As the nursing home population in Georgia continues to climb, many families have questions about the safety and well-being of their loved ones. If they fear that abuse or neglect has occurred, these families often spend hours looking for answers to questions that need immediate answers.
So, we designed this site to be a resource exclusively for people in Perry. There are in-depth answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about nursing home wrongdoing. We’ve also included information about government and private resources that can point you in the right direction.
Many people, including many lawyers, think that “nursing home abuse” and “nursing home neglect” are the same thing. They are similar, but not identical. Abuse involves intentional conduct, like striking, kicking, or forcibly pulling a resident. Neglect involves unintentional conduct, such as failure to ensure proper nutrition, not cleaning up a wet spot on the floor, or neglecting to turn residents over in bed. “Negligence” is a legal term of art that includes both abuse and neglect.
Abuse and neglect are similar in that they are equally harmful to residents and their families. These things share another similarity, in that they often come from a common source. As mentioned above, the nursing home population is growing almost exponentially. Many of these facilities are now dangerously overcrowded. That crowding often leads to serious problems, as explored below.
From our main office in Atlanta, the law firm of Schenk Smith LLC reaches out statewide on behalf of nursing home abuse and neglect victims. We focus exclusively on these cases, so we have vast experience and resources in this area. Though we handle thousands of these cases each year, each client gets lots of individual attention from one of our lead attorneys.
What happens in a nursing home neglect lawsuit?
Another common denominator between nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect in Perry is that, legally, the claims follow the same procedure.
All the legal claims we handle begin with a conversation. That dialogue can take place in our office, in your home, in a coffee shop, or wherever you feel comfortable. We take as much time as necessary to get to know you, learn about your situation, and map out a preliminary plan of action.
That plan must involve evidence gathering. The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in all civil cases. Medical records are an important source of evidence, as outlined below. Witness statements are important as well. There are few things more simple and compelling than people taking the witness stand and sharing what they know. It’s important to reach out to witnesses quickly. On average, people forget about 90 percent of what they see and hear in about forty-eight hours.
Once we have enough information to lay out a preliminary case, we usually send a demand letter to the facility or the conglomerate which owns the facility. This letter sets out the facts and damages. Based on this information, we demand a certain amount of money to settle the claim. A few claims settle at this point. But most proceed to the next phase.
If the matter does not settle quickly, we usually file a lawsuit straightaway. The statute of limitations is rather short in most civil cases. Any undue delay may mean that your claim for damages becomes invalid. The case can settle at any time, but the general process is as follows:
- Pleadings: Lawyers for both sides lay out their claims and defenses in writing. Georgia is a notice pleading state, which means that the victim/plaintiff’s pleadings must only give notice of the claim. So, there need not be many details at this point. However, sometimes we file very detailed pleadings for strategic reasons. It all depends on the case.
- Discovery: Once most of the pleadings are on file, the discovery process begins. This is a court-supervised information exchange between the parties. Typical discovery tools in these types of cases include medical records, witness depositions, property inspections, government records, and answers to written questions.
- Motion for Summary Judgment: Once discovery in complete, either or both parties often ask the judge to render an immediate verdict. Basically, each side claims the other one cannot possibly win and therefore a trial would be a waste of time. If the evidence is sufficiently one-sided, these motions are often successful.
- Mediation: If judges do not dismiss the case, they usually order them to mediation. A neutral third party, who is usually a retired judge or a lawyer uninvolved in the case, tries to facilitate a settlement through shuttle diplomacy. Mediation may seem like a waste of effort, but it often works. The parties reach an agreed settlement about 75 percent of the time.
If there is a trial, it may be before either a judge alone or a jury. There are advantages and disadvantages to both jury trials and bench trials.
How is a nursing home abuse case valued?
A monetary figure is a necessary component of the demand letter and the pleadings. In most cases, civil judges only have the power to award money damages. Ascertaining a settlement value is a combination of science and art. Only a highly-experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney should try to affix a settlement value to a case.
Damages in a nursing home negligence case include economic damages. Medical bills are usually the largest single component. Other economic damages include things like relocation costs.
There are noneconomic damages as well. Some examples include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship). To estimate noneconomic damages, most attorneys multiply the economic damages by a figure based on the facts. There are other methods as well.
Next, there is an artistic angle. To come up with a fair monetary figure, most attorneys consider a range of factors, including:
- Evidence Strength: The stronger the victim/plaintiff’s evidence, the more likely a court is to award rather large damages. Remember, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. So, all that matters is what the plaintiff can, or cannot, establish in court.
- Any Defenses: The nursing home may have a defense, such as assumption of the risk or contributory negligence. These legal loopholes can reduce the plaintiff’s recovery, or even eliminate it altogether.
- Environmental Factors: There are many considerations here. For example, juries in places like Peach County are often more conservative than jurors in places like Fulton County. As a general rule, conservative jurors more readily identify with negligence victims. Furthermore, some nursing home companies have a reputation for fast settlements; others fight to the bitter end.
The initial settlement demand figure is usually a little high. That’s to leave room for negotiation.
Schenk Smith are Perry nursing home lawyers
The amount of nursing home abuse and neglect that takes place in Georgia alarms us. We are determined to do our part to reduce the pain and suffering that people must deal with. So, we stand up for victims both in court and at the conference table. We do not rest until you receive not only fair compensation, but also justice for your injury.
That commitment runs deep. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Will Smith was a CNA in a number of Georgia nursing homes for about a decade. That background gives our firm additional insight into the issues that plague nursing home abuse and neglect victims.
Our presence throughout the state is deep as well. If you live close to the Cannonball House and Museum, Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park, or Andersonville National Historic Site, we can come to you.
Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect in Perry, Georgia – What you need to know.
Perry, Georgia straddles the line between Houston County and Peach County. It has a population of 15,293 residents. Of those, 13 percent are over 65. Nursing home abuse is just as common in communities like Perry as it is in big cities.
How can I spot the types of nursing home neglect?
To recap, nursing home neglect is unintentional injury. For example, there may be insufficient staff in common areas during meal times. As a result, there is no one there to make sure residents eat properly and to prevent squabbles between residents from becoming violent.
Observers believe that only about 7 percent of nursing home neglect incidents are reported. Some residents do not report neglect because they fear retaliation against themselves or others. Moreover, some residents do not want to cause trouble for their caregivers. Additionally, many residents suffer from dementia and/or are heavily medicated. Therefore, they simply may not know that neglect occurred.
As a result, you may have to do some detective work. The signs of nursing home neglect are actually rather easy to spot if you are fairly diligent. These indicators include:
- Lack of Mobility: If the resident has more trouble than usual moving around, the staff may be leaving the patient in bed or in a wheelchair for extended periods of time, causing the resident’s muscles to atrophy.
- Poor Sanitation: Dirty bedding, floors, and other physical facilities may indicate that the staff is inattentive at several levels. Even small amounts of filth probably means that no one is reporting the problem, no one is cleaning the facilities regularly, or both. Poor sanitation breeds bacteria and illness.
- Poor Personal Hygiene: Many nursing home residents in and around Perry cannot brush their own teeth, trim their own nails, comb their own hair, and perform other basic grooming activities. If your loved one appears unkempt, that probably means no one is helping your loved one the way s/he deserves to be helped.
- Personality Changes: Many neglect victims withdraw from others and do not trust anyone. Others become resentful or even angry. If your loved one exhibits these types of mood changes, there is almost always a reason for the alteration.
Above all, if your loved one complains about neglect, take that complaint seriously and discuss it with the staff. If the staff seems defensive or evasive, there may be a serious problem.
How long do bedsores take to go away?
Bedsores are almost a sure sign of nursing home neglect. These pressure ulcers usually develop on bony areas of the body, like the tailbone, knees, and elbows. If the skin is trapped between the bed and the bone for longer than a couple of hours, a bedsore often develops. If the resident is at all malnourished, the risk is even greater. Malnutrition weakens the skin.
Pressure ulcers often go away on their own once the pressure is relieved. The recovery time depends on the stage of the injury:
- Stage I: If the bedsore is not much more than a red patch of skin, the pressure ulcer may go away in only two or three days. Typically, turning over in bed more frequently and avoiding further pressure does the trick.
- Stage II: Once the bedsore breaks the skin, recovery time may be more like two or three weeks.
- Stage III: If the bedsore has a cratered appearance and shows signs of infection, a doctor needs to care for the wound. The physician must prescribe antibiotics and remove any dead tissue. The recovery time can be up to two months or even longer.
- Stage IV: Once the pressure ulcer turns black and starts draining, the situation is quite serious. In many cases, the skin completely erodes, making tendons, bone, and muscles visible. The resident usually needs surgery to remove the pressure ulcer. As a result, recovery time is usually a minimum four months.
To prevent bedsores, the patient needs to turn in bed or in a wheelchair at least once every two hours. But when the facility is overcrowded, there may not be staff available to help the residents reposition themselves. In the alternative, the staff making rounds may be undertrained and therefore not recognize a Stage I bedsore.
Who is held liable for the nursing home neglect?
Just like there is a difference between abuse and neglect, there is a difference between “personal responsibility” and “legal responsibility.” For the most part, we are all responsible for our own mistakes. But in terms of legal liability, fault is really not the issue. Instead, the question is who has the power to make things better.
Clearly, the nursing home facility has the power to stop neglect. Therefore, legal responsibility lies not with the individual tortfeasor (negligent actor), but with the employer.
A legal doctrine called respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) embodies this idea. A nursing home is legally responsible for nursing home negligence if the tortfeasor was:
- An Employee: Some people think that an “employee” is just someone who receives a regular paycheck. In some situations, that is true. But in this context, an “employee” is anyone that the employer controls. That control could be setting work hours, determining job responsibilities, or providing a place to work. Therefore, for nursing home neglect purposes, independent contractors and even some unpaid volunteers are also “employees.”
- Acting Within the Course of Employment: This phrase is also defined quite broadly. Any act that benefits the employer in any way usually falls within the course of employment. The benefit need not be significant and need not even be economic. For example, in Georgia workers’ compensation cases, courts have held that workers who are hurt in a company softball game were acting within the course of employment. The boss benefited because the workers were happier and healthier.
The injury must also be a foreseeable result of the neglect. It’s foreseeable that a patient who does not turn over in bed may develop a bedsore, but it’s not foreseeable that a doctor will administer the incorrect medication. The foreseeability rule applies in almost all negligence cases.
My loved one was hurt in a Perry nursing home- What do I do next?
If your loved one was severely injured or passed away while a resident in a Perry, Georgia nursing home, act quickly to protect your loved one’s rights.
First, report the incident to the appropriate Georgia authorities
The Georgia Department of Community Health’s Healthcare Facility Regulation investigates claims of nursing home abuse and neglect. This agency also regulates and certifies nursing homes in Perry, GA.
You can file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation online by clicking this link. Here is additional contact information:
Georgia Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation
2 Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: (800) 878-6442
Fax: (404) 657-5731
You can file a complaint with the Georgia Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman online by clicking on this link. Here is additional contact information:
Georgia Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Middle Ombudsman Program
239 NE Park Avenue, Suite C-1
Baxley, GA 31513
Tel: (912) 367- 4866
Fax: (912) 367-3849
You may also report physical assault or abuse to local law enforcement
For abuse occurring in a Perry, Georgia nursing home, report the crime to one of the offices below.
1207 Washington St.
Perry, GA 31069
Tel: (478) 988-2800
202 Carl Vinson Pkwy.
Warner Robins, GA 31088
Tel: (478) 542-2125
201 Perry Pkwy.
Perry, Georgia 31069
Tel: (478) 218-4810
Find another facility for your loved one
Trust your instincts and your observations. If you believe that abuse or neglect has occurred at the nursing home where your loved one resides, that facility may no longer be safe. For your loved one’s safety, as well as for your peace of mind, err on the side of caution. Consider moving your loved one straightaway.
There are a number of options in the Houston County/Peach County area. Click here to go to the Nursing Home Compare Website. This site has a very user-friendly layout and quickly delivers lots of basic information. To make things even easier, we have included some information about facilities located in or near Perry, Georgia.
Get the medical records from the hospital and the nursing home
Medical records are excellent resources for both doctors and attorneys. Your loved one’s physician may not know what to do without knowing what the prior facility did, or did not, do. Furthermore, medical records are important bits of evidence in a nursing home abuse or neglect case.
In addition to the nursing home records, be sure and check at nearby hospitals. Most Perry-area long-term care facilities transfer critically injured or ill residents to:
Begin the probate process if your loved one has passed away
If your loved one passes away, the legal claim belongs to that person’s estate. To preserve that claim, you or someone you trust must be named the representative of your loved one’s estate. The probate court can engineer that change, whether or not your loved one had a will.
Houston County Probate Court
201 Perry Parkway
Perry, GA 31069
Nursing Homes in Perry, Georgia
Moving your loved one to a local nursing home is usually the least disruptive alternative for everyone involved. Some facilities to look at in the Perry area include:
500 Stanley Street
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 (Average)
Number of Beds: 160
Number of Residents: 156.8
RN hours per resident per day: 21min (GA Avg: 24 min)
Health Inspections Rating: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)
Staff Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)
Quality Measure Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)
Most Recent Health Inspection Date: 05-11-2017
Number of Health Citations: 8
Average Number of Health Citations in Georgia: 3.2
Number of Complaints in previous 3 years resulting citation: 1
Federal fines in previous 3 years: 0
Why Choose Schenk Smith as your Nursing Home Lawyers?
Nursing home negligence is not a side show for us. Our entire team is dedicated exclusively to this part of the law. That focus is just one thing that makes Schenk Smith one of the best law firms in Georgia for these kinds of cases.
We are not just focused on these types of legal claims. We are also focused on the Perry community. We spend a lot of time in and around Macon, so we understand the unique needs and challenges of the people that live here.
But do not just take our word for it. Take a few moments to look at some of our Google reviews. Call us at Schenk Smith (678) 823-7678 for a free consultation. We cannot promise that your results will match the ones from prior clients. But, we can promise that your experience will be exactly the same. You deserve that, and we would not have it any other way.