COVID-19 and Nursing Home Negligence

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) states that there have been nearly 200,000 confirmed and more than 115,000 suspected COVID-19 cases in nursing homes throughout the United States as of mid-August 2020. CMS also says that there have been nearly 50,000 total nursing home deaths related to COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who reside in nursing homes have a particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19. This virus is especially dangerous for those 65 years of age and over as well as those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung diseases, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, and more. 

It is vital that nursing home facilities and staff take steps to prevent the virus from spreading. Failing to do so could constitute negligence on the part of the nursing home facility and staff members. If you or a loved one in a nursing home contracted COVID-19 due to negligence, speak to a Long Beach nursing home abuse attorney during a free consultation. 

What Does it Mean for a Nursing Home to be Negligent?

Nursing home facilities and staff can be negligent when they fail to take steps to properly care for the residents inside the facility. Due to the nature of living in a long-term care or nursing home facility, COVID-19 can spread rapidly. Therefore, nursing homes must follow state and federal guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within their walls. 

The California Department of Public Health’s Center for Health Care Quality (CHCQ) has released specific policy guidance documents to all facilities that include requirements for COVID-19 mitigation plans, as well as visitation requirements and specific elements such as baseline testing procedures. 

If a nursing home facility blatantly ignores requirements set forth to keep residents safe, they may be guilty of negligence and could be held accountable for their actions should a serious illness or death occur. Like all health care providers, nursing home facilities owe a minimum duty of care to all residents. However, just because an elderly resident in a nursing home contracts COVID-19 does not automatically mean that the facility was negligent. This virus can spread even when health care providers take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of infections. 

Can a Nursing Home Facility Face a Lawsuit for Negligence?

There have been, and will likely be many more, lawsuits filed against nursing homes throughout the country related to COVID-19 negligence. However, it is not yet certain how successful these lawsuits will be. While nursing homes and other health care facilities do have a duty to protect patients and residents against infections, proving a failure to prevent infection-spread can be incredibly difficult. This is because the plaintiff (the injured party) will need to prove what caused their infection and exactly how it could have been prevented. Tracing the specific origin of a person’s infection in these cases could prove to be very difficult. 

However, it may be different if the nursing home in question has been particularly hard hit by the virus. For example, if you have a nursing home in which there has been an 80% to 90% infection rate and the average infection rate for a certain area is only 10%, this may indicate that the nursing home facility and staff has been negligent and failed to follow proper infection control protocols. In these cases, it may be easier to prove negligence and recover compensation in a lawsuit with the help of a personal injury lawyer. Consider speaking with an experienced lawyer in your area to explore your legal options.