Wrongful Death and Iowa Nursing Homes

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Posted by Pressley Henningsen

What is a wrongful death claim in an Iowa nursing home case? A wrongful death case in a nursing home context means that someone at the nursing home hurt your loved one, and that caused them to die.

How to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim

There are 3 prongs to bringing a wrongful death claim:

  1. The Iowa nursing home has a duty of care to your loved one,
  2. That this duty of care was breached, and
  3. That your relative died because of this negligence.

To bring a wrongful death claim, you must prove that there was negligence by the person who hurt your loved one. That can be from two things: either someone did something they shouldn’t have done, or they didn’t do something they should have done.

It is the nursing home’s job, through either its employees or the people they contract, to take care for your loved one. Proving that this duty of care was breached is part of a wrongful death case in Iowa.

You also have to show that the cause – what the nursing home did, or what they failed to do – caused your loved one to die.

Once these three things have been established, the next hurdle you face is to prove damages in this case. It might seem obvious to you that there would be damages in this type of claim – but they’re not always easy to prove.

For example, in order to get damages for pain and suffering, you must show that your loved one was conscious and obviously experiencing pain.

Types of Wrongful Death Claims in Iowa Nursing Homes

There are many types of wrongful death claims that can involve Iowa nursing homes. Many of them relate to falls. Falls are common in the elderly, and they cause severe injuries, like fractures. When the elderly sustain fractures, they are unable to get up and move, which can complicate underlying conditions or result in bedsores.

It’s been shown in studies that if an elderly person fractures a long bone in their body, they have a much higher chance of death in the following months.

Pressure injuries are another very common cause of wrongful death in Iowa care facilities. These types of injuries happen because the nursing home isn’t providing proper care for your loved one’s skin. These pressure sores manifest if staff is not helping your loved one to the restroom enough or do not clean them up well enough if your loved one is incontinent.

Another way pressure sores can occur is that your loved one is not being rotated enough in their bed. Generally, it’s recommended that individuals unable to move themselves should be rotated every 2 hours. If this doesn’t happen, pressure sores can occur.

There can also be underlying health issues like peripheral artery disease or diabetes that can complicate the ability to take care of your loved one’s skin. Whatever the reason, it’s the nursing home’s job to make sure they’re doing it correctly – because neglecting to do so can result in death.

Skilled care facilities are supposed to be providing assessments of your family member on a regular basis. That includes head-to-toe skin assessments to check for red spots, which are indicators of pressure or poor circulation. Your loved one also needs to receive proper continence care to keep pressure sores from happening.

Another way wrongful deaths can occur in an Iowa nursing home is due to improper medicating. This can mean either your loved one is over- or under-medicated. If this happens, it could mean your loved one is not receiving all medications in a timely manner and at the proper dosage, or are over-medicated because the nursing home does not keep good records and the medications are given twice. Either way, it could be negligent care.

Elopement cases happen when the nursing home isn’t properly staffed. Out of the facility, your loved one can be exposed to risks like weather, falls, or some other harm that can lead to their death.

One of the more common problems we see in nursing home wrongful death claims have to do with nutrition or hydration. If the elderly are not properly fed or given enough fluids, it can very quickly lead to death.

Who Can Sue in an Iowa Wrongful Death Claim?

In an Iowa wrongful death case, only certain people can sue. Before anyone can file a lawsuit, an estate must be opened. The estate owns the wrongful death claim.

In addition to that, spouses and children have a loss of consortium claim. Loss of consortium refers to the loss of relationship.

The damages in a wrongful death case can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of use of the body/loss of function
  • Loss of consortium claims.

You are also occasionally allowed to ask for punitive damages. These are damages that are designed to punish the nursing home for their actions.

The Statute of Limitations

One of the first things that needs to be addressed in an Iowa wrongful death claim is the statute of limitations. It must be noted that the statute does not begin at the date of your loved one’s death. Rather, the clock starts ticking at the date your loved one was harmed.

For example, if your loved one falls and they survive for 6 months, but die due to complications related to that fall, you need to bring the lawsuit by 2 years from the date of the fall – NOT the date of their death.

Arbitration Agreements and Iowa Care Facilities

Another determination we need to make before bringing a wrongful death claim in Iowa was whether you or your loved one signed an arbitration agreement. In both Federal and Iowa Law, the 7th Amendment addresses your right to a jury trial. This right to bring a complaint in a civil suit and have a jury trial is a right every American has.

 Some time ago, businesses began deciding arbitration was a less costly way of resolving disagreements. Arbitration consists of a condensed hearing with no jury where both sides present their argument and an agreed-upon third party makes a decision.

Arbitration clauses have made their way into nursing home paperwork. These agreements are usually stuck in with the rest of the paperwork when admitting your family member into a care facility, and many people don’t know that by signing these papers, they’re signing away their 7th Amendment right to a jury trial.

While these arbitration agreements are enforceable, having an experienced Iowa nursing home abuse lawyer look over the paperwork is a good idea. The attorney can see if the agreement you signed is enforceable.

How a Skilled Iowa Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Can Help

Iowa nursing home negligence claims are difficult matters, and you shouldn’t try to handle this on your own. An attorney can help you in a variety of ways, including:

  • Reviewing all documents
  • Get the estate established so the wrongful death claim can be filed
  • Hire experts that will be key at proving negligence in your case
  • Review any arbitration agreements to see whether it is enforceable
  • Dealing with the tactics and underhanded approaches insurance carriers take, even after your loved one’s death due to someone else’s fault

RSH Legal offers a free, no-obligation case evaluation for Iowans who have lost loved ones in a nursing home due to negligence. Contact us today at 1-800-433-0283.

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