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Elderly and disabled people living in nursing homes in Chapel Hill and surrounding communities depend upon the homes’ workers, administrators, and their owners for proper care and attention. Unfortunately, abusive behavior can sometimes occur in its place. If this happens, the family must first immediately remove their loved one from the home and, second, contact a Chapel Hill nursing home abuse lawyer who is well-versed in North Carolina’s nursing home abuse laws. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you obtain the damages you and your loved one deserve for your pain and suffering.

Evidence of Elder Abuse

A Chapel Hill nursing home abuse lawyer can help potential clients find physical evidence that proves signs of elder abuse. Evidence of abuse includes bed sores, bruises, dehydration, malnutrition, and scratches. The abused person may not be willing to discuss these things with family members or others.

Elder abuse is legally actionable in criminal and civil law and can be physical, emotional, or financial. Common abuses include abandonment, assault, battery, isolation, intimidation, neglect, extortion, exploitation and sexual assault.

Reporting Abuse

Taking legal action for abuse should occur within three years of the act or the time it was discovered. Medical malpractice cases have the same time limit but may be extended to four years depending upon discovery date of the injury. Failing to meet that deadline bars raising the case again.

Having knowledge of abuse is a criminal act if it is not reported verbally or in writing to the county’s director of Social Services, who will report it to the district attorney’s office. The person reporting abuse must testify in a judicial proceeding to be immune from civil or criminal liability.

Negligence Law

Civil cases involving nursing home abuse fall under North Carolina’s contributory negligence doctrine. The law does not allow a person who has had any responsibility in causing harm or property damage to claim any damages, even if the other party had far more fault. However, under the Last Clear Chance Doctrine, if a person after committing an act of negligence was in danger or in peril and could not escape the event, damages may be claimed. Damages may also be claimed if the other party had a chance to avoid the harm. It would be rare if a nursing home resident acted in a negligent manner.

Proving Negligence

A Chapel Hill nursing home abuse lawyer will need to prove the elements of negligence to win damages. In nursing home abuse cases, the duty of care element relies on the nursing home’s responsibility toward the resident. If that duty is breached by means of an abusive act, then that element is satisfied. The next element to prove is that the abusive act caused harm, and finally, that financial damages did occur.

Damages

The damages that may be claimed include medical and therapeutic care, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish. If the abusive act was egregious punitive damages can reach up to $250,000. Chapel Hill nursing home lawyers can determine the proper legal action to take and will discuss the applicable law and the legal process involved.