Can I Request Jail Time Instead Of A Settlement In A Nursing Home Abuse Case?
Arizona is home to many nursing home communities. These facilities provide practical assistance for our aged loved ones when they require more care than we can reasonably give. Sadly, far too often, the trust that is placed in a nursing facility for the care of our loved one is betrayed, and abuse occurs either intentionally or through neglect.
If your loved one has suffered abuse, you have the right to consider pursuing justice for your family member. However, you may also be wondering if justice would be better served by requesting jail time for the offender instead of accepting a monetary settlement. The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Please know that the compassionate attorneys of Phillips Law Group can help you to get justice. Our lawyers have years of experience in handling all types of personal injury cases, and we have helped more than 155,000 clients in over 25 years. Contact us at (800) 706-3000 to discuss your options.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
The federal government and the State of Arizona have established laws to protect the rights of elderly citizens from abuse. Nursing home abuse basically refers to the failure to provide the services and proper environment needed for a resident’s physical and mental health. According to the office of the Arizona Attorney General, senior abuse can fall under the following categories.
When a worker intentionally uses force against a resident of a nursing home, which results in pain, injury, distress, or worse, this is considered to be physical abuse. Examples of physical abuse include slapping, hitting, kicking, and pushing. Additionally, overmedicating and force-feeding are also forms of physical abuse.
This type of abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. The intent is to cause emotional pain or distress to the senior. Making insults, reprimands, and threats are all types of verbal abuse. Examples of nonverbal abuse include isolation and refusal to respond to requests for assistance. According to one source, this type of abuse occurs more frequently than any other type.
Non-consensual sexual acts of any kind constitute sexual abuse. Unwanted touching, rape, forced nudity, and even sexual harassment all come under the umbrella of sexual abuse. A nursing home employee can take advantage of a senior resident if he or she is too weak or ill to fend off an attack.
Unauthorized use of a nursing home resident’s assets, such as money, possessions, or property, is illegal. Also, coercing a senior to sign documents such as a power of attorney in order to gain access to his or her banking accounts or other resources is a form of financial abuse. Charging for unprovided care or overcharging for care that was given could also fall in this category.
Failure to provide the duty of care owed to a senior nursing home resident, such as providing proper food, personal hygiene, medicine, and clothing, is neglect. A worker can deliberately refuse to provide such care, perhaps unintentionally doing so out of being untrained and overworked.
If your loved one has been a victim of one or more of the types of abuses mentioned, you are no doubt overwhelmed and want to see the guilty party punished. In some cases, there may be more than one party who is responsible for the abuse.
Identifying Potentially Liable Parties
Nursing home facilities are legally required to provide a standard of quality care to residents. If there is a failure to do so, one or more parties may be held liable.
Some of these potentially liable parties may be:
- The nursing facility: If there was a failure to adequately train, or hire sufficient staff, or an error occurred with administering medication
- The manufacturer: If the cause of the injury was due to a faulty part, such as a bed or exercise equipment; a drug manufacturer could be liable if a certain medicine was found to be defective.
- Other third-parties: Some other potentially liable parties include caterers, if the food was contaminated; contractors or another person on the premises visiting another resident could be to blame
Requesting Jail Time Versus a Settlement
Cases of nursing home abuse fall under two categories, criminal and civil. In criminal cases, the offender would be punished with jail time. In civil cases, the offender would pay a monetary settlement to the victim for damages.
As highlighted above, there are various forms of nursing home abuse. Typically, abuse of a more serious nature, such as physical or sexual, would be prosecuted as a criminal case.
People, though, may assume that the decision of whether to pursue a criminal case which may result in jail time, or a civil case which may result in a settlement is up to the victim. This belief may stem from what is commonly portrayed on television. But this is not the case. Since criminal cases are crimes against the state, these cases are pursued by the district attorney rather than the victim.
Even though the victim cannot pursue jail time for the offender, the actions the victim may take can still have a bearing on the punishment meted out to the offender. For example, the district attorney would first take into consideration the thoughts and feelings of the victim and the family when prosecuting the case.
Further, the victim can still pursue a civil case even though a criminal case may be brought forward. The civil case may result in the offender having to pay a monetary sum for damages that he or she has caused. The victim may request for punitive damages to be included in this monetary settlement.
How are punitive damages different from compensatory damages?
- Compensatory damages: These are awarded for the actual loss that the victim has suffered. The intent is to restore what was lost such as the cost of pain and suffering, economic losses like medical bills, and more.
- Punitive damages: These are awarded by the court to punish the defendant for his or her actions to discourage the offender from committing future crimes. This is beyond compensatory damages.
So, in summary, although the victim cannot personally pursue jail time for the offender,by pursuing a civil case, a measure of justice can be obtained. For one thing, the civil claim may result in the offender paying a settlement with both compensatory and punitive damages.
Our Personal Injury Lawyers Are Here to Help!
Your loved one has the legal right to receive quality care and respect from the staff and others in the nursing home facility. If you suspect that your loved one’s rights have been violated and abuse has occurred, contact the nursing home abuse lawyers of Phillips Law Group immediately.
Our personal injury lawyers know how to thoroughly investigate and pursue all responsible parties. We will fight to get your loved one the justice he or she deserves. Call our law firm today at (800) 706-3000 for a free consultation!
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