Lawyers in our firm continue to receive numerous calls about allegations of abuse and neglect of residents in nursing homes. In evaluating the cases, the lawyers have to determine if there is truly abuse or neglect and, if so, whether our firm can prove a case in a court of law. While each state’s law varies slightly, in Alabama claimants are required to comply with the Alabama Medical Liability Act (AMLA). The AMLA is written most favorably to health care providers. Quite often finding the right expert to testify about the duty and the violation of that duty is a difficult and can be a very costly undertaking.
According to the AMLA, our lawyers are required to prove “by substantial evidence that the health care provider failed to exercise such reasonable care, skill, and diligence as other similarly situated health care providers in the same general line of practice ordinarily have and exercise in a like case.” Code of Alabama § 6-5-548(a) (1975). In other words, it must be established that the nurse, certified nurse assistant, therapist or other health care provider breached a standard of care (or health care rule) that caused the injury or death to the nursing home resident.
In order to comply with this requirement under the AMLA, expert testimony must be presented through a “similarly situated health care provider,” which generally speaking is a health care person who works or worked in the same field of practice as the person who committed the wrongdoing for the year preceding the event. Locating and selecting experts in medical malpractice cases is a very difficult and costly undertaking. Our firm does not handle cases against directors or nurses, but we do take cases against nursing home owners and operators.
What typically must be shown by the patient or family members is that there was an order, standard, or guideline that was breached. For example, if there was an order written that the patient should only be transported from his or her bed to a wheelchair or to the bathroom with “two-person assist,” and only one person attempts to help the patient who falls, then the rule requiring two-persons to assist was violated. Typically, nursing expert testimony would be needed to confirm that this was the standard of care and that it was violated.
Once this is done, it must then be determined if the failure to provide the required level of care caused or significantly contributed to the injury or death. Stated differently, did the fall at the nursing home and the resulting injuries lead to the death of the patient? Sometimes, causation experts must be hired who can testify on the issue of whether the wrongful event caused the serious injury or death involved in the case.
Our lawyers have evaluated a number of potential claims where there may have been poor medical treatment, but they were unable to take the case because they didn’t believe that the level of care provided fell below the level of care required of other health care providers, or they don’t believe they could satisfy the heavy burden of proof. Bad outcomes do occur in medicine without there being a breach of the standard of medical care that might apply. On the other hand, our lawyers review and accept nursing home cases where they believe the standard of care has been breached and that the burden of proof can be satisfied. Our lawyers then pursue those cases vigorously. If you need more information on Nursing Home Litigation, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our firm who handles these cases, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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