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Can You Sue for Punitive Damages in a Nursing Home Injury Case?

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Can You Sue for Punitive Damages in a Nursing Home Injury Case?

Nursing home injuries are increasingly common in the United States, and one of the most grotesque forms of abuse and neglect. Whether it is yourself or a loved one who has been injured, you do have rights under the law. After an injury or abuse has occurred, you may consider filing a lawsuit against the nursing home as well as the staff members responsible for the injuries. In these types of cases, punitive damages could be awarded. But, before you can assess if your case is suitable for punitive damages, you need to understand their purpose, and when they are likely to be awarded.

The Types of Damages Awarded in a Personal injury Case

In a personal injury claim, there are two main categories of damages: Compensatory damages and punitive damages.

  • Compensatory Damages: These are designed to financially compensate the victim. They are based on actual losses, such as those calculated from medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. The purpose of compensatory damages is to return the injured party financially to where they were before the injury. In addition to the calculated damages, a plaintiff can request other compensatory damages, such as pain and suffering. In the case of nursing home abuse, some damages that may be awarded would include emotional trauma, additional medical costs, pain, financial losses due to relocating the injured party, hospitalization, surgeries, or other costs associated with medical complications.
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are not designed to financially compensate the plaintiff for losses. Instead, they are designed to punish the defendant for his or her actions. Most personal injury cases do not qualify for punitive damages. However, they may be more common in nursing home abuse and neglect cases, especially when the court wants to make an example out of a negligence or malicious act conducted at a particular facility. For example, if a nursing home allowed an employee to physically abused residence, this malicious behavior – combined with the gross negligence of the facility – would almost guarantee punitive damages.

Proving a Case for Punitive Damages

The trickiest part for requesting punitive damages is proving your case for these types of damages. At trial, there are legal elements that you must establish for compensatory damages, which include:

  1. Showing the nursing home owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.
  2. The nursing home breached that duty of care.
  3. The resident suffered harm because of the breach of duty.

In addition, you would need to show that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent, intentional, or even malicious in nature. To do that, you would need to prove that the offender purposely inflicted harm or was grossly negligent. Gross negligence refers to a legal concept that means extreme carelessness. The individual must have deviated from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would have exhibited and knew that there was a likelihood for foreseeable grave injury or harm, but did nothing to stop it.

Speak with an Attorney Regarding Your Nursing Home Abuse Case

If you or a loved one was injured in a nursing home abuse or neglect case, contact Malman Law to explore your options. Our attorneys understand the emotional, physical, and financial hardship associated with these types of claims, and we want to assist you with yours. Call us today for a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form with your legal questions.

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