Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes

The abuse of elderly and infirmed individuals occurs far too often inside nursing homes across the US and in Oregon. Unfortunately, there are times when nursing home abuse and neglect leads to the death of a patient. When this occurs, surviving family members and the estate of the deceased may be able to recover closure and compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Here, we want to discuss how wrongful deaths arise in nursing homes, who can file wrongful death claims in these circumstances, and the types of compensation that may be available.

What is a Wrongful Death in Oregon?

When we examine Oregon law, we can see that wrongful death is defined as a death “caused by a wrongful act or omission of another,” where the act or omission specifically would have allowed an individual to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived the incident. In simpler terms, a wrongful death claim can arise when an individual loses their life as a result of the fault of another individual or entity. This can include deaths caused by medical mistakes, an intentional act, or negligence.

Wrongful Death in a Nursing Home

There are various ways that wrongful deaths can occur inside of a nursing home. That is not to say that every death that occurs in a nursing home will give rise to a wrongful death claim. That is certainly not the case. However, there are certain circumstances where the negligent or intentional actions of nursing home facilities and their staff members could lead to a wrongful death claim.

Nursing home wrongful deaths can occur if staff members:

  • Injured or abused residents
  • Failed to break up violence inside a nursing home
  • Failed to adequately diagnose or treat medical conditions, including sepsis or bedsores
  • Made an error when prescribing or administering medications
  • Neglected the resident’s basic needs, including food, medical care, clothing, hygiene, etc.

In the state of Oregon, another party must step in and file the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. In this state, only the personal representative, often referred to as the executor, of the deceased individual’s estate is allowed to file the lawsuit. If there was a will in place, that is where the personal representative is typically named. If there was no will, or if the appointed personal representative cannot serve in that position, the court can appoint someone else.

The damages awarded as a result of a successful wrongful death claim go to the estate of the deceased and the surviving family members. This can compensate for a range of losses, including:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses related to the deceased’s final injury
  • Pain and suffering the deceased experienced from the time when the injury occurred and their death
  • The loss of companionship, society, and services the deceived provided the family

In some circumstances, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant (the alleged negligent party) acted with extreme negligence or intentionally caused the death of the nursing home resident. These damages are meant to punish the defendant and send a signal to others that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by society or the government agencies involved.

It is crucial to file wrongful death claims promptly. In Oregon, personal representatives have three years from the date of a deceased individual’s final injury to file the claim. Contact our Portland nursing negligence attorneys today.