the Covid-19 pandemic requires an experienced trial lawyer. In many ways, a coronavirus case is different than many other types of nursing home negligence cases. Here’s how:
- Unprecedented Infection. With over 500,000 cases worldwide, we are treading in uncharted waters. Healthcare workers across the country have given their lives treating our nation’s sick. While many nursing home cases involve showing the jury that a facility places profit over care, in a coronavirus case, the jury’s sympathy will be focused not just on the victims, but the front-line staff as well.
- Internal Medicine. An infection is different from a fall or a pressure ulcer. Typically, there is no useful video footage or other similar “hard” evidence. Proof is often found in the tens of thousands of medical records. One kernel of information contained in them may be the critical evidence needed to open up a case.
- Changing Regulations. The CDC and CMS continue to update guidelines as information on the coronavirus is discovered. What might be the appropriate course of action one day could be different the next.
An experienced nursing home lawyer can evaluate whether you have a case. Feel free to give us a call. Our consultations are always free.
How can a nursing home prevent coronavirus?
According to Federal law, all nursing homes are required to implement “prevention and control programs” to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases. The program must include the following:
- Regular Observation. Surveillance and detection of the signs and symptoms in residents conducted on a regular basis.
- System of Reporting. Implementation of a standardized method of reporting infections to State and Federal agencies.
- Isolation Plan. Plans for isolating or quarantining symptomatic residents.
- Hand Hygiene. Staff trained on the appropriate methods for hand hygiene, including when to be performed.
- Personal Protective Equipment. Maintaining plenty of PPE as well as policies for when PPE is utilized.
- Infection Preventionist. Facilities must designate one or more individual(s) as the infection preventionist who will be responsible for the infection control policies.
As of March 13th, 2020, CMS has instructed nursing homes to do the following:
- Restrict Visitation. No visitors are allowed entrance into a facility unless that individual is (a) a healthcare worker, (b) person involved with compassionate care, or (c) a state inspector.
- Cancel Group Activities. All group activities are allowed any longer, including communal dining.
- Screening of Residents. All residents are to be screened every shift for signs and symptoms of Covid-19.
- Screening of Staff. All staff are to be screened every shift for signs and symptoms of Covid-19.
- Warnings Posted. Posted warnings regarding infection risk and proper hand hygiene are to be posted throughout the facility.
- Remain Informed. Remain continually updated on CDC and CMS guidelines on Covid-19 transmission and best practices.
According to Georgia law, nursing homes are required to train all staff on the following:
Prevention of spread of infection from personnel to patient: Any person whose duties include direct patient care, handling food, or handling clean linen, and who has an acute illness such as “strep” throat, or an open sore or boil, shall not be allowed to work until he is fully recovered;
Prevention of spread of infection from visitors to patients;
Prevention of spread of infection from patient to personnel or other patients: Isolation techniques to be observed according to the source of infection and the method of spread;
Reporting of communicable diseases as required by the rules and regulations for notification of diseases which have been promulgated by the Department.
Who sues on behalf of a person that has died?
Typically, two claims exist when a resident dies due to the negligence of a nursing home. The first is a claim for “wrongful death” brought by the family. The second is a claim for personal injury brought by the Estate of the deceased resident.
- Wrongful Death Claim. A wrongful death claim is typically held by a surviving spouse or children. This means that the spouse, or the children, would be the plaintiff. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, a grandchild may bring the claim if the child of the deceased passes away after the claim is initiated. Second, the Estate may bring the claim if there is no spouse or children.
- Estate Claim. The Representative of the Estate brings the claim for the Estate. The representative is typically the Executor of the will (if there is a will), or the Administrator as appointed by the Probate Court.
In short, just because someone has passed away does not mean that there is no claim. That’s why it important to hire a coronavirus nursing home lawyer to evaluate your case.
What recovery is a jury allowed to award in a nursing home coronavirus lawsuit?
The only compensation allowed under Georgia law is monetary damages. In other words, a jury will not direct a nursing home to stop an action or require them to shut down by order of the court. Money is the only award the law allows to make an injured resident whole.
What kind of compensation is a jury (or arbitration panel) allowed to award?
In a wrongful death claim, a jury can render damages for “the full value of life.” This includes “intangible value,” or the worth attached to living life. Watching a sunrise, sharing a beer with a lifelong friend, hearing a family story retold, and watching children interact with grandchildren. In other words, the value of being present at just one more Christmas dinner with the family? The jury is required to put a monetary value to this.
In an Estate claim, the jury awards money damages in compensation of the resident’s pain and suffering, as well as related medical bills and funeral expenses.
What is a coronavirus nursing home lawsuit worth?
There are no coronavirus verdicts at this time. Nearly all settlements and arbitration awards are confidential. As such, data for these cases are scarce.
Still, nursing home wrongful death claims may range from a few thousand to several million dollars. There are many, many variables that determine case value. So, no attorney can provide an estimate without taking into account all of the facts of a particular case. However, there tend to be some facts that add or subtract to value.
- Ex-Employee Testimony. Ex-employees providing testimony regarding the systematic negligence of a facility tends to add value.
- Forum. The county or district in which the case is heard can have a strong impact on case value. Some locations are more “plaintiff friendly,” meaning the chances of a high verdict are higher.
- Arbitration: Cases in which arbitration is mandatory tend to settle for less than those that are filed in courts of law.
- Systematic Negligence: Evidence of company-wide neglect, like consistent understaffing in order to increase profit, often increase case value.
How long do you have to sue a nursing home for coronavirus?
The statute of limitations for nursing home neglect in Georgia is two years. However, there are some instances that may shorten or lengthen that time period.
Still, it is important not to wait. Cases for malpractice against nursing homes require additional obligations. Before filing, an expert must provide opinion in the form of an affidavit declaring at least one act of negligence. Often, this is a long practice. That’s why it is important to speak with a lawyer quickly.
How long would a claim take to resolve?
The time it takes to resolve a case depends on the facts of the case and the family’s intention. A case can take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to get to trial. Arbitration may take slightly less than that. Negotiated settlement can occur anywhere along the way.
We handle the case at the direction of the family. This means that if the family prefers to settle the case, then we settle. If the family wants to take the case to trial or arbitration, then we do that. All the while, we advise the families on their best options in terms of case value along the way.
Who are the defendants in a nursing home coronavirus lawsuit?
There are multiple defendants in a typical nursing home neglect case.
- Nursing Home. Obviously, the business entity associated with the nursing home will be the primary defendant.
- Management Company. Almost all nursing homes hire “management companies” to oversee operations.
- Corporate Home Offices. When the nursing home is a part of a chain, the principal office is often named.
- Administrator. The administrator can be named in instances where budgets, understaffing, and systematic neglect occurs.
- Director of Nursing. The DON may be named where claims of improper policies and training are alleged.
How do I select a coronavirus nursing home lawyer?
There are over thirty thousand lawyers in Georgia. Not all lawyers are suited to sue a nursing home for abuse. It may take time to find a coronavirus nursing home lawyer.
But how do you know which lawyer to hire?
- Focused Practice Area. Nursing home regulations, particularly those dealing with coronavirus and Covid-19, are complex and constantly updating. Only a lawyer that handles these cases routinely is able to keep up with the laws.
Ask the attorney:
- What percentage of your practice is dedicated to nursing home neglect?
- How many other practice areas do you handle?
- Experience. You don’t want a lawyer who has never gone up against a nursing home before. It cannot be his or her first rodeo. Understanding the judges and counsel that represent nursing homes give you a leg up.
Ask the attorney:
- How many nursing home cases have you handled in the last 3 years?
- How many times have you sued this facility or chain?
- Passion. You don’t want to be a number or simply a paycheck. During the course of representation, you will often communicate with your lawyer about personal family matters. You should be confident that the lawyer is concerned about the matter.
Ask the attorney:
- Why did you choose this practice area?
- What are you doing to reduce nursing home neglect in the community?
If your loved one passed away as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you are likely experiencing a wide range of emotions: anger, guilt, sadness. Please know that we are there for you. We hope that this website is helpful for you.
If you would like a free consultation with a Georgia coronavirus nursing home lawyer, please call use at (678) 823-7678.