Nursing home patients who are elderly, weak, frail, and suffering from underlying medical conditions often have problems with chewing and swallowing that put them at risk for choking. The staff and management at nursing homes need to be aware of this risk and take precautions to prevent residents from choking and to treat them correctly should a choking incident occur. If this does not happen and at-risk patients are neglected, serious injuries and death can result.
If your loved one has been injured or died in a choking accident in a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. In addition, filing a lawsuit can hold those legally at fault responsible and keep the neglect from continuing and harming other people.
A Tucson choking lawyer can help you through this process. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm provides a free consultation with a member of our team to discuss the facts of your case. We can fight to stop the neglect that caused the problem from continuing, prevent further damage to your loved one and others, and fight for the compensation you and your loved one may be entitled to receive. Call us today to get started.
Why Choking Happens in Nursing Homes
Two factors primarily explain why choking incidents happen in nursing homes: the vulnerability of the patient population and neglect by the staff.
Choking often occurs when patients cannot swallow properly, which causes food or beverages to enter and block the windpipe. With the windpipe blocked, patients cannot breathe and start to choke. The California Department of Social Services identified several factors that make nursing home patients particularly vulnerable and susceptible to choking:
- A lack of saliva, which can result from aging or the medicines they take.
- A stroke, which can lead to dysphagia.
- Loose teeth or denture removal.
Other factors include enlarged osteophytes bumping against the esophagus and breathing issues caused by problems with respiratory systems, clogged airways, and the use of breathing tubes.
Nursing home neglect is often a result of understaffed facilities due to an increased number of patients from our aging population and the desire of nursing home owners to increase profit. Staff that is overworked cannot provide the attention and care needed by frail patients who are susceptible to choking. There may be shortcuts taken in vetting or training new hires, who may not be capable of handling choking prevention and treatment care plans and measures.
Patients who have difficulty swallowing should have a treatment plan with dietary restrictions to prevent choking. They also should be provided with enough supervision to prevent and deal with problems. The nursing home and its staff are responsible for identifying and minimizing the risk of choking accidents and having a protocol for immediate action should an incident occur. When this does not happen, the nursing home and staff may be found liable for choking injuries to residents.
Steps Nursing Home Staff Can Take to Prevent Choking
While choking can occur without warning, there are steps that nursing homes can take to prevent choking from happening and reduce the risk of injury and death should choking occur. These include:
- Removing choking hazards.
- Providing soft foods that are easily swallowed.
- Understanding who is at risk and providing staff to watch at-risk individuals when eating.
- Being aware of and looking for signs of possible choking, such as gagging and clutching at the throat.
- Educating staff on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and CPR if choking starts.
Nursing homes that fail to provide such safeguards may be found negligent if a choking incident leads to serious injury or death.
For a free legal consultation with an choking lawyer serving Tucson, call (800) 794-0444
Taking Legal Action for Negligence
Federal and Arizona state laws require nursing home facilities to provide responsible care that protects residents from harm and guards their safety. If the nursing home or its staff was negligent and your loved one suffered harm or death from choking as a result, they could be held legally responsible through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
To win the lawsuit, you will need to prove negligence by showing the following factors existed:
- The nursing home had a duty to provide care and prevent the resident from being harmed.
- The nursing home breached this duty of care.
- Your loved one suffered an injury because of this breach.
- As a result, your loved one suffered damages.
In a successful insurance claim or lawsuit, you may be able to win compensation for the following damages:
- Medical and therapy bills.
- Moving costs to change nursing homes.
- A specialized caregiver hired to prevent future choking incidents.
- Pain and suffering.
In addition, if the neglect was willful or particularly grievous, Arizona courts may award punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and keep similar behavior from happening again.
Proving that the nursing home and staff were at fault requires careful investigation. A Tucson choking lawyer has experience with these cases and understands the need to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and examine records to build your case. Call the team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to get started.
Tucson Choking Lawyer Near Me (800) 794-0444
Laws Regulating Nursing Homes
Federal and state laws regulate nursing homes. Nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid must comply with the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, which sets federal quality standards for nursing homes and a bill of rights for patients.
ARS § 46-454, meanwhile, states that nursing home staff have a duty to report abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults to adult protective services, as well as a duty to make medical records available.
When considering a negligence case, you should be aware of the following Arizona statutes:
- Wrongful death: Under ARS § 12-612, surviving family members or personal representatives of the deceased person can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the surviving husband or wife, children or parents, or the estate.
- Damage caps: Article 18, Section 31 of the state constitution bars limits on the amount of damages you may recover for personal injury or wrongful death.
- Statute of limitations: Under ARS § 12-542, the deadline for filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is two years.
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Call Us for Help with Choking Injuries
The Tucson choking lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can take immediate action on your behalf to investigate how your loved one was harmed and hold negligent parties accountable for damages resulting from choking injuries. Our goal is to stop the neglect from continuing. We can negotiate with insurance companies for you and, if necessary, take your case to court to fight for the settlement you may be entitled to receive.
You pay no upfront costs, and there is no fee unless you receive compensation. Call us today for your free case evaluation.