As a lawyer with years of experience in handling nursing home abuse and neglect cases, there are a few things that I have come to believe about why nursing home cases are important:
- The vast majority of my clients in these kinds of cases are the children or the spouse of the nursing home resident who was injured or who has died. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of nursing home clients I have had who both survived what happened to them and were still able to make decisions for themselves. The survivors often come with terrible feelings of guilt over what happened. There is one thing that I want you to believe: it’s not your fault.
- Very few of the cases I handle involving nursing homes are truly “accidents,” like the kind of accident you would have when you rear-end someone while tuning the radio in the car. Rather, most of the cases I see are the end result of breakdowns in the care planning process which is caused by the way in which nursing homes operate. Many times, when something goes wrong and your parent is taken to the emergency room, things have actually been going wrong for weeks, if not months, and the fact that things had not gone wrong earlier was really a question of luck. The breakdowns in the delivery of care in nursing homes is often the result of how a nursing home operates. In short, it is built to fail.
- The work that we do brings about change and saves other families from going through the same guilt and pain that our clients have experienced. There have been cases where nursing homes have changed policies and procedures and re-trained the staff as a result of things that we have uncovered during the course of our investigation. On a smaller level, when I take the deposition of nurses and go through the chart with them and discuss in painstaking detail all of the things that were done and were not done and what was supposed to have been done, you can see how embarrassed they are about the kind of work they have been doing and they go back and they try harder …. and sometimes, that is all that it takes to change the course of one resident’s care and helps prevent the things that our clients have experienced.
While the lawyer works on the case, we always keep in mind that it is the client’s life, the client’s case, and the client’s decision whether to accept a settlement offer or not. We will always tell a client what we think of an offer, but in the end, the decision to accept an offer belongs to the client and must be driven by the client’s goals, values, and tolerance for risk. Clients cannot make good decisions that they feel comfortable with unless we provide them with good information — factual and legal, favorable and unfavorable — on an ongoing basis. Regular communication and explanation of what is happening is the basis of how we operate.
Case results from Barry G. Doyle