Nursing Home Law
Criminal Prosecution for Nursing Home Abuse
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is more common than people suspect. We all want our elderly family members and loved ones to be safe not just from neglect, but also from being mistreated in a manner that can rise to criminal charges for elder abuse.
Nursing home residents have been known to be victims of many different forms of abuse that can result in criminal prosecution:
- Physical abuse and emotional abuse
- Financial abuse and financial exploitation
- Personal injury like malnutrition, bedsores, and ulcers resulting from nursing home negligence
- Medical malpractice or failure to provide adequate medical care
- Sexual abuse
If you suspect that caregivers at long-term care facilities are abusing a loved one, consider getting legal advice from an attorney who handles nursing home abuse cases.
Nursing home abuse cases can rise above civil cases that involve only monetary damages, as government prosecutors may bring criminal charges against nursing home staff members and administrators.
Law Enforcement Investigation Into Assisted Living Facilities
It could start with a call to the police or a complaint to your state's local Adult Protective Services (APS) — but once authorities suspect that a resident's well-being is in danger, they will start an investigation.
A law enforcement investigation against a nursing home will involve:
- Undercover visits to the premises by agents
- Interviews with victims and witnesses
- Review of a facility's policies and procedures (including rules for both elderly care and for employment at the facility)
- Review of security camera footage, medical records, and other potential evidence
If a government agency investigating a nursing home facility for abuse reasonably suspects that crimes are being committed in the facility, they may immediately:
- Search the premises (with or without a warrant, depending on the circumstances)
- Temporarily detain or arrest employees, managers, or owners of the nursing home
The disclaimer here is that not every investigation will necessarily result in criminal charges. If prosecutors determine that no federal or state laws were violated, it doesn't mean nursing home abuse victims have no recourse for their abuse — they can still pursue civil cases (for money damages).
On the other hand, if authorities determine there has been enough wrongdoing to warrant criminal punishment, then criminal charges may be brought in court by government prosecutors (criminal attorneys) who represent the people of the state.
Criminal Consequences for Nursing Home Facilities
A facility found guilty of abusing residents may have its license suspended or shut down depending on the severity of the circumstances.
Additionally, the facility will face the following challenges:
- An inability to conduct business
- Pressure to suspend culpable facility employees or managers
- A loss of patients who leave or are sent to other facilities
- A loss of Medicare, Medicaid, and other funding sources
- Having to pay hefty fines, including restitution payments to victims
Every state has different laws that determine the extent of criminal consequences a nursing home facility will face for a conviction. A facility that violates federal law could also face federal charges.
Criminal Consequences for Nursing Home Staff
Individual nursing home staff may be personally charged for crimes committed against residents. For example, employees who physically abuse patients may be charged with assault, criminal neglect, and battery, as well as separate criminal violations for abusing senior citizens.
Charges can include both misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the facts of their case. For example, physical abuse violent enough to cause serious injuries will probably result in felony charges, which carry harsher potential penalties for a conviction.
Consequences for nursing home employees, managers, and owners convicted of abusing residents could include:
- Restraining orders requiring them to stay away from the elderly or from certain facility locations
- Suspension or revocation of their professional licenses, like a nursing license
- Fines, community service, restitution payments, and time in prison
Speak With a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you suspect that a friend, loved one, or family member is the victim of nursing home abuse, a nursing home abuse attorney can help you file a civil lawsuit for monetary compensation and can also represent your family's interests in any criminal investigation into the nursing home's conduct.