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COVID-19 Coronavirus Nursing Home Lawsuits

For senior citizens, COVID-19 is more than a highly infectious global pandemic. It’s a particularly ruthless respiratory disease with an overall mortality rate more than 3 times higher than the seasonal flu. Add in factors like living in close quarters, residents’ underlying health conditions, and the documented, widespread failures of the majority of nursing homes to adequately prevent and control infections, and it becomes clear why members of the medical community have called the situation a “powder keg.” A single infected visitor or staff member is all it takes to introduce the coronavirus into the nursing home ecosystem that, in most facilities, is poorly prepared to stop this disease from spreading through the vulnerable resident population as relentlessly as a fiery explosion. The alarming COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes across the United States are not inevitable. In fact, when coronavirus does spread through a nursing home, it’s often because of negligence – like deficient infection control measures or failure to comply with recommendations from federal and state health agencies – on the part of the facility. This has resulted in a significant number of coronavirus nursing home lawsuits by the people who are suffering or their families hoping to find answers and justice.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Nursing Home Lawsuit

  • Can I Sue a Nursing Home for a COVID-19 Outbreak?

A nursing home controls every part of a resident’s environment – so, if a coronavirus outbreak occurred, there may well be negligence on the part of the facility to blame. Find out more about suing a nursing home.

  • How bad is the coronavirus crisis at nursing homes?

Thousands of residents are dying due to preventable COVID-19 infections, and in many areas, government oversight is deficient or nonexistent. Read the latest news on COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes across the U.S.

  • How can I protect my loved one in a nursing home?

With visitation halted and reliable communication with nursing home administration sparse, families are panicking – and with good reason. Although you may feel helpless right now, there are steps you can take against nursing homes with negligent infection control practices.

You trusted a nursing home to provide the care your aging or ailing family member needed. By allowing the rampant spread of coronavirus throughout the facility, the nursing home put you loved one’s safety at risk. Now, it’s time to hold the facility accountable – before its negligence costs any more lives.

A conversation with a coronavirus nursing home lawsuit attorney can help you get to the bottom of this situation and take the first step toward stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the care facility. And it costs you nothing to find out your family’s legal rights and options. Call today for a free consultation.

Table of Contents 

What Nursing Home Residents and Families Need to Know About COVID-19

For families who have been affected by a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home (or those worried about such an outbreak), here are the top 5 things you need to know:

1. What government recommendations nursing homes are expected to follow:

Federal and state health agencies have issued numerous recommendations on strategies for preventing and controlling the spread of coronavirus in long-term care facilities.

These recommendations are based on the best scientific evidence available, and following them is the best way nursing homes can prevent tragic losses among their resident populations. Facilities have a duty to meet these recommendations. Those that don’t may be held legally accountable for their negligence. Find out more about federal and state government recommendations.

2. What nursing homes should be during during the pandemic to prevent or control infections and minimize the harm to residents and personnel:

To find out whether a care facility is negligent, you first need to understand what a nursing home should be doing to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Learn more about preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.

3. What a resident’s rights are when in a nursing home:

Nursing home residents have legal rights, including the right to have visitors. However, a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the few circumstances in which it is appropriate for facilities to restrict those rights.

Under the current outbreak, nursing homes are not only legally allowed to restrict visitation – they’re encouraged to do so. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) first recommended that nursing homes screen visitors for potential symptoms of coronavirus infection. By March 13, 2020, the CMS had updated those recommendations to reflect the gravity of the situation.

Now, nursing homes are expected to allow only essential personnel on the premises of the facility. Generally, exceptions can be made for specific “compassionate care” situations – namely, end of life situations – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Other rights of nursing home residents may also be curtailed during this crisis. These rights may include, for example, the opportunity to socialize with other residents and to participate in regularly scheduled group activities that have been canceled due to the coronavirus.

4. How nursing home residents can stay connected in quarantine:

Although these restrictions are necessary for protecting the health and safety of all residents in a nursing home, they can create a sense of loneliness and isolation that can be detrimental to a resident’s mental and physical well-being.

It’s particularly important for nursing home residents to be able to stay connected to loved ones even while social distancing practices widely in effect. Although you may not be able to be there for your family member in person due to the risk of contagion, loved ones can and should communicate with nursing home residents frequently through technologies like FaceTime or Skype calls or through traditional phone calls, the AARP reported.

In fact, given the severity of the coronavirus outbreaks that have been reported in nursing homes nationwide, this frequent communication is crucial to knowing whether negligence, neglect, or another form of abuse is occurring while you are barred from visiting the facility.

5. Three Steps to take if you’re concerned about a nursing home’s infection control practices:

Suppose you suspect that a nursing home facility’s infection control measures may be deficient. Now what?

There are numerous steps you could take to begin addressing nursing home negligence, both under normal circumstances and under these unprecedented circumstances. Because this situation is serious, you should take as many of these steps as possible to make sure that the nursing home is held accountable.

  1. You can make a complaint to the nursing home director or administrator. But – especially in the case of a situation so closely related to immediate health and safety of your family member – you shouldn’t stop there. Unfortunately, in a matter this significant, you can’t be sure that the facility’s internal administration will take sufficient steps to fix the problem promptly.
  2. You can file a complaint with your state. You can find a list of state contacts here. However, you should be aware that a state investigation won’t directly affect your family. Even if your loved one’s nursing home is fined by the government, that money typically won’t go to your family to cover the substantial medical expenses incurred for treating COVID-19.
  3. The course of action that has the greatest direct impact on your family is pursuing a negligence claim against the nursing home. When you have an attorney fighting for your family, your claim will seek full compensation not only for the costs of care but also for the non-economic harms of pain and suffering or bereavement. A coronavirus nursing home lawsuit is the only step you can take to address nursing home negligence that actually grants justice for your individual family.

When you suspect negligence, especially in a matter as crucial as infection control during a global pandemic, time is of the essence. Bringing in a private attorney may also be the fastest way you can cut through the red tape and ensure that someone is actively investigating what’s going on at the nursing home promptly. A delay – even a short one – could cost lives.

Why Coronavirus Can Be So Deadly for Senior Citizens

Older people are at the greatest risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. Although COVID-19 symptoms are flu-like in some respects, the mortality rate of this new infection is much higher.

The mortality rate for the flu is far less than 1 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By some estimates, this rate is closer to 0.1 percent. But up to 90 percent of those who lose their lives to the seasonal flu are 65 or older.

For COVID-19, the mortality rate seems to be considerably higher. As the situation continues to evolve, reported overall mortality rates range from a low of 1.4 percent reported by the New England Journal of Medicine to 3.4 percent reported by the WHO in early March 2020.

Again, senior citizens are disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. Stat News reported significant increases in mortality rates for each decade of life – from just 0.3 percent among patients in their 40s to 8.6 percent among patients in their 70s and 13.4 percent among patients 80 and older.

While it’s not completely clear why coronavirus wreaks such deadly havoc on the bodies of seniors, there are several factors that, experts suspect, could contribute to this stunningly high death rate.

  • The immune system changes and weakens with age in a phenomenon immunobiologists describe as “the twilight of immunity,” according to Stat News.
  • The reason the virus is referred to as “novel coronavirus” is because it is new and different from other viruses – as the WHO put it, “a unique virus with unique characteristics.” Because it is new, humans have not built up any immunity to this virus.
  • Early data suggests that underlying medical conditions play a big part in COVID-19 cases severe enough to require hospitalization and intensive care, as well as those that are fatal, according to the New England Journal of Medicine’s Journal Watch. Many of these underlying conditions are more common with advancing age.
  • With no vaccines to protect against this virus and no known cures, the ability of existing medicine to prevent the development of COVID-19 or to treat the disease once it has developed is limited.

The stakes are high. A senior citizen who is exposed to coronavirus is in severe and immediate jeopardy. Preventing exposure is crucial to saving lives, particularly among this population.

 

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Why Seniors in Care Facilities Are Especially at Risk for COVID-19

Tiny in-house morgues overflowing with the bodies of the deceased. Desperate pleas for more body bags. This is the horrifying reality of what’s happening now in the nursing homes where coronavirus infection is spreading uncontained.

COVID-19 poses particular challenges in nursing homes across the United States, according to experts at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to the factors like dwindling immune system strength that already make the coronavirus exceptionally hazardous for older populations, the nursing home setting is problematic in other ways.

The Dangers of COVID-19 at Nursing Homes

  • Nursing homes have a lot of people living in confined spaces, making social distancing difficult. In this way, the environment is much like that of a college dorm, a cruise ship, or a prison – all settings where infectious diseases commonly spread at faster rates due to close living quarters.
  • Often, the seniors who live in nursing homes are in poorer health than those of the same age living in other settings. They may need more help to handle basic activities of living, which necessitates more direct and close contact with others.
  • By the same token, these more serious underlying health conditions can worsen symptoms and complications of COVID-19.
  • Nursing homes have historically struggled with infection control even for diseases that aren’t new and unknown. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, these frequently understaffed facilities are facing even more problems pertaining to staffing and the personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene and disinfecting supplies needed to prevent infections.

Underestimating the severity of the coronavirus and the risk it poses in nursing homes is perhaps the single biggest mistake a facility can make. What facilities must do to successfully combat this infectious disease and contain the spread of COVID-19 is take seriously all preparedness initiatives and health and safety guidelines.

Preventing COVID-19 at Nursing Homes

Don’t confuse these complicating factors for inevitability. “Containment is possible,” the WHO reported in early March 2020. Keeping the threat of coronavirus transmission out of nursing homes, or instituting immediate quarantines that prevent the disease from spreading further, is the key to preventing nursing home coronavirus deaths.

How Nursing Home Neglect Contributes to COVID-19 Outbreaks

Did You Know…?

Even well-meaning nursing home staff can be negligent at times, especially if the facility is not appropriately staffed and stocked with protective gear and cleaning products or if administrators have failed to develop strong preparedness plans or train staff on how to comply with procedures.

Often, the rapid and seemingly uncontrollable spread of infections like coronavirus through a nursing home is actually the result of negligence.

Nursing Home Negligence and Coronavirus Infections

Some of the ways a nursing home can be responsible for a COVID-19 outbreak include:

  • Not cleaning and disinfecting all shared surfaces properly and frequently
  • Not requiring staff to use proper protective gear or supplying enough protective equipment to prevent cross-contamination
  • Requiring exposed or sick personnel to report to work, especially in multiple facility locations, which can extend the spread of coronavirus between facilities and branches
  • Not having enough staff on the premises to remain in compliance with health and safety guidelines and procedures
  • Failing to screen for COVID-19 symptoms or to isolate and quarantine residents and personnel with potential symptoms early, which can allow the infection to spread further.
  • Neglecting to report confirmed and possible cases to the appropriate health agencies and authorities – and, in some cases, even to the families of residents

The challenges of life during this pandemic don’t cancel out a nursing home’s duty to protect the safety of their residents. Don’t accept excuses for a nursing home’s negligence. Even during a time of crisis, these mistakes are unacceptable.

Federal and State COVID-19 Guidelines for Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have to answer to regulators at the federal, state, and local levels of government.

At the federal level, agencies like the CDC and CMS have released guidelines and recommendations for long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

In addition to the CDC’s general COVID-19 infection control recommendations intended to be used in all healthcare facilities, the federal agency has put together numerous resources specific to the coronavirus threat in long-term care facilities. Your loved one’s nursing home should be familiar with:

The upshot of these extensive resources is that, through taking appropriate health and safety measures, nursing homes can either successfully keep the coronavirus from entering their facilities in the first place or identify and deal with infections early enough to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

With these measures and the appropriate use of PPE like masks, gloves, and gowns, nursing homes can begin to manage and treat severe illnesses like COVID-19 without exposing staff and other residents to the disease.

Did You Know…?

According to the CDC, “the majority of nursing homes” have no dedicated respiratory protection program.

According to the CDC, “the majority of nursing homes” have no dedicated respiratory protection program.

These facilities may not be legally required to have such a program established, but lacking this program can result in “hampering implementation of recommendations” made by the CDC to control the spread of coronavirus. To get the respiratory intervention they need, residents with otherwise mild symptoms must be transferred to an acute care hospital – and that, the CDC noted, can further contribute to hospitals being inundated with more COVID-19 patients than the facilities, staff, and supply of equipment are able to handle.

 

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What Nursing Homes Should Be Doing to Stop the Spread of Coronavirus

What steps should your loved one’s nursing home be taking right now to ensure the safety of its residents during this dangerous time?

Nursing Homes Have Been Advised to Restrict All Visitation

Restricting a nursing home resident’s right to have visitors isn’t a matter to be taken lightly. It’s a sign of how serious this situation is that, in mid-March, the CDC and CMS have stated that “all facilities nationwide… should restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation.”

Although visiting a loved one in a nursing home may seem like the kind thing to do, especially in this time of uncertainty, it is unfortunately through these visits that infectious diseases can be introduced to the nursing home environment. If you find that your loved one’s nursing home has permitted visitors in circumstances beyond compassionate care and end-of-life matters, or that the facility hasn’t taken the needed health and safety steps when these visits have occurred, that could be a sign of negligence.

Nursing Home Staff Should Wash Hands and Wear Masks and Gloves

It’s important that all personnel in a nursing home comply fully with CDC hand hygiene guidance. But in many facilities, that’s still not happening.

As late as the week of March 30, 2020 – more than two weeks after the President declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergencymore than one-third of nursing homes inspected were not following CDC hand hygiene recommendations, the CMS reported.

CMS guidelines issued in early April 2020 also reiterated the necessity of wearing appropriate PPE for staff. According to these guidelines, nursing home staff should wear face masks at all times while at the facility. If a patient has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 or if there has been confirmed COVID-19 transmission in the nursing home, staff should wear full PPE consistent with CDC guidelines.

Yet, again, inspections are showing that this isn’t happening. One-quarter of nursing homes inspected failed to demonstrate proper use of PPE gear as of the end of March, according to the CMS.

The Importance of Frequent Disinfecting of Surfaces and Objects

Shared surfaces are one of the main ways viruses can be transmitted. The coronavirus can live just three hours in the air, but on certain surfaces, like stainless steel, glass and hard plastic, the virus can live for days, according to Harvard Medical School.

During that time, countless people can touch and interact with that surface, becoming exposed themselves and potentially carrying the virus to other areas and individuals. In places like nursing homes, where many people are living in close quarters, these shared surfaces are particularly numerous:

  • Dining areas
  • Recreational areas
  • Restrooms
  • Residents’ rooms, which they may share or into which personnel frequently come to assist with the activities of daily living

To contain the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases, frequent disinfecting of these surfaces is crucial. In addition, the CMS urges nursing homes to carefully disinfect any shared medical equipment, work stations, and any area in which visitors have been permitted for end-of-life or other compassionate care situations.

Did You Know…?

In early March 2020, the Department of Justice launched a National Nursing Home Initiative to better facilitate ongoing investigations into nursing homes that, the federal government has reason to believe, “provide grossly substandard care to their residents.” 

Both civil and criminal matters involving nursing home negligence and abuse can be investigated by the Department of Justice through National Nursing Home Initiative, which was created to facilitate ongoing investigations into nursing homes that the federal government has reason to believe “provide grossly substandard care to their residents.” Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t expect a Department of Justice investigation to yield a financial recovery for your family, even if it results in fines or in other civil or criminal consequences for the nursing home. Only an individual nursing home negligence lawsuit is likely to give you that result.

Early Detection of Nursing Home Coronavirus Infection

The earlier a nursing home detects a case of COVID-19, the earlier the facility can begin taking steps to contain the disease.

To help nursing home staff identify infections earlier, the CMS and CDC have recommended as of April 2020 that “every individual regardless of reason entering a long-term care facility should be asked about COVID-19 symptoms and they must also have their temperature checked.”

This includes residents, personnel, and any outside healthcare workers or vendors who must enter the facility. This screening should happen daily for residents and on each shift for workers. Under these guidelines, there’s no excuse for a nursing home to put off symptomatic residents or to allow employees to work while sick.

Isolating Residents with Coronavirus

Did You Know…?

Nursing homes are still required to meet each resident’s needs even in the midst of a national emergency. A resident who is isolated must still receive food, any required medication, and assistance with other basic living tasks as needed, but these matters should be attended to by workers wearing full PPE gear. isolation due to an infectious disease doesn’t excuse neglect.

If a resident tests positive for COVID-19 or exhibits symptoms that may correspond with a coronavirus infection, the next step is to isolate that resident from the general population. The earlier the nursing home isolates or quarantines the individual, the better for public safety within the facility.

Complying with federal regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 isn’t optional. Nursing homes are expected and required to adhere to these standards for the health and safety of their residents and their workers.

Coronavirus Lawsuit FAQs

In this time of chaos and uncertainty, the prospect of having to take legal action to protect or seek justice for a loved one may seem overwhelming. We’re here to make the process simpler for you.

Although we are all in the same boat as far as the coronavirus outbreak goes, our attorneys have decades of experience and a thorough understanding of the legal issues and complexities involved in pursuing negligence claims against nursing homes. Let us answer your questions and help you understand what to expect when considering moving forward with a COVID-19 nursing home claim.

1. What Is the Coronavirus?

By now, everyone is familiar with the term “coronavirus.” The virus is behind a worldwide pandemic that’s straining hospitals and healthcare systems past their breaking points and forcing entire economies to grind to a halt as lockdowns and quarantines continue.

What you may not know is that coronaviruses aren’t new. In fact, Harvard Medical School reported that “coronaviruses are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections.”

What is new is this specific coronavirus – severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2 – and the disease it causes, referred to as “coronavirus disease 2019” or COVID-19.

The coronavirus disease 2019 is an infectious respiratory illness that, while often compared to influenza, is a novel or new disease. Although the outbreak originated in China, it had spread across the globe and been declared a worldwide pandemic by March 2020.

2. What Are the Symptoms and Warning Signs of Coronavirus?

The primary symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019, according to the Mayo Clinic, are:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing, including shortness of breath
Did You Know…?

The incubation period for the virus that causes the coronavirus disease ranges from 2 to 14 days, according to the CDC.

This means that it’s possible to be infected without showing any symptoms for close to two weeks – and potentially be contagious all that time, according to NPR. As many as 25 percent of all carriers of the disease that causes COVID-19 remain asymptomatic.

Individuals who contract COVID-19 have also reported other symptoms, such as:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • General achiness or muscle pain
  • Chills or shaking
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Confusion
  • Bluish discoloration of lips or face
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills

Some symptoms of COVID-19 overlap with symptoms of more established diseases, from the common cold to the flu. The majority – 80 percent – of coronavirus cases are mild, but at its most severe, the disease can cause serious respiratory issues.

3. Who Is Most at Risk for COVID-19?

Age is one of the primary factors that affects how severe a case of COVID-19 will be. For a variety of possible reasons, older patients tend to develop more serious symptoms and complications. They are also more likely to require hospitalization, need intensive care, or pass away from complications of the disease.

Your health before contracting the coronavirus disease is another major factor. Patients who have certain underlying or pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk than others of having a severe case of COVID-19 or of developing serious complications. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine’s Journal Watch reported that analyses of preliminary data showed that, in 94 percent of COVID-19 deaths, the patient had one of these associated underlying health conditions.

The most common conditions that increase your risk of a serious COVID-19 infection include:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Cardiac disease

Other conditions that can raise your COVID-19 risk, according to the CDC, include:

  • Moderate to severe asthma
  • Chronic kidney disease, especially when dialysis is required
  • Liver disease
  • Severe obesity
  • A compromised immune system
Did You Know…?

Although the mortality rate is much higher among senior citizens, COVID-19 affects all ages, and even young adults, children, and infants have lost their lives to this illness.

Unlike the flu, the coronavirus is not particularly deadly to children, and pediatric cases are often mild, the CDC reported. However, the notion that children are somehow immune or don’t get COVID-19 is a misconception – and a dangerous one.

Many factors can cause your immune system to be compromised. A nursing home resident should be considered immunocompromised and at risk if they:

  • Are undergoing cancer treatment
  • Previously underwent an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Have HIV or AIDS, especially if their condition is not well-controlled
  • Have immune deficiencies
  • Take certain medications like corticosteroids
  • Are a smoker

Although having these underlying conditions can put you at a greater risk, how well your medical conditions are controlled also affects the likelihood of becoming severely ill due to COVID-19. Nursing home residents whose medical conditions are poorly controlled on their current regimen may face greater risks than those whose diseases are being treated successfully.

4. How is COVID-19 Spread in Nursing Homes?

Person-to-person contact is the primary way the virus that causes coronavirus disease spreads. That’s the reason why social distancing and quarantine are so necessary to combat the transmission of this illness.

Yet standing 6 feet apart isn’t enough. The virus can also be passed in the form of respiratory droplets that enter the air following a cough and can live for hours in the air. In nursing homes, transmission can start with a sneeze from a visitor or worker who thinks they have only allergies.

You could also get the virus if you touch a surface that has been contaminated. This danger is particularly pronounced because the virus can live much longer on some surfaces, including glass, stainless steel and plastic.

The disease can spread rapidly if the virus lands on surfaces such as:

  • A table in the communal dining space
  • A deck of cards used to play bridge
  • A book one resident lends to another
  • A television remote
  • A phone
  • A door handle

Once you touch an infected surface, all it takes is to rub your eyes or otherwise touch your face – actions that you may not even notice you do – and you’ve introduced the virus into the ecosystem of your body.

In nursing homes, the contagion can pass between residents, from personnel to residents, from visitors to residents, and even from vendors and non-healthcare personnel to residents.

5. What Is the CMS Requiring Nursing Homes Do About COVID-19?

Guidelines published by the CMS emphasize steps nursing homes should take in the following 5 areas:

  1. Comply with all recommendations from the CDC and CMS regarding infection control procedures.
  2. Work together with public health agencies to advise these agencies of the needs of facilities, with respect to PPE gear and diagnostic tests for COVID-19, so that nursing homes have the supplies needed to comply with guidelines.
  3. Screen everyone at the facility for symptoms that could be attributed to COVID-19.
  4. Have staff wear facemasks and other PPE as appropriate throughout their time spent in the nursing home.
  5. Take steps to minimize cross-contamination by designating separate care provider teams to care for patients with COVID-19 and isolating those sick with the infectious disease in designated facilities.

6. Can I Sue for a Coronavirus Outbreak at a Loved One’s Nursing Home?

Maybe.

What we mean is, whether or not you can sue for a nursing home coronavirus outbreak depends on factors unique to your situation.

The biggest factor is negligence. The greater degree to which the facility has been negligent in its efforts (or lack thereof) to stop the spread of the disease, the stronger your claim against the nursing home.

That said, you don’t need to have all the answers to move forward with a case. Just bring your suspicions and concerns to our COVID-19 nursing home lawsuit attorneys, and we’ll handle everything else. At best, our investigation will reveal that the nursing home wasn’t negligent in caring for your loved one – but if negligence is occurring, we’ll help put a stop to it as quickly as we can.

Another factor to consider is which laws apply in the location of your loved one’s nursing home. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, many states have granted legal immunity from medical malpractice claims to healthcare workers on the front lines of this pandemic.

It’s a move that, quite honestly, our lawyers strongly support – but only where appropriate and necessary for saving lives.

There’s a world of difference between the doctors and nurses scrambling in overloaded emergency rooms and ICUs, where the sickest COVID-19 patients are arriving already gravely ill, and the nursing homes where administrators’ lax infection control policies and practices are what allow this disease to flourish in the first place.

Some states have considered extending these legal protections to nursing homes, while others have not. There are also exceptions to these laws. For instance, in our law firm’s home state of New Jersey, the immunity bill signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on April 14, 2020, exempts from immunity acts of gross negligence, according to NJ Spotlight.

To understand what laws come into play in your situation, and whether some act of gross negligence occurred that would be an exception to these laws, an attorney will need to do some digging.

Even if you believe your state may have granted immunity to nursing homes during the COVID-19 outbreak, you should still speak with an attorney about your concerns. It costs nothing to have the conversation, which could help you develop a better grasp of what these laws mean for your family and what legal options are available to you.

7. When Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Coronavirus Outbreak at a Nursing Home?

Don’t wait for the worst-case scenario to become your family’s reality before you reach out for help. Just having an attorney on your side may make the nursing home take more seriously its responsibility to protect your loved one.

This is a difficult time for us all, but having a loved one in a nursing home gives you one more, serious, thing to worry about. And it may feel like worrying is the only thing you can do, since you can’t visit your loved one in person to check on the care they are receiving.

When you feel helpless, the one step you can take to make a real impact on the quality of care being provided at the nursing home is reaching out to an attorney.

We’re here to answer your questions. Whether your loved one has received a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis, is only suspected to have COVID-19, or has been exposed to a known or suspected outbreak, we’ll help you understand what to do next – no pressure, no risk, and no fees attached.

8. How much will it cost to hire a COVID-19 nursing home lawyer?

With so many people hurting financially due to the pandemic, we’re making you a promise:

It will cost you nothing to have your case reviewed by an experienced team of attorneys and legal personnel.

And, if you choose to move forward with filing a COVID-19 nursing home lawsuit, you’ll pay nothing out of pocket for your legal representation unless and until you recover money for your claim.

Claims like yours are handled on a contingency fee basis, sometimes called a no-win, no-fee basis. Instead of charging you hourly rates that you must pay whether or not your claim is a success, we only ever get paid a percentage of the compensation we are able to recover on your behalf. That means you won’t pay if you don’t win your claim, and you can trust that we’re just as interested as you are in getting you the maximum amount of money your family is entitled to.

Money shouldn’t stand in the way of protecting our society’s most vulnerable or of getting justice for your loved one. With our no-win, no-fee legal representation, it doesn’t have to.

 

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Is Protecting Residents From COVID-19 Even a Priority for Nursing Homes?

This is a question we’ve been asking ourselves as we watch this nightmare unfold. Given the severity of the crisis and the high stakes for the vulnerable population nursing homes are charged with protecting, you would think these facilities would make mitigating the risks to residents their highest priority.

Yet in some states, the nursing home industry has focused instead on seeking legal immunity from litigation resulting from preventable negligence.

The Case Against Nursing Home Immunity in COVID-19

In Florida, for example, the Florida Health Care Association submitted a request to Governor Ron DeSantis that the state grant “immunity from any liability, civil or criminal” to nursing homes, according to USA TODAY.

Such protections have been widely adapted in hospital settings, where emergency room and ICU doctors, nurses, and other frontline healthcare workers are struggling to manage the overwhelming influx of patients sickened by the coronavirus. But extending that immunity to nursing homes is a totally different situation – one that undermines the safety of our most vulnerable population.

Patients with the most severe coronavirus symptoms are flocking to hospital emergency departments, already infected. Hospitals with limited resources must do their best to manage serious cases and prevent or address complications wherever possible. Doctors in New York City have likened the situation to a “war zone,” according to The New York Times.

In this time of crisis, granting this immunity to those in the trenches is necessary to allow medical personnel to save as many lives as possible – while coming to terms with the reality that they won’t be able to save everyone.

This isn’t the case in nursing homes. These facilities already control every aspect of residents’ living environment. The staff need only take recommended precautions to prevent the spread of infection, such as prompt screening and quarantine of any resident or worker who develops symptoms.

The massive COVID-19 outbreaks reported across the country that decimate the resident populations of nursing homes aren’t unavoidable. Preventing those deaths is possible – but only if the facility is properly prepared.

This request for legal immunity by nursing home facilities “shows that, at the end of the day, they care more about their own protections” than about residents’ safety, said Brian Lee, executive director of the nonprofit group Families For Better Care, as reported in USA TODAY. “It’s appalling, and it’s a total slap in the face of families,” he continued. “All of their focus should be on saving our families’ lives.”

Ongoing Deficiencies in Nursing Homes’ Infection Control Efforts

Why are the nursing homes that are full of highly susceptible residents turning their attention to legal immunity when they should be doubling down on their infection control measures? Perhaps because, even long before the first COVID-19 case was reported in the United States, their infection mitigation procedures weren’t enough.

The vast majority of nursing homes in America – 75 percent – have received a citation within the past three years for a failure to monitor and control infections properly, according to USA TODAY’s analysis of federal inspection reports.

Some of the facilities where coronavirus deaths have occurred – and that are currently facing wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of bereaved families – are among these facilities where infection control procedures had previously been found to be deficient by federal regulators.

Washington state’s Life Care Center of Kirkland, for example, was most recently given a five-star rating but had been cited for inadequate infection control measures in recent history, USA TODAY reported. The CMS has identified this facility as “ground zero for the Coronavirus outbreak in America.” The outbreak that began in this facility in February encompassed at least 129 COVID-19 cases and claimed at least 37 lives, NPR reported. Following investigations of the nursing home, the CMS reported the existence of “immediate jeopardy situations” in the nursing home and fined the facility $611,325.

CMS administrator Seema Verma summed it up when she noted that, “unfortunately, infection control and prevention has been a longstanding challenge for nursing homes.” But the fact that these facilities have been poorly prepared to cope with infection situations for years is no excuse for permitting the rampant spread of COVID-19 now. If anything, a history of negligence in meeting infection control standards only shows even more clearly how extensive the nursing home’s deficiencies are.

 

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What Loved Ones Can Do for Nursing Home Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Don’t let your family member’s nursing home shrug off its responsibility. You may not be physically there to inspect your family member’s living conditions, physical health, and emotional well-being, but you have more power than you realize.

If your calls or online communications with your loved one leave you worried that something is wrong, or if you hear worrying rumors about what’s going on within the walls of the nursing home, your next step should be to commence legal action. It’s much better to have an attorney or your state’s regulators conduct an investigation that finds that your fears were unfounded than to allow potential negligence to continue risking the lives of your family member and other residents.

Reaching out to a lawyer is a small action that can make a big difference in the course of your family’s future.

Coronavirus Nursing Home Lawsuit Information

If you’ve never sued anyone before, you’re in good company. Most of our clients haven’t, either. They don’t want to sue anyone, but they do want to protect their families from the life-altering harm that can happen due to someone else’s negligence.

Suing for nursing home neglect after COVID-19 contraction requires two primary elements: proof of negligence and damages.

Proving Negligence in COVID-19 Nursing Home Lawsuits

To prove negligence, you will need to gather evidence that the nursing home failed to uphold the duties it owed to your loved one. The evidence that illustrates negligence may include records from the nursing home, statements from witnesses, and any video footage that documents the living conditions and safety and sanitation deficiencies of the facility.

This is a challenging task that requires the full attention, resources and legal background of a professional. It’s not a job you should undertake yourself, especially when dealing with so many other stresses – especially if the nursing home in question, like so many, have somehow continued operating for years despite a poor reputation and consistently poor inspection reports.

Damages in Coronavirus Nursing Home Claims

What can you sue for in a claim against a nursing home? Your family is entitled to compensation for both economic and non-economic losses that resulted from the facilities negligence. Some of the damages you may be able to seek compensation for include:

Did You Know…?

An untold number of patients who survive a severe case of COVID-19 will struggle cognitively and emotionally, due to a phenomenon doctors refer to as “post-intensive care syndrome,” a type of post-traumatic stress, NBC News reported.

Even if your loved one comes out of a life-threatening coronavirus infection physically healed, they may need cognitive rehabilitation or other types of counseling or therapy to feel, think, and act more like themselves again.

  • Medical expenses: If your loved one contracted coronavirus and incurred tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills while in the ICU, your family would be entitled to compensation for these costs.
  • Future medical expenses: Some COVID-19 patients develop long-term damage, and even catastrophic complications like brain injuries are possible. Your family member’s life will never be the same after a serious complication, and they will need additional care and face future challenges because of it. A coronavirus lawsuit against a nursing home should also take into account the costs of any ongoing and future medical care your loved one will need.
  • Pain and suffering: For patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the physical pain and emotional suffering can be significant. Although these damages don’t come with the kind of clear numerical cost that medical expenses do, they are real nonetheless. An attorney for a coronavirus nursing home claim will seek compensation for the pain and suffering your loved one endured.

Coronavirus Wrongful Death Lawsuit vs. the Nursing Home

As of mid-April 2020, more than 7,000 nursing home residents had lost their lives to COVID-19, and that number continued to climb, The New York Times reported.

Did You Know…?

Tragic, widespread outbreaks were exceptionally common in the hardest-hit states.

In New York, 72 long-term care facilities had reported at least 5 deaths by mid-April, and 14 facilities in New York City and its suburbs alone had suffered at least 25 deaths.

In New Jersey, the outbreaks ravaged nearly two-thirds of all nursing facilities in the state, accounting for 1,500 deaths. In one of the most shocking outbreaks, an anonymous tip led police to find 17 bodies – 2 of them nurses – crammed into a tiny morgue meant to hold just 4 bodies in Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, The New York Times reported.

Large COVID-19 outbreaks have also occurred in nursing homes in Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine, Florida, and other states.

That’s 7,000 families (at least) who are grieving right now. And, due to the infectious nature of the disease and the need for social distancing, many of them are further missing out on the closure they need to cope with the loss. They didn’t get to say goodbye, didn’t get to be with their loved one at the end, and aren’t even able to hold full funerals and memorial services.

If your family was one of the thousands who lost a loved one to a preventable COVID-19 infection in a nursing home, nothing can replace what you have lost: the precious presence of this family member in your life, the words of wisdom and the shared journeys down memory lane.

What pursuing a lawsuit can do is hold the people responsible for your loved one’s death accountable. Your family can get answers as to how and why this happened. Your efforts may even help protect other residents in the nursing home – your loved one’s friends and neighbors – from suffering the same avoidable harm.

For many families, these answers and this sense of justice – of not being helpless anymore – can help you find some closure.

When you pursue a wrongful death claim against a nursing home due to a COVID-19 outbreak, your damages may include all of the damages your loved one personally suffered, like medical costs and pain and suffering, as well as the financial and emotional harm your family has experienced as a result of your loss.

Coronavirus Nursing Home News

4/17/2020 – The Philadelphia Inquirer – With federal regulators ceasing regular inspections, state regulators only investigating complaints that involve “immediate jeopardy” to residents and nursing homes not disclosing to residents, their families, or the public confirmed cases of COVID-19, critics claim that nursing homes in Pennsylvania now “largely police themselves.”

4/16/2020 – Oregon Live – An employee at an assisted living center in Portland, Oregon, claims she was fired after complaining to the facility’s administrators when the facility deviated from federal warnings by continuing to hold large gatherings of residents and communal dining. The employee also reported being told to report to work in spite of being sick with cold-like symptoms.

4/15/2020 – The New York Times – The small morgue of the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II care facility in Sussex County, New Jersey, was overflowing, with more than four times the number of bodies it was designed to hold. The discovery of the 17 bodies on April 13th brought the total count of recent deaths at the facility to 68. An additional 76 residents and 41 workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

4/14/2020 – The Philadelphia Inquirer – In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, a single nursing home facility has reported 50+ cases of COVID-19. Across all 75 long-term care facilities in the county, 364 residents and 223 workers had received a positive diagnosis, and 67 nursing home residents had died – accounting for the majority, 61 percent, of the county’s COVID-19 deaths.

4/9/2020 – Fox News Nashville – Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing is facing lawsuits on behalf of 20 individuals after more than 100 of the residents and employees there contracted COVID-19 and 14 people lost their lives. The lawsuits are being filed on behalf of former residents, former employees, and family members of the deceased.

4/9/2020 – the Lewis County, Washington, Daily Chronicle – More than 200 people died due to coronavirus outbreaks at 137 long-term care facilities across Washington State.

4/8/2020 – The Guardian UK – In an Ontario nursing home that previously housed 65 residents, COVID-19 has killed 27 – nearly half of the facility’s resident population.

4/8/2020 – North Carolina Health News – A COVID-19 outbreak at PruittHealth – Carolina Point rehabilitation center in Chapel Hill spread rapidly, from just 2 people to more than 60 in less than a week, and claimed at least 2 lives.

4/6/2020 – Forbes – There’s compelling reason to suspect that outbreaks of COVID-19 are even more widespread in nursing homes across the United States than what current reports show.

4/6/2020 – Chicago Tribune – One employee and 2 residents at Symphony of Joliet nursing home in Will County, Illinois, died in connection with a COVID-19.

4/5/2020 – Jerusalem Post – Worldwide, deadly COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been traced to factors such as failing to cancel communal dining and activities, failure to use protective gear, and failure to disinfect surfaces – even the rooms the deceased shared with other residents.

4/2/2020 – The New York Times – Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fined the Life Care Center of Kirkland more than $600,000 after an investigation revealed that several “deficiencies” at the Washington State nursing home contributed to the COVID-19 outbreak that killed at least 37 people.

3/18/2020 – Tampa Bay Times – In what public health officials are considering the “worst-case scenario,” coronavirus had been confirmed or suspected in 19 Florida nursing homes, prompting the state to send “teams of health officials” to the affected facilities.