July 2 , 2021 | Wrongful Death
While many COVID-19 patients were fortunate enough to recover from their ordeals, an alarming number were not so lucky. Nursing home populations in the U.S. were particularly hard hit, with long-term care facilities across the country reporting devastatingly high numbers of positive cases and related deaths. Tragically, many of those deaths could have been prevented if nursing home administrators had instituted and enforced proper infection control procedures.
Nothing can compensate someone for the avoidable death of a loved one. However, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the person responsible for a relative’s death can go a long way towards covering medical bills and other costs while grieving family members attempt to rebuild their lives.
Filing this type of lawsuit can, however, be legally complex, as well as emotionally grueling for the plaintiffs, so if you lost a loved one to COVID-19 and believe that the nursing home could have prevented the death, it is important to speak with a team of experienced Oak Creek nursing home neglect attorneys about filing a wrongful death lawsuit on your relative’s behalf.
How Common Were COVID-19-Related Nursing Home Deaths?
While millions of people across the globe contracted COVID-19, certain populations proved to be particularly at risk of contracting the virus. These groups included the elderly and the immune-compromised. Unfortunately, this describes the majority of residents living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, many of whom are suffering from preexisting conditions, as well as the effects of aging.
Even when taking these factors into consideration, however, the number of nursing home deaths resulting from COVID-19 is still shocking, with the New York Times reporting the existence of more than 1.3 million confirmed cases at 32,000 facilities in the U.S. Tragically, an estimated 184,000 of those residents never recovered.
Alarmingly, this means that deaths in nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities account for as much as 31 percent of U.S. pandemic deaths. The numbers for Wisconsin nursing homes were even higher, with nursing home residents making up an estimated 39 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state.
Why are Nursing Home Residents More Susceptible to COVID-19?
Many nursing home residents, even when relatively healthy, often face slower recovery times when they become ill, merely because of their advanced age. Residents are also more likely to suffer from preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to certain illnesses, such as respiratory viruses.
Illnesses also tend to spread more easily in nursing homes, which have many common areas where residents come into contact with each other. Even when residents remain in their rooms to avoid getting others sick, an employee will still be required to help them bathe and eat, in addition to providing medical care, before moving on to another room.
Many residents also see a variety of visitors on a regular basis, while others, due to illness, travel to and from nearby hospitals, all of which increase their chances of contracting an illness like COVID-19. To address these problems, the federal government instituted a series of infection control procedures, with which nursing homes were required to comply during the pandemic.
Nursing Home Infection Control Requirements
Under both state and federal law, Wisconsin nursing homes are required to maintain a certain standard of care at all times. These restrictions were heightened after the COVID-19 outbreak, with facilities across the country being directed to:
- Restrict visitation, except in certain situations
- Place hand sanitizer in each resident’s room and in all common areas
- Provide employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face masks, higher-level respirators, gowns, gloves, and eye protection
- Regularly disinfect shared equipment and frequently touched surfaces in resident rooms and common areas
- Notify residents and families about outbreaks, facility staffing, and testing
While many nursing homes were careful to institute these rules and procedures and so were able to minimize the effects of COVID-19 on their elderly populations, an alarming number failed to do so, resulting in escalating infection and death rates.
Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In Wisconsin, when someone passes away as a result of another person or entity’s negligent or reckless conduct, the deceased’s surviving family members are often able to file a wrongful death claim on the victim’s behalf. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil claim, which means that unlike criminal cases, which come with the threat of jail time and a criminal record, successful plaintiffs will receive a monetary award. These damages attempt to compensate the family members of the victim for their losses by reimbursing them for medical bills, funeral and burial costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Filing a Claim for a COVID-19-Related Nursing Home Death
Last spring, the governor of Wisconsin passed a law granting broad immunity to healthcare professionals, including nursing homes, from liability related to COVID-19 exposure. This immunity is not, however, unlimited. Nursing homes can, for instance, still be held liable for their reckless and wanton conduct, as well as their intentional misconduct.
This means that nursing homes and their employees can still be held liable for unreasonable dangerousness and indifference, such as a purposeful failure to implement safety standards or a reckless disregard for residents’ well-being. For help determining whether you have a valid wrongful death claim for the loss of a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic, please reach out to our office today.
Set Up a Free Consultation With A Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Today
If you recently lost a loved one to COVID-19 and believe that a nursing home played a role in his or her death, you may have the option of filing a wrongful death claim. To learn more about this process, please reach out to the dedicated Oak Creek nursing home neglect lawyers at Martin Law Office, S.C. You can set up a free consultation with a member of our legal team by calling our office at 414-856-4010 or by completing one of our online contact forms.