How to Protect Your Family Member from Resident-on-Resident Assaults in Nursing Homes

When you think of nursing home abuse, you probably think of staff negligence, poor sanitation, understaffing, and subpar care. You don’t think of residents assaulting or abusing other residents. Unfortunately, resident-on-resident assaults are not uncommon. When a nursing home resident is injured by another resident, the facility is responsible for failing to prevent the attack.

“A 2014 study by Cornell University found that 1 in 5 nursing home residents in 10 New York state facilities were involved in at least 1 aggressive encounter with fellow residents. Resident-on-resident abuse can be verbal, psychical or sexual. In some instances, the abuse can be fatal.”

Signs of Resident-on-Resident Abuse in Nursing Homes and Senior Care Facilities

The symptoms of the mental and physical ailments that put individuals in nursing homes can manifest in the form of anger, aggression and behavioral outburst. More often than not, residents lose some of their faculties and don’t act like themselves. Patients with Alzheimer’s may have outbursts and show aggression toward staff and other residents due to their cognitive deficiencies.

Because most of the assailants in these incidents lack willful intent, the assaults are classified as accidents. Nursing homes are required to protect their residents and provide them with a safe place to live free of abuse or injury.

In a recent issue of Trial magazine, Martin Kardon recounts the story of an 86 year old man with Alzheimer’s and a 73 year old woman with dementia who lived in the same nursing home. The female resident had a history of aggressive behavior and outbursts and one afternoon she shoved the male resident causing him to fall. He died several days later as a result of his fall.

In this particular case, the claim against the facility would be for allowing the assault and abuse and failing to protect the male resident from injury. One would need to prove that the facility knew or should have known about the female resident’s violent tendencies and the risk to other residents.

How Your Attorney Can Prove a Case of Abuse

A resident-on-resident abuse case against a nursing home facility will obviously require thorough investigation. An experienced attorney will be able to use discovery to obtain the assailant’s records from the facility including medical records indicating violent behavior as well as records of previous incidents. There may also be reports and records from ambulance rides, hospital emergency records, and police investigations. When a resident is injured, most states require that the facility file a report with the agency that supervises long-term skilled nursing facilities.

Depositions and testimony of staff members and other residents is also key. The defense will focus on notice by trying to prove that the facility did not know and could not have known of the risk. Therefore, records and testimony speaking to prior incidents will be very important.

There are two main approaches to liability: negligence and understaffing. The facility could be held liable for negligent admission or retention of a resident who is known to be violent and who puts other residents at risk. Understaffing is another common problem at nursing home facilities that can lead to liability in resident-on-resident injury. The federal government says that about a quarter of all nursing home complaints can be linked to low staffing levels.

What You Can Do to Keep Your Loved One Safe in Their Senior Care Facility

If you suspect that a loved has been abused by another resident and isn’t safe, do not wait another day to take action. Approach the facility about the incident and make sure it is reported to local law enforcement as well as agencies that regulate long term care facilities.

Call Keller & Keller

If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, do not hesitate to call Keller & Keller. Our experienced team of attorneys and legal staff is here to help.