How to Get Punitive Damages in Florida Nursing Home Negligence and Personal Injury Cases

There are many different kinds of personal injury cases in Florida; the most common are car accidents and truck accidents, instances of medical malpractice, slip and fall incidents, and wrongful death claims. Lawsuits are filed every day by injured people and their families against other individuals, insurance companies, corporations, hospitals, and nursing homes. The majority of the claims seek monetary awards called “damages” to reimburse claimants for past medical expenses, lost earnings, and payment for physical and emotional pain and suffering. These kinds of damages are called “compensatory” under the law because they are designed to compensate injured victims. Compensatory damages are difficult to prove and are hotly contested in every case. Even so, they are far easier to obtain than Punitive Damages, which differ from compensatory damages because they are designed not to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant for wrongful conduct. In order to claim Punitive Damages, a plaintiff must show evidence of the defendant’s intentional misconduct or conscious gross negligence. Most corporate defendants, like auto insurance companies and hospitals, are less concerned with the amount of punitive damages they may have to pay than the invasive nature of the discovery of their financial data that would be conducted if Punitive Damages were allowed. For example, in a recent case against an assisted living facility (ALF) called Atria Evergreen Woods, the Personal Representative of Donald Devore, a patient who died in the facility, sought to obtain punitive damages against the ALF for its alleged wrongful conduct. Mr. Devore had been found unresponsive in the ALF’s hot tub during scheduled, supervised, pool activity time. A nurse...

AHCA Too Late in Protecting The Abused at a Miami Assisted Living Facility (ALF)

In Florida the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is a statutorily created administrative agency that serves as the chief health policy and planning entity for the state by regulating over 41,000 health care facilities and administering its $21.2 billion Medicaid program. Elizabeth Dudek is the head of AHCA, and she and her organization oversee everything from background checks of nurses to the licensing and inspection of hospitals. ARVE Error: no video ID set Assisted Living Facilities are designed to provide people who need help and cannot live alone with personal services and nursing care in a home-like setting. ALFs in Florida range in size from a single residence, where one person literally lives in a room in a home, to apartment-like complexes that house hundreds of residents. The state requires each facility, regardless of how many residents it holds, to be licensed to provide either a minimum “standard” of care, or elevated and specific “specialized” care. The goal of the “Specialty Licenses” is to allow individuals to “age in place” in a familiar setting and still receive appropriate care as their needs change and increase. Healthcare facilities in each of Florida’s 67 counties are divided into eleven regions that are managed by eight Field Offices; for instance, Miami-Dade County is in Region 11, and Arlene Mayo-Davis serves as Miami’s AHCA Field Office Manager. MIAMI ALF PERMANENTLY SHUT DOWN On February 27, 2012, AHCA inspectors received a complaint that an elderly resident was being abused at Miami’s San Martin de Porras ALF, a 12-bed facility located at 840 NW 15th Street and operated by Maritza Huaitlalla. When inspectors entered...

Looking For a Safe Florida Nursing Home? There’s An App For That.

There are over 15,000 nursing homes in the United States. Nursing home inspectors across the country find deficiencies and elder abuse every day. As a Miami nursing home injury lawyer, I recommend researching the home first to determine if it is safe and clean. Here are four ways to select the best Florida nursing home: 1. AHCA Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is responsible for licensing, regulating and inspecting Florida’s nursing homes, hospices and hospitals. The AHCA website is a good place for consumers to compare the overall ratings, health inspections, staffing and quality measures of Florida nursing homes. The site also rates the severity of the each deficiency. For instance the Villa Maria Nursing Center in North Miami was last inspected on August 5, 2011. Observations and deficiencies can be found in the Department of Health and Human Services Summary Statement ranging from moving residents without notice, missing bathroom tiles, wet blankets and finding residents injured on the floor. 2. CMS The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) posts the entire narrative inspection reports on line. AHCA has a link to the CMS site, but the problem is that neither site allows keyword searches by city, facility name or injury. For instance, if you wanted to compare nursing homes in different states, you would have to go to both websites and pull the inspection reports, deficiencies and complaints. This is burdensome and time consuming. 3. Nursing Home Inspect The Nursing Home Inspect App makes finding a safe and clean nursing home for your parent or injured loved one easier. Their App provides all the information...

Why Can’t Hospitals Stop Bedsores?

As a Miami lawyer who sues hospitals , I believe that the most easily avoidable medical mistake is allowing a patient to develop a bedsore. Pressure ulcers or bed sores have been a longstanding challenge for health-care providers and a serious potentially life threatening injury for patients. Bedsores are tiny ulcers that occur to skin and the underlying tissue caused by pressure or friction. Bedsores are also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores. According to the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, nearly 1 million people develop pressure ulcers every year while under the care of a hospital or nursing home. Bedsores can escalate a patients decline and interfere with recovery from accidents and surgery. Nearly 60,000 Americans die every year from bed sore related complications. Each year bedsores end up costing patients extended hospitalization, wound care and medication over $1.3 billion. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) do not reimburse hospital for the care and treatment of bedsores that develop under their care. That is because under all but the most extreme situation bedsores are completely preventable by the use of specialized mattresses, seat cushions and other specifically designed products. Not all hospitals and nursing homes are up to the task. Miami’s Palmetto General Hospital has been found deficient by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration several times so far in 2012. The latest on June 25, 2012 involved complaints that the hospital’s nursing staff did not develop a plan for ensuring a patients sacral pressure ulcer did not get worse as well as preventative measures. The Agency reviewed the patients records after she was admitted having...

Noisy Hospital Rooms Do More Than Keep Patients From a Good Night Sleep

Anyone who has ever spent a night in a hospital, nursing home or rehab facility as an admitted patient knows that it is the last place on earth to get a good night’s sleep. Monitors and alarms sound-off at all hours; as well as the occasional screaming patient. Nurses often wake patients up in the middle of the night or during naps for non-urgent, routine blood draws or to take vital signs that could easily be postponed a few hours in favor of allowing the patient to get more sleep. A World Health Organization (WHO) study shows the noise range in the average hospital can be as high as 67 dB in intensive care unit down to to 42 dB in surgical wards. WHO’s official recommendation is that noise should not exceed 30 dB for patient rooms. Everyone agrees that sleep is essential for recovery and well being. Now it is time that hospitals start doing something about it. Dr. Orfeu Bruxton, a Harvard Medical School professor of sleep medicine, recently published a study in the The Annals of Internal Medicine that posed some serious solutions. He found sounds during sleep influence both brain and cardiovascular functions. He encourages hospitals to improve their acoustic environments in order to provided the highest quality of medical care. Not surprisingly, companies that make medical devices have begun developing sleep friendly products. These new products are designed to change the way alarms and nursing call systems work in hospitals. The goal is to utilize wireless technology that will send warnings directly to the nurse or doctor responsible for the patient rather than disturb...

How Much is My Medical Malpractice Case Worth?

As a Broward County medmal attorney, I do not agree with a recent report indicating that researchers from Harvard, University of Southern Californian and the Rand Corporation, finding that doctors who specialize in areas considered “low-risk” like pediatricians and psychiatrist are less likely to get sued in comparison with “high-risk” specialties like surgeons, particularly neurosurgeons. . According to the report, over 19% of neurosurgeons face medical negligence lawsuits yearly. The report outlines the following ten medical specialties as those most likely to be sued: 1. Neurosurgeons 2. Thoracic-cardiovascular surgeons 3. General surgeons 4. Orthopedic surgeons 5. Plastic surgeons 6. Gastroenterologist 7. Ob-Gyn 8. Urologolist 9. Pulmonologist 10. Oncologolist Dermatologists, pathologists, nephrologists, ophthalmologists, diagnostic radiologists, anesthesiologists and emergency medicine doctors were ranked the least likely to get sued. The study found that gynecologists, not obstetricians, were the most likely to settle out of court yet are only the 12th most likely to be sued by a patient in the first place. Conversely neurosurgeons, the most likely to be sued, are also most likely to have to pay a malpractice claim with an average payment of $344,811. The average claim paid by pediatricians is $520,924, and for pathologists, $383,509. Many injured patients imagine their claim to be worth over $1million dollars. Surprisingly, the study revealed only 66 cases where verdicts or payments exceeded that amount. What the study seems to not reflect is the reality of the cost in bringing a medical malpractice claim to court. The up-front cost of obtaining records, experts and preparing a case for trial can be in excess of $100,000. Most states, including Florida, have caps...
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