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Bringing a COVID-19 Wrongful Death Claim Against a Nursing Home

Families of elderly seniors often look to place their loved one in a nursing home to receive the care and protection on a daily and hourly basis that they cannot provide. In many cases, this difficult decision is made because family members are simply unable to administer the level of care required at home. Unfortunately, statistics show that there is an ever-increasing rate of nursing home neglect and abuse resulting in serious injuries or even death.

Nursing Homes and COVID-19

Since many elderly residents already have serious medical conditions or are simply frail due to age, they are much more susceptible to developing or contracting serious illnesses, diseases, and infections. Additionally, because nursing home residents live inherently in close quarters, they also have a risk of contracting an infection once it spreads within this small community.  Nursing homes are required to adhere to strict standards regarding the prevention the spread of communicable diseases and infections, according to both federal and state guidelines. Along with ensuring that each resident is capped clean and safe, the entire nursing home facility must be sanitized to prevent infections from spreading.

Federal Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established clear guidelines in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus which has impacted the United States and the world as a global pandemic. Additionally, in March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued COVID-19 infection control guidance specifically tailored for nursing homes. Tragically, many nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and assisted living centers did not follow even the basic health protocols recommended by the CDC to prevent the spread of this deadly infectious virus. As a result, many nursing homes throughout the United States reported astronomically high COVID-19 infection rates within their facilities. With elderly residents already suffering from medical conditions and living in close quarters, the failure of nursing homes to properly follow CDC guidelines resulted in a high number of deaths of residents that could have been prevented.

Complaints Against Nursing Homes

Due to the fact that CMS Is the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, this branch of the Department of Health and Human Services has now received a large volume of complaints directly related to the lack of care in nursing homes throughout the United States as a response to the coronavirus global pandemic. Some of the complaints that were issued against nursing homes include the following:

  • Failure of the nursing home staff to properly use readily available personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Failure to notify elderly residents and/or their families regarding any positive COVID-19 tests of residents within the nursing home facility
  • Failure to follow CDC guidelines and require social distancing of residents and staff members
  • Failure to provide PPE or enforce CDC guidelines to protect their nursing home staff from contracting COVID-19 leading to a greater risk for elderly residents to also contract this virus
  • Failure to monitor or restrict guest access to residents according to CDC and CMS guidelines
  • Failure to move residents that tested positive for COVID-19, or developed COVID-19 symptoms to quarantine (or remove them completely from the nursing home facility) as required under the CDC’s publication, Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings.

Ultimately, the cases filed against nursing homes we’ll have a fundamental basis in elder neglect and abuse. A wrongful death claim against a nursing home will need to prove that due to the negligence of the nursing home, and their failure to follow federal guidelines regarding infection prevention and control, elderly residents of the nursing home not only contracted this virus but also died as a result.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

If your elderly loved one died as a result of contracting COVID-19 in a nursing home facility, you may have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim in the State of California. A wrongful death claim is when the negligence of a certain party, in this case, the nursing home, directly caused the death of another person. If the person has lived, they would be able to file a personal injury suit for their injuries and losses. However, since they died, the family will act on behalf of their loved one and pursue justice against the negligence of their family member. No amount of money will bring back someone you love, however, you may be facing funeral costs, additional medical expenses, the loss of consortium or other losses as a direct result of the untimely death of your family member.

Statute of Limitations

The state of California only allows 2 years following the date of a person’s death to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. While this may seem like a long period of time, filing a claim against a nursing home for wrongful death can take a considerable amount of time, and involve a great deal of legal complexity. Consider visiting with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to receive justice on behalf of your loved one.

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

First, let us say that if your elderly loved one died as a result of COVID-19, you have our most sincere condolences. It is always difficult if our elderly family members die of natural causes or medical conditions, however, if their death was avoidable, it makes the pain even greater. If your elderly loved one died due to COVID-19 in a nursing home, you may have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim.

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