Though New Jersey’s elderly population should be cared for with respect and compassion, emerging news stories, criminal indictments and civil lawsuits reveal the chilling truth that nursing home abuse is becoming a growing epidemic. Neglect and abuse are occurring daily in long-term care facilities across the nation and, sadly, its victims are often vulnerable and voiceless.
As legal advocates with over 25 years of experience, Eisbrouch Marsh is dedicated to helping families overcome the devastation of elder abuse and neglect against a cherished loved one. If you suspect nursing home abuse, New Jersey law offers several possible pathways to recovery for the victim. We encourage you to meet with a personal injury lawyer at Eisbrouch Marsh as soon as possible, as strict time limits govern when and how a civil claim for damages can be filed.
We offer no-charge, no-obligation consultations to all victims of nursing home neglect and abuse in New Jersey & NY, and we charge no fees unless we win your case. Call 201-342-5545 to get started.
Abuse of the Elderly in Nursing Homes
As the baby boomer population begins to enter retirement age, more seniors than ever are resorting to the care of nursing home facilities and assisted living homes. As a result, stories of elder abuse and neglect have increasingly flooded the news and abruptly entered our radar as one of the newest ways for criminals to wrongfully exploit vulnerable members of our society.
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, New Jersey has one of the highest rates of nursing home abuse in the United States. Moreover, the NCPC further estimates that for every reported case of elder abuse, another five instances are left unreported.
As of 2011, New Jersey was home to approximately 1.6 million senior citizens. Also in 2011, New Jersey authorities investigated over 176,000 reports of elder abuse – making New Jersey an unfortunate frontrunner in terms of its relative percentage of elderly citizens facing possible elder abuse.
New Jersey Nursing Home abuse Laws
The medical malpractice attorneys of Eisbrouch Marsh are no strangers to elder abuse litigation and will utilize all applicable legal statutes to bring justice against abusive and neglectful elder care providers. In addition to its mandatory reporting rules imposed upon “any caretaker, social worker, physician, registered or licensed practical nurse or other professional” engaged in elder care, New Jersey imposes a possible $5,000 fine against any person required to report abuse who fails to do so.
Elder abuse may be addressed both by civil and criminal penalties. Criminal penalties, including incarceration, are handled by state and county prosecutors following an investigation into the alleged incident.
Civil liability, which is designed to redress financial harms inflicted by the abuse or neglect, is imposed upon the filing of a personal injury lawsuit against the parties responsible for the action or inaction. In the context of nursing home wrongdoing, the plaintiff may sue the particular nurse or the nursing facility as a whole – which usually creates a stronger likelihood of a satisfactory settlement offer.
Suspect Elder Abuse? Know the Signs
If you suspect elder abuse, but are not sure, it may help to review some of the most common warning signs and symptoms. If you observe any of the following symptoms in your loved one, contact your county’s Adult Protective Services right away.
Signs of nursing home neglect and abuse include:
- Inexplicable welts, bruises, cuts or fractures
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Bed sores
- Marks or bruising indicating the use of restraints
- Signs of sexual abuse including bleeding or bruising in the genital area
- Unexplained fear, apprehension, agitation or anger
Nursing home abuse is unfortunately not limited to physical abuse or neglect and can include verbal and financial abuse as well.
If your loved one is facing verbal abuse, he or she may appear depressed for no reason. Your loved one may also exhibit fear around certain members of the nursing home staff or may mumble and rock back and forth (known as false dementia).
Financial abuse of an elderly person can leave devastating effects and may be difficult to undo, especially if it goes unnoticed for several years. Elderly patients in a nursing home facility may not keep careful eye on their finances, assuming the matters are being handled by the family. It is not unheard of for nursing home staff to take checks, cash and valuables from their patients despite developing a seemingly loving and caring relationship with the patient and his family.
Also within the realm of financial abuse of an elder is the possibility of unlawful coercion to revise or change estate planning documents, which could result in the complete disinheritance of a child or loved one.
Basics of an Elder Abuse Lawsuit
If any of the above signs and symptoms of elder abuse seem familiar to you, it may be time to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit in Bergen County, or elsewhere in northern NJ, including Essex, Morris, Middlesex, Hudson and Passaic.
NJ nursing home abuse lawsuits present unique liability issues in that facility administrators may be held responsible for negligent oversight of employees. If a nursing home is managed by a larger parent corporation, an elder abuse lawsuit may impose liability on the corporation as well. In sum, the claims often name multiple defendants jointly and severally liable for the abuse perpetuated on the patient.
Another consideration when contemplating a nursing home lawsuit concerns a plaintiff who is not mentally competent to file a claim. If you are in this situation and believe your loved one may not be able to properly recount the abuse and file the claim, your attorney may be able to help you set up a guardianship prior to filing, allowing you as guardian to file on your loved one’s behalf.
As you prepare for your to file a claim in New Jersey, make certain to gather as much evidence as possible, as this will only work to strengthen your claim. If bruising is present, take pictures and document the date the injury appeared. Even if your loved one is suffering from dementia, gather as much information from them about the situation as possible. This evidence will prove invaluable as the weeks and months go by and may help effectuate quick and satisfactory settlement.
In addition to the emotional satisfaction your family will feel by bringing unspeakable abuse to light, an elder abuse suit can result in payment of medical expenses, punitive damages and general damages for pain and suffering.
If your loved one lost valuables or money as a result of financial abuse, your lawsuit could result in a recovery of the value of these items as well.
If you are ready to begin the process of holding your loved one’s nursing home liable for perpetuating physical, emotional or financial abuse, contact Eisbrouch Marsh right away. We proudly serve residents in northern New Jersey, including Hackensack, Newark, Bergen County, and Essex County from our offices in New Jersey and New York.
To make an appointment for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, call 201-342-5545 today.
- New Jersey Ombudsmen of the Institutionalized Elderly, http://www.nj.gov/ooie/helpful/mandatoryreportingdescript.html
- Adult Protective Services, New Jersey Adult Protective Service Providers, http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/adultpsp.html