Elder Abuse or Medical Malpractice?

When you learn that an elderly loved one has died while in the care of a nursing home or assisted-living facility, you may suspect that she didn’t receive the proper treatment. In some cases, however, it’s difficult to discern whether an older adult suffered injuries as a result of medical negligence or because of elder abuse.6811278733_eca62c5091

In California, nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem throughout the state. At the same time, medical malpractice can occur in a variety of healthcare settings, including nursing homes. According to a recent article in the National Law Journal, differentiating medical negligence and elder abuse cases can be complicated in California.

Characterizing a Healthcare Provider’s Actions

What’s the difference between medical negligence and elder abuse or neglect when it comes to seniors in California? It is not always easy to tell, and, sometimes, is a question for a jury to decide.  In a nutshell, medical malpractice is simply the failure to follow the “recognized standard of care” in a given situation, or, doing something (or failing to do something) another healthcare provider would do under the same or similar circumstances.   Elder abuse or neglect is conduct that is “more than negligent” and often thought to be a “conscious choice of action” that leads to a harm.  For example, a care plan for a nursing home resident might call for two people to assist to the toilet, but because of low staffing or a busy period, a caregiver decides to assist alone and the resident gets injured.  That could very well be considered neglect, because the caregiver knew, or should have known, what he/she was doing was wrong.  Ultimately, it’s an analysis about the degree or wrong doing.  Was it a simple mistake, or something more.

To be sure, nursing home abuse and medical malpractice claims can overlap. Indeed, both often involve descriptions of negligence or neglect when it comes to the actions of a medical professional or a facility, and more lawyers, like those at Walton Law Firm, will bring a lawsuit that alleges both medical negligence and elder neglect.

Limitations of Medical Negligence Claims for Seniors’ Injuries

Why might a victim of nursing home neglect seek to file an elder abuse claim instead of a medical malpractice lawsuit? In short, nursing home abuse victims may be entitled to additional remedies. For instance, a nursing home abuse claimant may be entitled to certain damages for pain and suffering whereas a medical negligence victim would not be eligible for the same.

Determining damages in any case—from an elder abuse injury case to a medical negligence matter—can be complicated. If you have questions about whether your elderly loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should be sure to discuss your case with a dedicated advocate. A San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer at the Walton Law Firm can speak with you today.

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

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