Under California law, when a nursing home is careless (“negligent”), and harms a resident, it is responsible for the harm that results. That includes death of their resident.
California treats this as two separate claims:
- The claim by the resident, for their pain and suffering, as well as economic harm (such as medical bills); and
- The claim by the resident's next of kin for their grief, loss, and mental anguish (called a “wrongful death” claim).
Both claims are brought by the resident's estate. Usually the person identified in the will as the executor, or if there is no will, a close family member appointed as administrator, is in charge of the process.
We help families open estates and investigate nursing home claims regularly.
Does a Nursing Home Death Mean the Nursing Home was Negligent?
Just because someone dies in a nursing home does not mean the nursing home is to blame. The question is: did the nursing home cause the death through carelessness (negligence)?
Nursing home negligence causes death every day:
- from preventable falls causing broken bones or brain injuries
- neglecting residents until they become malnourished or dehydrated
- Neglecting turning and skin care of residents, leading to bedsores
- Failing to identify and timely treat medical emergencies, like pneumonia, sepsis, other infections, and strokes
- Direct physical abuse
- And more
How Do I Know if the Nursing Home is to Blame for Their Death Weeks or Months Later?
You may not--and the nursing home likely won't tell you. Finding answers like this is one of the main reasons clients contact us.
In general, a fall with a major broken bone like the hip or the upper leg bone (called the “femur”) can cause death months later. The death can be due to the individuals slow decline, resulting in less mobility and further decline in health until they finally die.
It is important the coroner or medical examiner be involved if possible. In some California counties, they will review the death if it is within 6 months of a fall with injury. But nursing homes do not always report the death. You or your nursing home lawyer can do so.
Head trauma leading to brain bleeds (sometimes called “intracranial hemorrhage” or causing “midline shift” or “brain herniation”) are fairly easy to connect to the trauma--assuming you're even told of the initial fall and trauma.
We have investigated cases where the nursing home allowed someone to fall multiple times, then did not send them to the ER quickly. Unfortunately, by the time they were sent, it was too late.
Bedsores can lead to decline and death as well, especially when they become stage 3-4, or become infected.
Some of the key condition we have seen on death certificates that merit investigation include:
- Falls or broken bones
- Necrotizing fasciitis
- Respiratory Failure
- Bedsores or infections from bedsores
The bottom line is, a qualified nursing home lawyer is able to review medical records, and consult with expert doctors, to determine if it the death was due to the nursing home's negligence.
How Do I Know if I Need a California Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawyer?
You know you need a California wrongful death lawyer if there is a connection between a nursing home injury caused by carelessness, and the resident's death. Sometimes that's unclear; consult a lawyer!
Even if the death is not obviously related, if there was a major injury or illness caused by the nursing home in the 6 months prior to death, it is worth investigating.
A California nursing home lawyer can investigate and help determine if the injuries from nursing home neglect or abuse led to the death.