Illinois legislation: Nursing home care facility owners liable for wrongful death

In Illinois, nursing home facilities are inspected every 15 months or less by state regulators, but according to Families for Better Care, a non-profit elder advocacy group, the state’s nursing homes are still deficient in many critical health areas. The amended Illinois Nursing Home Care Act has placed nursing home liability for fatal accidents on the owner of the nursing home facility. This individual is now financially responsible for any intentional or negligent act performed by an employee, and which injures or causes the death of a resident. This includes immediate damages and damages that accrue after the event, as well as any related costs and attorney’s fees.

Laws define intentional or negligent acts

According to The Elder Abuse and Neglect Act, neglect is any action by a caregiver that results in the harm or risk of harm due to a failure to supply necessities such as food, clothing and health care. Federal requirements hold nursing homes to strict guidelines for the protection of their residents, and that includes providing the following:

  • Adequate nursing staff
  • Regular physician care
  • Hygienic care and proper nourishment
  • Services necessary for residents to perform daily activities

In spite of state inspections, there is a lack of effective accountability in Illinois, which has resulted in many alarming deficiencies. State policies are also a contributing factor to the lack of safety for residents. For example, if a resident is deemed able to report an instance of abuse or neglect, professional service workers do not have to report any signs of abuse.

The cause of a wrongful death may not be obvious

There are many warning signs of nursing home neglect, including wounds or bed sores, weight fluctuations, medication changes without explanations and hygiene problems. Wrongful death due to these abuses is not always immediately obvious. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls account for approximately 1,800 nursing home deaths each year. Medication changes often cause falls, particularly in the case of sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs. In the first three days after beginning a new medication, the resident is particularly at risk for a fall. Other falls are attributed to environmental hazards, such as slippery floors, incorrectly adjusted bed height, and improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs or walking aids.

Owners of nursing home facilities are directly responsible for preventing these and other potential dangers for residents. Victims of wrongful death in nursing homes often leave behind family members who are devastated by the loss. Nursing home owners are only able to be held liable for wrongful death if negligence is established. An attorney who is familiar with Illinois nursing home requirements and wrongful death laws can help family members to receive full compensation.

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