Keeping Your Elderly Relatives Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19 nursing home

At Cowan & Hilgeman, we try to write articles that are timeless: Questions and answers that will make as much sense in 5 or 10 years’ time as they do today. The present novel Coronavirus outbreak, however, has created a pressing situation that needs to be addressed immediately: How to keep your elderly relatives safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cowan & Hilgeman has developed an excellent reputation in Montgomery County and the Miami Valley for fighting abuse, neglect, negligence and wrongful death in nursing homes. We have written extensively about how to spot potential mistreatment of your elderly loved one while in a nursing home or residential care facility, and what to do if your elderly family member develops a pressure ulcer (otherwise known as a bed sore) while in care.

But what happens when you are unable to visit, monitor and advocate for your elderly family member?

On March 11th 2020, The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services issued an order limiting the number of nursing home/assisted living visitors to one person per resident per day. Exceptions can be made for end-of-life cases. The order will require that these facilities screen all individuals at every point of entry, including employees, vendors, family members, etc. Each individual will be screened for signs of illness and must submit to a temperature reading to gain entrance. All facilities will be required to keep a log of all who are admitted access.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we should all practice ‘social isolation’. This can be especially difficult for those with a parent or relative in residential care. Our elders rely on regular visits for love and support, but also so we can look out for their best interests. If we become sick ourselves, we will not be able to visit them at all, leaving them without an advocate.

Staff shortages in nursing homes and assisted living can be deadly

Aside from dealing with the illness itself, understaffed nursing homes can be incredibly dangerous for residents. Abuse and neglect become a bigger problem as the resident to staff member ratio increases out of control. Neglect and abuse on the part of the nursing home staff can cause psychological problems, physical illnesses and even death among the nursing home residents. Under-staffing of a nursing facility may add to psychological problems and physical illnesses among the staff members as they experience increased stress.

Physically dependent residents suffer the most. Bed-bound patients must be turned and moved regularly to prevent bed sores and muscle atrophy. Incontinence pads and diapers must be changed regularly to prevent infections. Residents who need help getting to the bathroom can instead be left to sit for too long in their own waste, leading to skin and genitourinary infections. Patients who need assistance with grooming, self-care and changing can be left to fend for themselves while more demanding residents dominate the attention of staff, which can lead to depression and physical degradation. If left to their own devices for too long, some residents try to do things unassisted, which can lead to falls and concussions.

Nurses who are understaffed may have problems feeding and giving medications to all of the residents on a routine schedule. This can lead to malnutrition, deficiencies in nutrition and other complications caused by not getting their medications on schedule. Dehydration can be especially dangerous in the elderly.

What you can do to help

1 – Visit as often as you can, as long as you are healthy

It will keep your loved one happier, healthier and safer. You will be able to nip problems in the bud before they become much larger problems that can have much more serious consequences. You can also help to care for your family member to lighten the load on nursing staff.

2 – If you cannot visit, call every day

Ask your relative if they are being properly looked after, if they are being fed, groomed, changed and assisted properly. Ask them if their needs are being met and if they are happy. If the answer to any of your questions is ‘no’, contact the Staff Nurse or management immediately.

3 – Document everything

If your loved one tells you that something is wrong, or if you even suspect that they are being poorly treated or neglected, document everything. What happened, the date and time, who was involved, who you spoke with to address the issue and what their response was. Hopefully, no further action will need to be taken. But if you ever need to take legal action against a nursing home, a well-documented paper trail showing their continued failure to address problems can help enormously.

4 – If you see something obviously dangerous, report it immediately

If nursing home residents are being obviously neglected, report it immediately. The State will take steps to rectify the situation, before it escalates any further. To report patient abuse or neglect to the Ohio Attorney General, click here. To file a complaint to the Ohio Department of Health, call 1-800-342-0553.

Extraordinary circumstances – such as a worldwide pandemic – do not excuse neglect or mistreatment.

It is the duty of nursing home owners to ensure that their clinics are properly staffed at all times.
It is the duty of nursing home management to ensure that their staff are properly trained and able to meet the needs of their residents.
Extraordinary circumstances – such as a worldwide pandemic – do nothing to absolve them of this responsibility. It is understandable that care facilities are occasionally understaffed, but owners and management must make every reasonable effort to boost staff to resident ratios to a safe level. If they fail to meet their most basic obligations, they may be found legally liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of their poor management.

If you see or hear of neglect, negligence or abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility during the COVID-19 pandemic, do not accept that as an excuse. Neglect, negligence or abuse happen because of poor management. Any explanation other than that is an unacceptable.

Call (937) 222-2030 today to schedule a FREE video / Skype / Facetime consultation with one of Dayton’s top rated personal injury lawyers handling nursing home abuse, neglect and wrongful death cases.

How is a Wrongful Death Settlement Divided in Ohio?

Wrongful death is such a painful subject. It seems like such an oxymoron. After all, who doesn’t feel as if the death of a loved one is wrong in some way, shape, or form? All of the people tied to that special person feel a loss at their passing, but in the eyes of the law the emotional toll is just one part of the overall picture when a settlement is involved.

Grief can make these legal waters difficult to navigate, and with that in mind, this article is intended to help you understand the basic procedures surrounding a wrongful death, and what you might expect in the division of a wrongful death settlement.

The first step is understanding what constitutes a wrongful death. 

According to the legal encyclopedia nolo.com, wrongful death is treated as if it was a ”personal injury claim in which the injured person is no longer available to file his or her own case in court.¨ 

Ohio state code section 2125.01 defines a wrongful death as ¨When the death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default which would have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.¨ 

Most cases of wrongful death are filed because of an accident that resulted in a death (like a car accident or in the form of medical malpractice) but it can also range out to include acts of violence or extreme negligence. If you feel that your loved one’s death falls into these categories outlining wrongful death and you wish to file a claim, or are just unsure of what you can do next, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to review your case.

In the state of Ohio most claims typically face a statute of limitations of two years.

If you wait until two years after the death, even if it does meet the criteria above, the case will almost certainly be dismissed by the courts, with very few exceptions. Even if you are uncertain about the eligibility of your suit, it is best to consult an expert to guide you through this complicated process.

Once you have followed through with the claim and a judgement has been awarded or a settlement has been reached, the next step is to divide that amount among the survivors of the deceased.

Ohio law tries to divide this as fairly as possible, determined by the degree of ¨damages suffered¨ by the beneficiaries. In most cases this is considered chiefly the domain of the spouse of the deceased, any children they had, and their parents.

If someone outside of this group feels they are entitled to compensation, they can make a claim, but they will have to do much more to prove what they have suffered. Regardless of who files, the court will divide the settlement based on inheritance laws which focus on the degree of relationship to the deceased, who was most dependent financially on the deceased, or who had a greater loss from the death.

For example, If a husband dies, his parents have suffered the loss of his company and any care he provided to them even in the form of house and yard work – and this is covered under the state law. However, his wife and any children they may have conceived has lost not only this, but has lost a vital part of the home’s support system. Emotionally and financially, this is considered a greater loss than the loss felt by his parents. Ergo, the wife and children would receive a larger portion of the judgment than his surviving parents.

Usually siblings of the deceased are not included in this party, but can file a claim as stated above. In some cases, the surviving family comes to an agreement on how the settlement should be divided – and this can be a huge benefit –  and the courts will agree to honor this arrangement. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the judge will do as they see fit given the circumstances of the case.

If some of the recipients are minors or under the age of twenty-five it is not uncommon for the courts to place the benefit into a trust to either be left untouched until the minor comes of age, or granted use by a designated trustee for particular circumstances (like college tuition, or routine and emergency medical expenses). This is also a preference the family can request of the courts. 

Dealing with a wrongful death can be one of the most difficult and heart wrenching experiences you may face.  You have already lost someone near and dear to you; however, that does not mean you are without support. You don’t have to face this confusing time of grief alone, so call an experienced, compassionate wrongful death attorney for help today. They will help to guide you through this trying time and receive the fair compensation you deserve.

What is an Ohio Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The Ohio wrongful death lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman are experienced handling wrongful death claims and are committed to results when you need them most.

The information below is meant to serve as a brief summary of Ohio wrongful death lawsuits and claims, and not meant to serve as legal advice on any particular claim.

Wrongful death is the legal term used for the untimely loss of life due to negligence caused by another. Ohio wrongful death lawsuits may arise as a result personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence or product liability claims.

Who Can Bring an Ohio Wrongful Death Case?

Ohio wrongful death claims are intended to provide damages to the decedent’s survivors. Ohio Revised Code §2125.02(A)(1) states, “a civil action for wrongful death shall be brought in the name of the personal representative of the decedent for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, the children, and the parents of the decedent, all of whom are rebuttably presumed to have suffered damages by reason of the wrongful death, and for the exclusive benefit of the other next of kin of the decedent.”

Therefore, Ohio wrongful death law presumes damages to the parents, surviving spouse and children of the individual killed by negligence. While there is mention that a claim can be maintained for the “other next of kin,” damages are not presumed for this line of claimants. Generally, the surviving spouse will serve as the legal representative prosecuting the wrongful death action.

What Compensation is Available in an Ohio Wrongful Death Case?

Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §2125.02(B)(1)-(5), Ohio wrongful death claims allow for the beneficiaries designed by statute (surviving spouse, children and parents) and other next-of-kin to recover the following damages:

  1. Loss of support from the reasonably expected earning capacity of the decedent;
  2. Loss of services of the decedent;
  3. Loss of the society of the decedent, including loss of companionship, consortium, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education, suffered by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin of the decedent;
  4. Loss of prospective inheritance to the decedent’s heirs at law at the time of the decedent’s death; and
  5. The mental anguish incurred by the surviving spouse, dependent children, parents, or next of kin of the decedent. Ohio Revised Code §2125.02(D)(1) requires that all wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two (2) years from the date of death caused by the negligence. If you do not bring a wrongful death lawsuit within two (2) years, then you will be forever barred from compensation for the loss of a loved one.

How Is Compensation Divided in an Ohio Wrongful Death Case?

Ultimately, the local county probate court will determine how the Ohio wrongful death proceeds are allocated among the statutory beneficiaries (surviving spouse, children and parents) and other next-of-kin. Ohio Revised Code §2125.03 sets forth the considerations for distribution of any compensation recovered through the wrongful death action:

The amount received by a personal representative in an action for wrongful death under sections 2125.01 and 2125.02 of the Revised Code, whether by settlement or otherwise, shall be distributed to the beneficiaries or any one or more of them. The court that appointed the personal representative, except when all of the beneficiaries are on an equal degree of consanguinity to the deceased person, shall adjust the share of each beneficiary in a manner that is equitable, having due regard for the injury and loss to each beneficiary resulting from the death and for the age and condition of the beneficiaries. If all of the beneficiaries are on an equal degree of consanguinity to the deceased person, the beneficiaries may adjust the share of each beneficiary among themselves. If the beneficiaries do not adjust their shares among themselves, the court shall adjust the share of each beneficiary in the same manner as the court adjusts the shares of beneficiaries who are not on an equal degree of consanguinity to the deceased person.

Therefore, if the potential beneficiaries cannot agree on how to disburse compensation recovered through an Ohio wrongful death lawsuit, the parties must appear before the local probate court and present their case as to requested compensation.

If you or a loved one have been impacted by Ohio wrongful death or have questions regarding a potential Ohio wrongful death claim, contact the lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman to receive a free case evaluation regarding your potential lawsuit.

The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Our lawyers create plans of attack for each case specific to the client’s needs and expectations. The lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman handle claims involving personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, product liability and wrongful death. We routinely recover compensation on cases that other law firms reject.

Cowan & Hilgeman offers free personal injury case evaluations and only get paid an attorney fee if we win your personal injury case.

Call 937-222-2030 to get your free case evaluation.

Will a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Get More for My Settlement?

The answer is YES, if you hire the right attorney.

Countless clients have hired the personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman after receiving low-ball offers from insurance companies and our attorneys have gone on to recover 6 times, 12 times and even 50 times the original offer. While past cases do not guarantee future results, the personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman are committed to aggressively pursuing your compensation.

 
Not every personal injury lawyer can obtain the results you may want or need. When evaluating personal injury lawyers, you must consider the following to ensure your claim is being properly presented and framed so that you receive maximum compensation:

Aggressive Pursuit of Compensation

Your lawyer should create a plan of attack to maximize the compensation available under your claim and make sure there is evidence to force the insurance company to pay what you deserve. Insurance companies and defense lawyers will not consider claims that lack sufficient evidence to support the demand for compensation. A skilled and aggressive personal injury lawyer will make sure every aspect of your claim is maximized.

Track Record of Success

Insurance companies know which personal injury lawyers accept low-ball offers and which lawyers will go to court to obtain maximum compensation for their clients. You do not want a personal injury lawyer or law firm that does not go to court or litigate their own claims. There are several of these law firms in Dayton and throughout Ohio. During your initial consultation with the lawyer, be sure to ask if he or she is the lawyer that will represent you if your case goes to court. The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman are recognized as some of the top personal injury lawyers in Ohio.

Client Reviews and Testimonials

Developments in technology and the ability to quickly and securely share information has allowed former clients to leave reviews and testimonials about their experience with a lawyer and/or law firm. Client reviews and testimonials are a great insight into the outcome obtained for the client. While each case is different and presents unique facts and circumstances, client reviews will give you an indication of what you can expect from the lawyer regarding skill, communication and genuine concern for the client’s interest. The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman are aggressive in their creation of a plan to maximize your claim under Ohio law, which includes compensation for three types of damages: special damages; general damages; and punitive damages.

Special Damages

Under Ohio law, an injured party is entitled to the following types of economic (special) damages:
  1. Past Medical Expenses
  2. Future Medical Expenses
  3. Past Loss of Earnings
  4. Future Loss of Earnings or Earning Capacity
  5. Out of Pocket Expenses

General Damages

Under Ohio law, an injured party is entitled to the following types of non-economic (general) damages:
  1. Past Physical Pain and Suffering
  2. Future Physical Pain and Suffering
  3. Past Mental Pain and Suffering
  4. Future Mental Pain and Suffering
  5. Past Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  6. Future Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages

Under Ohio law, an injured party may be entitled to punitive damages if the injured party can prove that the defendant’s actions showed “malice or aggravated or egregious fraud” or the defendant knowingly “authorized, participated in, or ratified actions” that were malicious or egregious. The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, but rather to punish the defendant for his actions and to deter others from committing a similar offense. Many times, unrepresented claimants and inexperienced attorneys that do not limit their practice to personal injury claims will leave valuable compensation on the table because the injured victim’s claim is not properly presented to the insurance company. Each and every personal injury claim requires an exhaustive review of the damages listed above so that the injured party receives the compensation he or she deserves. A small mistake can cost the injured victim lots of compensation. The personal injury layers at Cowan & Hilgeman have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Our lawyers create plans of attack for each case specific to the client’s needs and expectations. The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman will help maximize the value of your claim and fully explain the claim process throughout the entire case. The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman offer free case evaluations and only get paid an attorney fee if they win your case.