In 2011, a jury in West Virginia awarded the family of a woman named Dorothy Douglas $91.5 million after Ms. Douglas died from neglect in a nursing home. It was a landmark case, and had that judgment been allowed to stand (it was reduced to $36.5 million later on) it might have sent a powerful message to facilities which prioritize profits over people. But instead of cheering for the justice system, the West Virginia legislature created Senate Bill 6 (SB6).
The bill expands the current definition of health care facilities to now include all operations of nursing homes. The bill gets rid of any distinction between ordinary negligence and medical negligence, which allows plaintiffs to sue for damages which are not part of the state’s Medical Professional Liability Act.
In essence, the bill caps the amount of damages you can collect if a nursing home’s gross negligence or abuse leads to the serious injury or wrongful death of your family member.
How the legislators are spinning the purpose of the bill
The legislature claims that large verdicts raise the costs of liability insurance, or that fear of a lawsuit will drive nursing home out of the state. They claim the bill makes sure that victims are compensated “fairly.”
But here is the truth: a person who is injured is only entitled to compensation amounts between $335,000 and $640,000 (depending on the circumstances) for an injury or a wrongful death, respectively. Now nursing homes which let their residents die, either from neglecting their needs or through abusive actions, are covered under these same caps.
While this bill makes its way into law, it’s important to know the warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, especially since your options may be limited if your family member is hurt. If you have a loved one in a long-term care facility, be on the lookout for:
- Changes in behavior
- Physical or emotional withdrawal
- Unexplained injuries
- Weight change or malnutrition
- Poor hygiene
- Unexplained hair loss or bleeding
- Missing items
- Unusual financial transactions
- Unexplained death
At Crandall & Pera Law, we are fighting every day for the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If you have a loved one in a nursing home in West Virginia, Ohio or Kentucky, it’s important to have as much information about a facility and its caretakers as possible. If your loved one has been the victim or nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact us for a free consultation.