Granny Cams and Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect

As the nursing home population expands and coronavirus restrictions make it more difficult to visit their loved ones, more people are relying on “granny cams,” which are hidden surveillance cameras, to keep tabs on their loved ones. Assault prevention is high on the list of specific reasons family members install these cameras.

The pros of using a hidden surveillance camera are rather obvious. In both a court of law and the court of public opinion, a picture is frequently worth a thousand words. On the other side of the coin, surveillance cameras often lower employee morale, and at many long-term care facilities, employee morale is already very low. 

Legally, Lexington is a single-party recording jurisdiction. One party to a video or audio recording must give his/her permission to record the exchange (i.e. “I give myself permission to record this call”). However, many individual facilities have rules which restrict or prohibit such activity.

Surveillance camera footage sometimes provides effective evidence of nursing home abuse. However, only an experienced Lexington personal injury attorney can properly use this evidence in court. Additinally, as outlined below, the type of physical abuse often affects the applicable legal theory in the case.

Staff-on-Resident Assault

Employees almost never maliciously assault long-term care facility residents. But these assaults are almost intentional, which in this context means non-accidental. 

Understaffing is often at the root of these problems. As many as 90 percent of Kentucky nursing homes are understaffed. As a result, one person often must do the jobs that two or three people should perform. The resulting low morale and stress contribute to a high turnover rate, which exacerbates understaffing, and the cycle continues.

Additionally, many staff-on-resident assaults are not what most people would consider violent. But most nursing home residents are so physically frail that a slight amount of force, like a subtle push or shove, could cause a serious injury.

These injuries are not just physical. Abuse of trust injuries, like physical assualts, usually cause significant emotional wounds as well. Frequently, the physcial injuries, even though they are serious, heal earlier and more completely than the emotional wounds.

The company which owns the nursing home is usually responsible for damages in these situations. Common theories include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Negligent hiring is basically hiring an employee whom the owner knows, or should know, is incompetent. Common scenarios include hiring underqualified workers and failing to perform sufficient background checks. Especially in understaffed environments, desperate owners often hire underqualified workers. For example, a licensed vocational nurse might do a job that a registered nurse should do. Many employers also fail to check references or prior employers.

A prior criminal record might or might not be evidence of incompetence. Usually, the prior conviction must be closely related to the physical assault or other tort.

Negligent supervision is basically failing to monitor employees or failing to take proper corrective action when they step ot of line. Once again, these problems are quite common in understafefd nursing homes.

Resident-on-Resident Assault

In many ways, these incidents are identical to staff-on-resident assaults. Surveillance cameras could capture evidence in these cases, and a physical injury is a physical injury, no matter who inflicts it.

However, they are different from a legal perspective, especially in terms of nursing home owner responsibility. Negligence, as opposed to an intentional tort, causes these injuries. You probably saw this coming, but understaffing is usually at the root of this negligence.

Many older adults are a lot like children, especially from an emotional perspective. A petty dispute over something like the TV channel in a common area could become violent. That’s especially true if a nursing home worker is not there to mediate the dispute.

So, the respondeat superior rule often applies. Employers are legally responsible for damages if their employees are negligent during the scope of their employment. In most cases, even people like unpaid nursing home volunteers are employees in this context.

Damages in an assault injury claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money. #goodelawyers