Can You Sue State-Run Nursing Homes for Abuse and Neglect?

Posted on

The government regulates and inspects nursing homes throughout South Carolina. The government also manages and runs its own facilities, including those for veterans. What happens when abuse or neglect occurs in these government-run facilities? Can you sue state-run nursing homes? Is it the same as suing a private nursing home?

State-Run Nursing Homes in South Carolina

There are multiple state-run nursing homes in South Carolina. This government ownership takes several different forms.

There are hospitals and medical centers run by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, including the VA Charleston Healthcare System and the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. These VA facilities are run by the federal government.

Other facilities are owned by state and local governments. While government-owned, some of these facilities use private contractors to provide services.

When you or a loved one enters a nursing home, ownership of the facility is often not top of mind. However, when abuse or neglect occurs, ownership may be particularly important.

You Can Sue — but There Are Important Things To Know

Legal standards to provide adequate care still apply when the government is the owner or operator of the facility. Accordingly, you can sue a state nursing home if abuse or neglect occurs.

Because there may be multiple parties with legal responsibility, it’s important to investigate what party or parties are legally responsible for the behavior in question. Private entities could also be involved, as care in these facilities is often handled by third-parties on a contract basis.

If the government is a responsible party, the next question is whether it is the federal government, state, or local government. If it is the federal government, such as the Veterans Administration, you’ll make your case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. If it is the state or local government responsible, you will use the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.

There are significant differences in these two acts, including whether or not a claim is required before filing in court. Another important difference is damage caps: South Carolina imposes damage caps through the SC Tort Claims Act, but the federal law doesn’t have compensation caps.

Standards of Care for State-Run Nursing Homes

Even when a nursing home is run by the government, standards of care apply. Medical care providers must provide competent care, meeting professional healthcare standards. General principles of negligence apply to non-medical services, like slip and fall hazards in the facility, and food safety.

To sue a state-run nursing home, you must prove that medical malpractice or negligence occurred.

Common reasons for a case may include the following:

  • Incorrect medical diagnosis, delayed diagnosis
  • Failing to investigate when symptoms indicate a problem
  • Patient mix-ups, giving care to the wrong patient
  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Preventable infection or complications
  • Object left in the body
  • Lack of skill or attention in providing care
  • Medication errors
  • Failing to provide needed support, like mobility support
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Bedsores, leaving a patient alone for long periods
  • Assault and battery, sexual assault
  • Discharging a patient improperly

If harm has occurred, medical malpractice or negligence may be the underlying cause.

As a lawyer for nursing home abuse and neglect in the Upstate, Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm can investigate what occurred. We collaborate with medical experts to identify malpractice and any grounds for compensation.

What if the treatment is paid for through Veteran’s benefits, Medicare, or Medicaid?

You may wonder if the rules are different if you’re not paying for the treatment you receive in a state-run nursing home. It may be paid through well-deserved military service or throughMedicare or Medicaid.

This has no bearing on your lawsuit – healthcare providers still have a duty of care regardless of who is paying for the services.

The State Tort Claims Act precludes punitive or exemplary damages (S.C. Code § 15-78-120(5)(b)), but that doesn’t have any impact on liability.

What if I’m receiving charity care?

If you’re receiving charity care, meaning you’re not paying for the care nor is anyone else paying for it on your behalf, S.C. Code § 38-79-30 applies. The healthcare professional must be rendering services voluntarily without reimbursement from charitable or governmental sources.

Even in these cases, there can still be liability for gross negligence or willful misconduct. Care on a charity basis must have been agreed to upfront and in writing.

Addressing multiple occurrences in government-run nursing home lawsuits

A nursing home resident may be the victim of multiple instances of abuse and neglect. The person may fall out of bed due to a lack of a railing. If they are then bedridden from the fall, they may be left alone for too long without repositioning, resulting in bedsores.

South Carolina law imposes a limit on compensation for claims involving state and local governments, but the limit applies per occurrence. It’s important to investigate whether multiple instances of abuse or neglect occurred. This could change the amount of compensation that you may be eligible to receive. You must prove each instance of abuse or neglect to claim compensation as a separate occurrence.

If you suspect abuse or neglect at a state-run nursing home

If you know or suspect that abuse or neglect has occurred or if you have questions about the care you or a loved one has received, do what you can to document what occurred. Make notes of what concerns you, take photographs of injuries, and save any relevant paperwork.

Dan Pruitt Injury Law represents people who are hurt due to abuse and neglect in nursing homes. We take on the challenge of claims involving state-run facilities.

The operators of government facilities will fight hard against any claims of abuse or neglect. You need a tough litigator on your side, fighting for justice. Dan Pruitt is an experienced trial lawyer, and he is prepared to litigate your case in full.

Schedule a Legal Consultation With Us

Time is limited, and we want to preserve the evidence in your case right away. Get a free legal consultation with no obligation by calling Dan Pruitt Injury Law at (864) 280-7660. Contact us now.

Dan Pruitt Logo

Get in touch with us today to get started with your FREE case review. We’re only a call, click, or short drive away.