California Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits: What Damages Are Available?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The damages available to victims of elder abuse in California long term care facilities such as nursing homes, or even in assisted living facilities and home health care situations, are similar to those available in traditional personal injury or medical malpractice claims; however, there are some important differences and additional remedies are often available.

Available damages in a California Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

In a recent interview, J. Niley Dorit, a California nursing home abuse attorney explained what damages are available to victims of elder and dependent care abuse:

Damages generally consist of actual out-of-pocket expenses, increased medical care, increased home care (if daily care is needed), out of pocket expenses, hospitalizations and things of that nature. Traditional personal injury damages are available, plus some enhanced remedies. Unlike personal injury or medical malpractice cases, one of the most significant damages available is that the victim’s attorney is entitled to ask for and receive attorneys’ fees.

So, in cases where the degree of injury might not be sufficient for an attorney to take the case on, once there is a rightful claim, there can be a recovery also for attorneys’ fees. In addition, wrongful death cases in California don’t allow for suffering prior to a death, whereas elder neglect cases allow for recovery of pre-death suffering.

Pain & Suffering

Pain and suffering, or mental anguish, may also be compensable, according to Dorit, as they would fall under the rubric of the injury itself. He provided the following examples:

We had a case recently where a gentleman suffering from severe dementia fell and broke his leg, but there was a long delay before medical care was ever called for him. During that period of time, although he wasn’t able to communicate what was wrong, it was clear that he was suffering and the facility didn’t do anything.

So, during that lapse of time while he had a broken bone and was basically trying to function with a broken bone, the facility ended up being responsible for the discomfort that he had during all of those days and the anguish that he had to go through because he simply didn’t have the wherewithal to know that he needed a doctor. The facility knew that he needed a doctor; they simply didn’t act on it.

Damage caps

We asked Dorit whether California places caps on damages in nursing home abuse cases. He told us, “There really are no caps in elder and dependent abuse cases, except for pre-death pain and suffering which is capped at $250,000. However, in other kinds of personal injury cases, there are no pre-death pain and suffering damages allowed at all.”

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