There is no excuse for elder abuse. Putting an elderly loved one in a Seattle-area long-term care facility requires a leap of faith no matter how much research we do to ensure the facility is safe and conscientious. It’s an unimaginable horror to learn the facility has failed to provide adequate care, or worse, that our loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of a staff member or fellow nursing resident.
Boohoff Law represents elderly victims of nursing home abuse and their families in recovering compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial pain they’ve suffered. We approach our roles in these cases with the utmost care and compassion for our clients, and with a singular determination to hold anyone who has harmed them accountable.
If you suspect a loved one has fallen victim to abuse in a Seattle-area nursing home, or if you have personally suffered that abuse, do not wait to seek experienced legal help. Contact the nursing home abuse injury lawyers at Boohoff Law today.
About Boohoff Law’s Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
As a law firm, Boohoff Law is no newcomer to advocating for elderly victims of nursing home abuse. For more than a decade, Tatiana Boohoff and her team of skilled, determined lawyers at Boohoff Law have represented nursing home abuse victims in Florida. With its sizable elderly population, Florida is home to thousands of nursing care facilities. Unfortunately, abuse cases are all-too-common there.
In moving to Seattle, Boohoff Law brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about the challenges of representing victims of nursing home abuse. The firm takes particular pride in providing compassionate, comprehensive service to clients. We understand how emotionally difficult it can be to confront suspected nursing home abuse and to worry about a loved one’s safety.
About Nursing Home Abuse
Residents of long-care facilities in Washington have certain rights granted to them by statute. One of those is “the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.” These forms of abuse are illegal under a separate Washington statute that protects vulnerable adults, which includes any resident of a licensed nursing home.
That abuse of elderly adults in nursing homes is illegal should come as no surprise to most people. What does escape many people with loved ones in Seattle-area nursing homes, however, is just how wide the range of conduct is that constitutes nursing home abuse, for which residents and their families may sue for damages.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
The Aging and Long Term Support Administration (ALTSA) within the Washington Department of Health and Human Services identifies numerous types of abuse that can affect residents of nursing homes. Below is a summary of those, with reference to their legal definitions under Washington’s vulnerable adult protection statute.
Physical abuse. Defined under Washington law as “the willful action of inflicting bodily injury or physical mistreatment” including without limitation “striking with or without an object, slapping, pinching, choking, kicking, shoving, or prodding.” Physical abuse can also include improper use of physical restraints, which the law defines as “the inappropriate use of chemical, physical, or mechanical restraints for convenience or discipline or in a manner that [is inconsistent with law or medical authorization].”
Sexual abuse. Defined by law as “any form of nonconsensual sexual conduct, including but not limited to unwanted or inappropriate touching, rape, sodomy, sexual coercion, sexually explicit photographing, and sexual harassment.”
Mental or emotional abuse. This form of nursing home abuse is defined as “a willful verbal or nonverbal action that threatens, humiliates, harasses, coerces, intimidates, isolates, unreasonably confines, or punishes a vulnerable adult” including “ridiculing, yelling, or swearing.”
Exploitation. The law recognizes two forms of illegal exploitation of a vulnerable adult nursing home resident. One is personal exploitation, defined as “an act of forcing, compelling, or exerting undue influence over a vulnerable adult causing the vulnerable adult to act in a way that is inconsistent with relevant past behavior, or causing the vulnerable adult to perform services for the benefit of another.” The other is financial exploitation, which is “the illegal or improper use, control over, or withholding of the property, income, resources, or trust funds of the vulnerable adult by any person or entity for any person’s or entity’s profit or advantage other than for the vulnerable adult’s profit or advantage.”
Neglect. Neglect of a vulnerable adult in a nursing home constitutes “a pattern of conduct or inaction by a person or entity with a duty of care that fails to provide the goods and services that maintain physical or mental health of a vulnerable adult, or that fails to avoid or prevent physical or mental harm or pain to a vulnerable adult; or (b) an act or omission by a person or entity with a duty of care that demonstrates a serious disregard of consequences of such a magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to the vulnerable adult’s health, welfare, or safety,” including by putting the adult’s health at risk with a controlled substance.
Abandonment. This occurs through “action or inaction by a person or entity with a duty of care for a vulnerable adult that leaves the vulnerable person without the means or ability to obtain necessary food, clothing, shelter, or health care.”
Nursing home employees, contractors, or management (or, for that matter, any other persons) who commit, permit, or fail to prevent any of the above acts face potential liability for damages, including attorney fees, under Washington’s vulnerable adult protection statute. Residents and their families who wish to pursue an action for damages should consult with an experienced Seattle nursing home abuse attorney.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Knowing what constitutes nursing home abuse is only half of the battle. The other half is recognizing the signs of this abuse, which may not always be obvious, especially to infrequent visitors to a nursing home where a loved one lives. Nursing home residents frequently refrain from reporting abuse out of embarrassment or fear of retaliation. Of course, if a resident reports abuse, the report should be taken seriously. But, in the absence of a direct complaint from the resident about abuse, here are some of the most telling warning signs, according to ALTSA.
Signs of physical abuse: Unexplained injuries or broken personal effects that would be consistent with being struck or restrained; lab findings that indicated over- or under-medication; a sudden change in behavior by the resident; and a caregiver’s refusal to let a visitor spend time with the resident alone.
Signs of sexual abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genitals; unexplained venereal diseases or infections; anal or vaginal bleeding; and torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.
Signs of mental/emotional abuse: Emotional upset or agitation; extreme withdrawal or refusal to speak/communicate; unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia; and nervousness around certain people, particularly staff members.
Signs of exploitation: Sudden, unexpected changes in financial arrangements, bank balances, or of who has rights to access financial accounts; disappearance of valuables; unpaid bills despite the ability to pay them; the appearance of long-lost relatives or new best friends in the adult’s life; and providing services to the adult that aren’t necessary or requested.
Signs of neglect: Dehydration, malnutrition, and lack of personal hygiene; untreated health conditions; and unsafe or unclean living conditions.
Signs of abandonment: The adult is left alone in a public place or left unattended for long periods in a room.
The best way to spot the signs of nursing home abuse is to visit your elderly loved one on a regular basis or to have someone trusted do so in your stead. If anyone suspects abuse, it may be important to alert authorities and move your loved one as soon as possible for safety and health reasons.
Damages for Nursing Home Abuse Injuries
Washington’s vulnerable adult protection statute specifically authorizes victims of nursing home abuse to pursue legal action for damages against any party—no matter whether that party is an individual or a corporation—for damages and attorney fees. Victims of nursing home abuse also have rights under Washington common law for damages.
No matter the legal theory for holding the nursing home operator or staff liable for damages, there are two general categories of compensatory damages a victim of nursing home abuse (or her representatives) can seek: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages compensate a nursing home abuse victim for specific costs associated with the abuse. Those may include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills, including for emergency medical services;
- Costs of relocating the vulnerable adult;
- Physical or mental health therapy;
- Restitution for the value of property taken from the vulnerable adult;
- In an action under the statute, attorney fees and costs.
Washington law may permit the defendant in a nursing home abuse case to pay economic damages over time rather than in a lump-sum amount.
Non-economic damages, in contrast, seek to compensate nursing home abuse victims for subjective harm they suffered while resident at a Seattle nursing home. These generally include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
Washington State puts a cap on non-economic damages. A nursing home abuse victim can recover a maximum of 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by the victim’s life expectancy at the time of the abuse (which, importantly, can be no less than 15 years). Washington law also, unfortunately, bars plaintiffs from recovering punitive (or exemplary) damages.
Whistleblower Rights for Those Who Report Abuse
Employees and other workers at Seattle-area nursing homes may have a legal obligation to report suspected nursing home abuse. Regardless of their legal obligation, workers likely also have a moral and ethical duty to report suspected abuse. They also have rights as whistleblowers under Washington’s vulnerable adult protection law, which protects them from retaliation from their employers.
Consult Our Seattle Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Soon
Victims of nursing home abuse deserve justice but also often lack the voice or agency to protect themselves. They need family members and trusted friends to help look out for their interests, to report suspected abuse immediately, and to help them protect their physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing.
That is not always easy to do, however. Family members and friends of vulnerable adult residents of nursing homes often experience emotional turmoil, self-doubt, and confusion when they suspect nursing home abuse has occurred. Those emotions are so strong that they can, at times, leave family and friends feeling paralyzed and unsure of what to do to keep their loved one safe. Should they call the police? Speak with nursing home management? Move their loved one to a new facility? And, what about the elderly resident’s own right, under Washington law, to participate in making her own health decisions?
An experienced Seattle nursing home abuse attorney can help family members, friends, and the nursing home resident, answer these questions. The attorneys at Boohoff Law have years of experience confronting cases of known and suspected nursing home abuse. We consider it an essential part of our job to provide thorough, careful, and timely advice about what steps to take immediately to protect a vulnerable adult from suspected abuse, and what steps to take thereafter to make sure the adult is able to assert rights under Washington law to recover damages and other relief for that abuse.
The one thing not to do is to wait. Your loved one’s life could hang in the balance. Speak with an experienced Seattle nursing home abuse attorney immediately if you suspect abuse at a Seattle nursing facility.
Contact Boohoff Law Seattle Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Today
The compassionate, determined lawyers at Boohoff Law make it their mission to protect the wellbeing of vulnerable adults victimized by abuse in Seattle-area nursing homes. If you suspect abuse of a loved one in a nursing home, or if you are the victim of that abuse, then contact us right away at (877) 999-9999.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.