Nursing Home Liability During a Natural Disaster in Florida

Florida residents currently are facing one of the largest cleanup efforts in state history, after Hurricane Irma destroyed thousands of homes and left hundreds of thousands of residents without electricity and power. While everyone should take proactive measures to protect themselves and their families from natural disasters, special efforts need to be made by nursing homes and assisted living facilities to protect residents during a natural disaster.

As recent tragic events demonstrated, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not prepared for a natural disaster, leaving some of the most vulnerable members of our communities at risk for injury and even death during severe weather. The United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recommended that each nursing home facility identify and maintain sufficient supplies and equipment to sustain operations and to be able to provide care and services for three to ten days following a natural disaster.

Contacting a skilled nursing home abuse attorney can help to clear up any confusion about nursing home liability during a natural disaster in West Palm Beach.

Nursing Home Regulations

Florida currently has one of the highest populations of residents who are under the care of a nursing home, and with the Florida Health Care Association estimating that the number of adults over the age of 65 will double by 2026, it is important to understand nursing home regulations that are designed to keep residents safe and healthy.

Both federal and state laws regulate nursing homes. Under the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, all nursing homes who participate in Medicare and Medicaid are required to provide the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychological care for each resident. This federal law requires nursing homes to:

  • Maintain an adequate nurse-to-patient ratio
  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment of all residents’ capabilities
  • Develop a unique care plan for every resident
  • Maintain the residents’ ability to do basic health basics, such as bathe and eat
  • Take measures to prevent against the development of bedsores
  • Provide all necessary treatments
  • Supervise residents and take measures to prevent accidents
  • Take measures to prevent against medication errors
  • Promote residents’ quality of life
  • Maintain records in regards to each resident

In addition to these federal requirements, Florida law Fla. Stat §400.022 imposes requirements on nursing homes to provide appropriate care and provides nursing home residents with rights including the rights to:

  • Be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness
  • Be free from any form of physical, mental, emotional, or financial abuse
  • Select a pharmacy and physician
  • Refuse suggested treatment and take part in health care planning
  • Receive written and oral information regarding medical and nursing services
  • Participate in various religious, social, and community activities
  • Maintain private communication, including uncensored personal mail
  • Make and receive private, unmonitored phone calls
  • Present grievances or recommendations without fear of repercussions

These laws are designed to protect nursing home residents and to provide a standard of care for nursing home residents across the state and country. When a nursing home fails to provide these standards of care, and a nursing home resident is injured, they may be entitled to file a civil suit to recover compensation for their injuries, and also as a means of holding nursing homes accountable for their actions.

Nursing Homes Obligations During a Natural Disaster

Recent events have demonstrated the sad reality that many nursing homes across the state are not prepared for natural disasters. Both federal and state laws impose requirements on nursing homes, mandating preparedness in the event of a natural disaster.

Under Florida’s State Emergency Management Act, nursing homes along with many other healthcare facilities are required to have a comprehensive emergency management plan in place in the event of a natural disaster Fla. Stat. § 395.1055. During a natural disaster, nursing homes are required to have plans in place that address:

  • Emergency evacuation transportation
  • Adequate sheltering arrangements
  • Post-disaster activities, including emergency power, food, and water
  • Post-disaster transportation supplies
  • Staffing
  • Emergency equipment
  • Individual identification of residents and transfer of records
  • How to respond to family inquiries

These plans are meant to provide clear insight as to how a nursing home will respond in the event of a natural disaster and are required to be prepared and updated annually. However, as recent events demonstrate, many nursing home facilities are unprepared for a natural disaster.

Nursing Home Negligence and Liability

When a nursing home fails to employ these standards, they may be liable for their actions and the resulting injuries. Those who have suffered an injury may be entitled to file a civil suit against their nursing home on the theory of negligence. Under this theory of liability, a nursing home may be held liable for injuries if a resident can prove the following:

  • The nursing home owed them a duty
  • The nursing home breached that duty of care
  • The nursing homes’ actions lead to an injury
  • A resident suffered some injury as a result

Consult with a West Palm Beach Nursing Home Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love has been injured during a natural disaster while under the care of a nursing home in West Palm Beach, contact a nursing home abuse and injury lawyer today.

A West Palm Beach nursing home injury lawyer understands the difficult times Florida residents and their families are going through at this time, however, they are committed to protecting nursing home residents from abuse and injury during a natural disaster.