Can legal action be pursued on a home health care agency?

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If one of their caregivers drops a paralyzed client that results in a broken hip? The on-duty caregiver was on her first night shift in this home. She dropped the client during a transfer from wheelchair to bed. The client is left-side paralyzed from a stroke a few years ago and also suffers moderate dementia. He landed hard on the floor in extreme pain. Ambulance was called and was admitted to hospital. Diagnosis: broken hip. Caregiver accompanied client to hospital, but for the duration only sat involved with her cell phone until released to leave her shift. Surely there is some legal recourse to make this agency pay the medical bills and rehab for this injury which would not have happened otherwise? Thoughts?

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CIndy - GardenArtist has brought up a very valid point "people do need the leverage an atty can offer". Having legal can be pretty priceless to make something happen. But before you call one, please PLEASE review the contract. Most NH contracts are done so that any issues have to be resolved by arbitration rather than a traditional lawsuit. I'd bet that home health agencies do the same. If so, arbitration is big butt difference for consumer success and because of that often atty's will not take on an arbitration litigation case.

But I'd bet that if you took an action againsint the home health company - whether traditional lawsuit or arbitration - that in the discovery phase there will be other clients who have been affected by mismanagement or misrepresentation or whatever else is found. Which your atty can also do work for. Now that could have a much larger settlement for your legal if the home health has assets or has a decent business liability & errors/omissions insurance.

I'd also suggest you do a bit of a drill down via Google on the home health agency - like go to Sec of State website for business registration which gives info on the companies structure to find out the corporate names and then do a search on those as well….kinda to find out what their pockets are and also if it's a web of companies, LLC's, S corps, etc which will mean lots more legal to wade through.
If their agent is an atty or law firm, then google them to see what type of law they do & who else they represent as an agent. All this will give you a way to get a feel as to your success in lawsuit. I'd bet you can put on your Nancy Drew hat and get this done in a long weekend! Good luck.
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Just to clarify, I don't necessarily agree that attorneys complicate matters; in fact, they can be problem solvers in many situations, such as this one. You would get practical advice on what your chances are of recovery and wouldn't waste time, money or emotions if an attorney(s) advises that you don't have a cause of action.

However, an attorney can ease the way for out of court solutions. Sometimes people do need the leverage an attorney can offer.
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Cindy, aren't your FIL's medical expenses covered by Medicare?
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"Caring for the elderly is very difficult." You said it all. Freqflyer....your point about if a family member doing the caregiving is appreciated, however, this situation does not allow for that. The situation is far beyond the scope of what a "family" member could provide, thus why a home health agency was hired to provide trained, professional caregivers. So I feel it's a moot point. Also, you mention, was she left alone to make her own decisions? No. The client's wife also lives in the home and is always present to make sure instructions are clear and followed. As for being on her phone.....What was she supposed to do? Well, it might have been nice if she had acted like she cared or even tried to comfort his wife! She certainly wasn't "caregiving".

GardenArtist: Yes, attorneys complicate matters. But is that what it will take in order to get the company to provide payment (through their insurance) for all the incurred expenses? The geographical area is AZ, and there is very little, if any, government regulation of the home health care industry there. Practically anyone can hang a sign and open business as "home health care" out there.

For full disclosure, I am a family member (out of state), but have been VERY involved in care for them for over 4 years. They have no other family in the area who can offer help in any meaningful way. I am their daughter-in-law. I have been over-seeing their care and working closely with home health care agencies over the duration to see that they have caregivers on site 24/7. The client, my FIL, suffered a debilitating stroke over 4 years ago. He was also already showing signs of moderate dementia at that time. The stroke left him completely paralyzed on his left side. My MIL is not able to care for him completely on her own, and must have physical help in the home around the clock. My FIL, still having the use of the right side of his body was able to assist in his own transfers (from wheelchair to toilet, bed, car, etc) but does require help in rising and pivoting to make sure he lands where intended.

Yes, this agency knew his condition when they provided a proposal for his care. They came to the house and conducted their profile interview and was fully aware of the situation. Told us (yes, I was present for this interview) they hired only CNAs or higher and would have no problems in supplying the type of care we spelled out was required. (Of course, in subsequent weeks, it became apparent that they were really struggling to keep enough caregivers for the number of clients they kept accepting, and hardly any of them were CNA certified.) *All home health care agencies are hungry for $$$ and will say (market) anything to you to get the agreement, and then hope they can scrape by.

No, the wheelchair does not have removable arms, only legs. However, the caregiver and agency were also aware of his. Slide board and also gait belt are available in the home.

I'm assuming this agency is not going to step up and offer to pay for the medical bills / rehab through their insurance for these medical bills. Just wondering if an attorney will be needed to set this in motion? A broken hip is pretty serious.
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When MIL lost the left side, the NH used two aides and a Hoyer lift to move her. Maybe it is time to do that.
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Cindy, there are a lot of complicated issues involved with an attorney making a decision to sue, including what damage the patient sustained, whether or not it's temporary or permanent, the patient's age, longevity, etc.

It also turns on what the standard of care in that geographic area would be for a patient with similar medical conditions.

Other important issues would be whether or not the caregiver knew the patient had some paralysis, whether or not the agency trained her, etc.

A question that arises for me is the feasibility of transferring a patient with partial paralysis w/o assistance from another caregiver, or another person.

Another question is whether or not the wheelchair had removable arms and whether the family provided the caregiver with a slide board to make transferring easier, and safer.

Somewhat related questions are what your role is in this situation, and whether or not you have any standing to take action. You don't write from the perspective of a sibling or family member, but rather as an observer. Were you there when this incident occurred? If so, what was your role? Where are the family members? Does this patient live alone?
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Caring for the elderly is very difficult, whether it is being done by a family member or through a health care agency. If the client was being cared for by a family member and this happened even if the family member was familiar with transferring, would the rest of the family sue that family member? That is something to think about.

You can still question this with an attorney, as one would assume a correctly paired caregiver would know what to do. Was anyone from the family at the home since this was her first night with the client, to give instructions? Or was she left to make decisions on her own. Usually licensed professional agencies are insured.

As for the caregiver being on her phone while sitting in the hospital waiting for her shift to end, what could she have done? She's not an employee of the hospital. She probably was in contact with the agency explaining the situation, and such calls would be going back and forth.
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