Florida Nursing Home and ALF Damages
Florida law allows for an injured nursing home abuse victim, or his/her family, to recover the medical bills relating to the injury. This is true even if an insurance company or Medicare / Medicaid paid for these injuries. For example, if the subject nursing home damages involve a fall resulting in a hip fracture, you can claim any bills associated with the hip surgery, the post-operative rehabilitation, home health aide, or any assistive devices needed after the hip surgery. Medical bills are not the largest damages in a Palm Beach nursing home abuse lawsuit, but they often provide a baseline for some of the more intangible damages, such as pain and suffering. Many juries award pain and suffering damages equal to three times the medical bills.
Lost wages and loss of the ability to earn money come into play if the victim was still working at the time of their injury/death.
Lost Wages Due to Palm Beach County Nursing Home Injury
Lost wages are defined as the potential earnings an injured or deceased party would have made if they were not injured at the nursing home or ALF. For example, if a person was making $15/hour, working 20 hours a week, they would be making about $300 per week. If a nursing home injury kept them out of work for 6 weeks, their lost wages would total $1,800.
- Lost earnings are missed wages in the past.
- Missed earnings are proved by 1099's, W-2's and Tax Returns.
Impaired Ability to Earn Money in the Future
If the nursing home or ALF injury prevents you from earning money in the future, you may have a lost earning capacity claim. For example, our Palm Beach nursing home law firm represented a woman who sold antiques. Her job required her to stand for 6-7 hours at antique shows in order to make a living. She entered a Palm Beach area rehab facility following a routine knee surgery. In rehabilitation, she was dropped by one of the staff, resulting in a femur fracture. This permanently prevented her from standing for long lengths of time. As a result, we made a successful lost earning capacity claim.
- Loss of earning capacity claims look at the potential for future earnings.
- To substantiate these kinds of claims, your Palm Beach Nursing Home Neglect Attorney will hire a vocational rehabilitation expert.
The majority of the Palm Beach nursing home lawsuits we handle are for wrongful death damages. In order to qualify for wrongful death damages, your attorney must establish the following:
1. The behavior of the nursing home or ALF staff amounts to a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty;
2. The behavior or negligence of the ALF or nursing home staff caused the death of the decedent; and,
3. The behavior or negligence of the ALF or nursing home staff would have entitled the person injured to file a lawsuit and recover damages if they had not died.
How Do I Know if the Nursing Home Negligence Caused my Loved One's Wrongful Death?
- Death Certificate. Take a look at the death certificate. Does it list any injuries or accidents? This may indicate that the death was not natural.
- Substantial Contributing Cause. The injury from the ALF or nursing home does not need to be the sole cause of the death. In Florida, it only has to be a significant contributing cause to the wrongful death of the abuse victim.
- Medical Expert Testimony. Ultimately, to make this determination, your attorney will hire a medical expert to examine the cause and offer opinions on causation of the wrongful death.
Survivors of victims of Palm Beach County ALF and Nursing Home Abuse may claim the following wrongful death damages:
- Mental Pain and Suffering [for the loss of their spouse or parent]
- Lost Companionship, Instruction, and Guidance
- Medical or Funeral Expenses [If Paid By A Survivor]
- Lost Support and Services
- Loss of Decedent’s Protection and Guardianship
The estate may recover damages for:
- Loss of Net Accumulations
- Decedent’s Lost Earnings
- Decedent’s Medical And Funeral Expenses
Pain and Suffering in a Florida Nursing Home Wrongful Death Case. Who is a Survivor and what is their Pain and Suffering Worth?
Typically, the largest set of damages in nursing home wrongful death cases is the pain and suffering of the survivors. So who are the survivors in a wrongful death action? The surviving spouse, minor children, adult children [when there is no surviving spouse], and the parents of the adult decedent [if they are alive and if there are no other survivors]. There is no statutory formula to determine a survivor's pain and suffering value. If your wrongful death case goes to trial, a jury hears the evidence and evaluates your loss. Survivor pain and suffering damages can be extremely high, depending on the age of the decedent and the type of relationship you had with the decedent.
What are 'Net Accumulations'?
Net accumulations in a Palm Beach nursing home negligence wrongful death case means the jury must decide how much money the decedent would have left in his estate. To decide a dollar amount, the jury first considers the monthly income of the decedent (either from work, pension or social security benefits) and their life expectancy. Then the jury must subtract what the decedent would have spent on personal and support expenses during her life.
If your loved one was wrongfully injured in a nursing home or ALF, but later died of unrelated causes, a survival action can be brought. A survival action is a personal injury claim that survives past the injured victim's death. A survival action does not claim the victim's death was caused by the nursing home negligence. In a Florida nursing home survival action, the Estate of the deceased person can claim medical bills, lost wages and the pain and suffering of the injured person from the time of the injury until the time of his death.
For example, let's say your father was placed in a West Palm Beach nursing home where he developed preventable bedsores. He suffered with these pressure sores for 8 months, but then ultimately died of an unrelated heart attack. You cannot claim wrongful death damages, as the heart attack in not causally linked to the pressure sores. You can bring a survival action, claiming damages from the time the bedsores developed until the time your father died of the heart attack.
pain and suffering
Pain and Suffering Damages. There is no bright line test for determining pain and suffering damages in a Florida nursing home or ALF neglect case. Your attorney will elicit testimony regarding the suffering of the victim from witnesses. As stated above, if the victim wrongfully died from the elder abuse, the pain and suffering of the survivors can be considered. Most Plaintiff attorneys recommend that the jury use a multiplier of the medical bills to determine pain and suffering damages. For example, a Plaintiff attorney may suggest that the victim's pain and suffering are worth 4x the medical bills. Another method is to determine how many days a victim or his family will be saddled with the injury and/or loss. From there, a Plaintiff's attorney may ask for $10 per day for every day that the injury lasts. If this is a wrongful death case, as you may imagine, the numbers can be very high.
LOSS OF THE ENJOYMENT OF LIFE,
Disability – Disability arising out of a Palm Beach ALF negligence case means that a victim of abuse is now disabled from the incident. An example of this would be a fall victim who cannot walk as a result of their injuries.
Disfigurement – Disfigurement is a broad term for any kind of permanent alteration or scarring to the body. For instance, a pressure ulcer victim will likely suffer disfigurement in the areas where the bedsores developed.
Loss of the Enjoyment of Life – This is another way of gauging the total loss that a victim suffers from their injury. A jury can consider how the victim's life was pre-injury and compare it to their life after the nursing home neglect.
Mental Anguish – Distress, fright or anxiety connected to a physical injury. A prime example of mental anguish would be if a caretaker intentionally abused an elderly person. This would create mental anguish.
Extraordinary Damages in Florida Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Punitive damages in Florida nursing home cases are rare, but serve an important purpose. In Florida, a Plaintiff must show that the Defendant nursing home or ALF's conduct was intentional, reckless or grossly negligent. This means that the facility has to be more than just negligent. Before pleading this in an Amended Complaint, your Florida nursing home abuse attorney will go before the judge and make a “reasonable showing” through testimony and evidence that supports the punitive damage proffer.
Punitive Damages in Florida Nursing Home Cases - What Are They?
Punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for intentional or grossly negligent wrongdoing. When deciding punitive damages, juries can consider the net worth of the corporations responsible. Palm Beach juries use punitive damages to punish nursing homes and assisted living facilities for their behavior. Punitives are critical damages in nursing home cases, because they hold nursing homes accountable and can actually change corporate behavior for the better. Florida nursing home punitive damage cases teach greedy nursing home corporations that they cannot put profits over people.
Attorneys Fees and Costs
Your attorneys fees can be paid if you beat your Proposal for Settlement. If, during the course of the litigation, you file a Proposal for Settlement (PFS), you may be entitled to attorneys fees if you 'beat' your PFS by more than 25%. For example, let's say that you file a valid PFS for $100,000 and the nursing home does not accept your proposed settlement. If you later get a jury verdict of $125,001 (thus beating your PFS by 25%), you would be entitled to reasonable attorneys fees. This means that the at fault nursing home can be responsible for paying a chunk of your attorneys fees.
Trial costs are paid by the losing party. Florida is a 'loser pays' state, which means if you win your Palm Beach nursing home abuse lawsuit, the other side is responsible for paying your court costs. This can include testifying experts, court filing fees, court reporter costs and medical record bills. As you can imagine, this number can add up quickly.
When are my Court Costs Paid in a Florida Nursing Home Negligence Case?
First, you have to win the trial. Once you receive a verdict, your attorney will attend a hearing to enter a judgment against the FL nursing home. This is where the costs will be taxed on the defendant facility.
Negative Publicity for the Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility
The public hates when nursing homes abuse and neglect our vulnerable seniors. We regularly get local media coverage following a Plaintiff's verdict here in Palm Beach County. On some of our larger verdicts, our law firm has been featured nationally on the Today Show and ABC National News.
Public attention is important in rooting out elder abuse here in our community. While it may not translate into dollars for the injured victim, negative media coverage shines light on the at fault facility. The hope is that this kind of negative publicity will dissuade other nursing homes and ALF's from committing the same kinds of mistakes.