New Mexico Nursing Home Wrongful Death Attorneys
Wrongful Death in a Nursing Home
Wrongful death is a legal term denoting a civil action in which damages are sought against a party for causing someone’s death, through negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Sadly, wrongful death is not an uncommon occurrence in nursing homes. Elderly residents sometimes die as a result of abuse, neglect, or nursing home negligence.
If you have lost a loved one in a nursing home and suspect abuse or neglect, call Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP at (903) 458-9138 as soon as possible. Our practice is dedicated to representing people in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and New Mexico who have been injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of others.
What Causes Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes?
Nursing homes are chosen for our elderly loved ones to provide for their safety and care. It is unthinkable that poor management, untrained staff, or willful acts of abuse in these facilities could lead to wrongful death, but it does occur. Common causes of wrongful death in nursing homes include:
- Falls: This is the second leading cause of injury-related death among people ages 65 to 84, and the leading cause of injury-related death among people ages 85 and older, as stated by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI). Falls from beds, showers, and chairs in nursing homes cause severe injuries every year. With loss of bone density and fragility of older nursing home residents, a serious fall can have fatal consequences.
- Medication errors or abuse: Overdosing a resident, administering the wrong medication, failing to administer medications in the correct dosage at the proper times, or chemically restraining a resident with antipsychotic medications can lead to wrongful death.
- Excessive restraint or forceful handling: Caregivers in nursing homes may forcefully restrain or control a resident. Older people are more fragile and have a higher risk of sprains, dislocations, fractures, or even suffocation if they are excessively restrained.
- Unsanitary conditions: Proper hygiene, clean sheets and clothing, and sanitary living conditions are among nursing home resident’ basic rights, to maintain human dignity and reduce the risk of infection. When nursing homes fail to provide for these basic needs, it can lead to infection, illness, and wrongful death.
- Wandering and elopement: This is a common cause of death in nursing homes. When residents are allowed to wander away, they may be exposed to any number of hazards, including slip or trip and fall accidents.
- Assault or physical abuse: It is not uncommon for nursing home staff members to physically abuse residents. Violent resident-to-resident assault occurs even more frequently. When resident-to-resident abuse results in wrongful death, the nursing home may still be liable for failing to properly protect residents.
- Dehydration and malnutrition: Nursing home residents may require help with feeding themselves, special diets, or a feeding tube, in which case they are relying on caregivers for nutrition and hydration. When nursing home staff rush through feedings, insert feeding tubes improperly, or neglect to feed special diets, malnutrition and dehydration can cause the resident’s health to deteriorate, ultimately leading to death.
- Bedsores: These open sores are also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. They are caused by pressure against the skin that limits blood flow to the skin and often affect individuals with limited mobility. When bedsores are allowed to develop on a resident’s body, he or she becomes more susceptible to infection and may succumb to sepsis or shock.
What Are the Elements of a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a legal means to seek justice for your loved one and pursue compensation for your family. For your claim to be successful, the following four elements must exist in your case:
- The death of your loved one was caused by the nursing home in some way.
- The conduct of staff members, healthcare providers, or caregivers at the nursing home contributed to your loved one’s death.
- Surviving family members of your deceased loved one include a spouse, children, or other dependents or beneficiaries.
- The death of your loved one resulted in damages or pain and suffering.
Who Can Sue for Nursing Home Wrongful Death in New Mexico?
Under New Mexico Statutes Section 41-2-1, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. A wrongful death claim in New Mexico must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. If there is no estate plan, or if the personal representative named in the estate plan is unable or unwilling to serve, the court will appoint a personal representative. Any damages awarded for the claim are held by the estate for the benefit of surviving family members as follows:
- If there is a surviving spouse but no surviving children, all damages go to the spouse.
- If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children or grandchildren, the damages are divided — 50 percent to the spouse and 50 percent to the children or grandchildren.
- If there are surviving children or grandchildren but no surviving spouse, damages are divided among the children or grandchildren according to New Mexico law.
Get in Touch with Our Firm
At Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP, we are committed to holding negligent nursing homes accountable for the harm they cause to older people. If you have lost a loved one to nursing home wrongful death in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, or elsewhere in New Mexico, contact us today for a free consultation. We focus our practice exclusively on personal injury matters and provide personalized, client-centered legal services to injured people in New Mexico.