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Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Wrongful Death?

Posted on November 22, 2021 in Nursing Home Abuse

Wrongful death in a nursing home is a terrible tragedy that befalls many families each year. The surviving loved ones of those who suffer serious injuries or illnesses at the hands of incompetent nursing home staff members can file wrongful death lawsuits. Survivors or the victim’s estate may be able to recover financial compensation for their losses through this type of lawsuit in California.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim? How Is It Different From a Criminal Case?

The legal definition of wrongful death is a death caused by someone else’s negligence, default (omission) or wrongdoing. Holding someone responsible for the death of your loved one through a wrongful death claim is not the same as bringing criminal charges against someone for murder or homicide. These are two different justice systems with unique laws and burdens of proof.

A civil case reimburses surviving loved ones for their losses, while a criminal case aims to punish a defendant for committing a crime. With a wrongful death claim, you do not need to prove that the nursing home or staff member intended to kill your loved one. It is only necessary to prove that the defendant did something that violated his or her duty of care to the victim, and that this is what caused the victim’s death.

The burden of proof in a wrongful death case is also less than in a criminal case. Winning a criminal homicide case requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt; a wrongful death claim only requires a preponderance of the evidence – clear and convincing evidence that the claim is more likely to be true than not true. If the nursing home does face criminal charges for the death, however, you may be able to use this as evidence in your wrongful death lawsuit.

Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are responsible for protecting the physical and emotional well-being of their residents. Any breach or failure to fulfill this responsibility could lead to conditions that are unsafe and ultimately deadly for residents. Some potential causes of wrongful death at a nursing home include:

  • Elder abuse or neglect
  • Unsafe and unsanitary premises
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Failure to diagnose/misdiagnosis
  • Failure to treat
  • Medication mistakes
  • Infections or bedsores
  • Malnutrition or dehydration 
  • Failure to monitor residents/elopement
  • Lack of proper security

If an investigation finds that the nursing home or one of its employees should have done more to prevent the fatal illness or injury, surviving family members can take legal action in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit in California. A successful claim could lead to compensation for funeral costs, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and more.

How To File a Wrongful Death Claim in California

California law restricts the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit only to the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, surviving children and surviving grandchildren. There is also a law known as a statute of limitations that gives families no more than two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you believe you have grounds to file this type of case, start by contacting a wrongful death lawyer. An attorney can let you know if your case has merit and help you with the filing process, if so. 

Filing a claim involves filling out and submitting the required paperwork to the civil courthouse in your county. From there, your lawyer can help you gather evidence of neglect, abuse or wrongful acts by the nursing home to support your claim. Most wrongful death cases in California achieve settlements. If your case has to go to trial, however, your attorney can represent you before a judge and jury for the best possible results. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer in Los Angeles today for more information about a nursing home wrongful death claim. We offer free case consultations.