Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in South Florida
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WHAT IS NURSING HOME ABUSE AND WHY IS IT SO COMMON IN SOUTH FLORIDA?
Most nursing homes in South Florida are operated by private, for-profit companies who pay more attention to reducing costs and maximizing profits than to the elderly and febrile residents for which they provide care. Most nursing home residents pay for services through government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Medicare and Medicaid often set the daily rate that nursing homes receive per resident per day. Moreover, nursing homes are highly regulated by State and Federal laws which cap the number of residents they may house on a single day. Thus, nursing homes must carefully balance and even attempt to eliminate overhead expenses in order to return any sort of profit. The profit equation results in widespread abuse and negligent care.
Many nursing homes are uninsured or underinsured. Due to the profit equation discussed above, combined with the highly sensitive field of skilled nursing services, nursing homes are frequently presented with lawsuits. Some insurance companies have refused to do business with nursing homes in South Florida and those that still do, charge relatively high premiums in exchange for coverage. High premiums make it harder for nursing homes to make a profit. The expensive insurance market has prompted many nursing homes to further reduce costs by cutting insurance coverage altogether and explored other ways to minimize risk. It is not unusual to see nursing homes in South Florida engage in the following activity:
- Maintaining low-coverage limit insurance policies with very high deductibles or self-insured retentions;
- Failing or refusing to purchase any liability insurance;
- Creating relatively low-capitalized corporate entities to license and run the nursing home facility on behalf of a larger, high-capitalized corporate entity;
- Attempting to evade and avoid pre-suit claims and lawsuits hoping it will go away versus attempting to settle claims in good faith;
- Forcing residents and residents’ loved one to sign a lengthy admission packet which includes an arbitration provision limiting a resident and his or her families legal rights to recover compensation for nursing home abuse.
BEFORE YOU OR YOUR LOVED ONE ENTERS A NURSING HOME IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Before you agree to reside in a nursing home in South Florida, here are the questions you should ask:
- Is the arbitration agreement mandatory to sign or will the nursing home agree to admit you even if you do not sign it?
- Is the nursing home properly insured? If so, ask for a copy of the nursing home’s Policy Declarations Sheet and see if there is at least $1,000,000.00 in coverage and a minimal deductible.
- Who owns the nursing home?
- Has the nursing home been inspected by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration? If so, have there been any violations within the past 5 years? [PRO tip: You can find out most of this information right here at Floridahealthfinder.gov]
- Does the nursing home look clean, well lit, quiet, and peaceful?
THE NURSING HOME BILL OF RIGHTS
Before you become a resident in a nursing home in South Florida, you should get familiar with the nursing home residents’ bill of rights. You may view it in its entirety here. It states that a nursing home resident is guaranteed to live in a safe and decent place where he or she will be treated with respect and dignity. Anything less is a violation and the nursing home is responsible for any harm caused by their violation.
Throughout my years of defending AND suing nursing homes, I have observed dozens of different ways that violations result in harm to a resident. If you or someone you love has been harmed by a suspected violation, Florida allows the resident or his or her guardian to conduct an informal investigation with the help of an attorney. I have participated in many pre-suit investigations and know what to look for to connect the harm to a specific violation or a set of violations.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE IS A VICTIM OF NURSING HOME ABUSE IN SOUTH FLORIDA
You will want to open an investigation against a nursing home in Florida.
First, consult with a lawyer who actually has experience in pre-suit investigations.
Second, obtain a copy of the nursing home’s “facility chart” for the entire period of the resident’s admission. If you are the resident or a resident’s guardian or personal representative, you may visit the nursing home and request a free copy.
Third, obtain copies of any medical records for any other medical providers that the resident visited before, during, and after the admission to the nursing home.
Fourth, with the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney, comb through the records to determine whether the documented care provided to the resident was consistent with the standard of care. This is a complex process which depends on the skill level of your nursing home abuse attorney.
Fifth, serve a notice of intent which includes all of the statutorily required language and certifications upon the nursing home’s registered agent.
Sixth, engage in informal discovery with the nursing home or its legal counsel. Note that the pre-suit investigatory period is 75 days from date of service of your notice of intent.
Many pre-suit investigations conclude with a pre-suit mediation, however, it is become increasingly normal to see nursing homes refuse to mediate or engage in any settlement negotiations whatsoever.
If you do not resolve your nursing home claim within the 75 day pre-suit period, your only method to pursue your claim and recover compensation includes filing a lawsuit in Circuit Court.
It is important to understand that you have a very strict and limited period for filing a lawsuit against a nursing home in Florida. Under Florida law, you only have two (2) years from the date of the harm to bring a claim against a nursing home.
At Waring Law, we handle nursing home cases on contingency. That means that you don’t pay anything for your attorney’s services unless you recover money on behalf of the nursing home resident or his or her estate. If you would like to speak with Matthew Waring about a particular violation at a nursing home, you may call or text him at 561-382-6860. Don’t worry, your consult will be free.