The mistreatment of older adults is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and also one of the most complex ones. The senior population is set to explode by about 2050. So, if we do not deal with these problems now, they will get much worse in coming years.

More to the point for Warner Robins victims and their families, these cases are extremely complex. Abuse and neglect issues often have very deep roots. Many times, these roots are economic. Yet the abuse and neglect itself usually has nothing to do with money at all.

So, we designed this page to be an effective, one-stop resource just for Warner Robins families. Instead of spending lots of precious time looking for information all over the web, we tried to consolidate as much as possible here for you. That includes some in-depth answers to some frequently-asked questions as well as contact information for various government and private organizations.

Before we get started, we should define some key terms. Nursing home “neglect” is unintentional conduct that results in injury. That could be something like the bedsores which result from failing to turn over a resident in bed. Nursing home “abuse” is intentional conduct which results in injury. One examples is grabbing a resident and forcing the person out of a chair or into bed. Nursing home “negligence” is a legal term that encompasses both abuse and neglect.

At Schenk Smith, we routinely handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases in Houston County and other jurisdictions throughout Georgia. Read on to discover a little more about us and our approach to these matters.

When should I file a lawsuit?

Generally, the statute of limitations in a Georgia negligence case is two years. After that, the victim usually loses all rights to a legal claim, and it is almost impossible to reclaim these rights. Twenty-four months may sound like a long time. But the hours pass very quickly, largely because the pre-suit process is very complex.

At Schenk Smith, we usually do not rush to the courthouse and file a lawsuit immediately after your initial consultation ends. Such action would be reckless and irresponsible. Instead, we typically begin by collecting evidence in the case. In nursing home abuse and neglect matters, that evidence often includes:

  • Medical Records: As touched on below, medical records may be the most important bit of evidence in a Warner Robins nursing home negligence case. These documents provide a record of exactly what the staff at the nursing home did, and what the staff did not do. In most serious injury situations, the nursing home transfers the resident to a nearby hospital. So, those records are essential as well.
  • Witness Statements: Something almost mystical often happens in a courtroom when a disinterested witness takes the stand and testifies about nursing home abuse and neglect. Especially since the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof, the more witnesses the plaintiff has available, the better. Not everyone is a good witness in court, for various reasons.
  • Photographs: Most Houston County courtrooms contain high-definition monitors so the jury can clearly see pictures of things like physical wounds. In fact, most jurors expect to see such evidence. If it is not presented, they may think the plaintiff’s case is not very strong.
  • Duty Rosters and Maintenance Logs: Duty rosters are often important in nursing home abuse cases. Such a record can place a certain individual at a certain place at a certain time. Maintenance logs are sometimes key in nursing home neglect cases. These records can show that the nursing home knew about a dangerous property condition, such as a loose handrail, yet did not correct the problem.

The aforementioned burden of proof is usually a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). This is the lowest standard of evidence in Georgia law. However, juries often award compensation based on the strength of the victim/plaintiff’s case. So, the more evidence, the better.

We usually base a demand letter on this evidence. As the name implies, based on the medical and other evidence, this letter demands a sum of money in exchange for the settlement of the claim. It may seem odd to ask for money to compensate for something like pain and suffering or the loss of a life. But that’s the best and only remedy available. No one can turn back the clock.

Sometimes, the claim settles based on the letter. But typically, the case proceeds to court. Most cases settle out of court through negotiation, but the process is a lot more formal.

The bottom line is that you should reach out to us as soon as possible after you uncover nursing home abuse or neglect. We can quickly evaluate your claim and determine its legal merits. After we collect evidence, we’ll present a demand letter. If necessary, we will file suit and continue to fight aggressively for you.

Can the nursing home staff do jail time?

Yes, in some cases. That’s especially true with regard to elder abuse, which Georgia law views as a worse crime than elder neglect. In fact, we regularly refer some extreme cases to the appropriate government authorities.

Before we get too far, it’s important to note that a criminal action is no substitute for a civil action. The victim has almost no control over a criminal case. The prosecutor can pursue the matter or drop the charges basically at will. Furthermore, a criminal case gets justice for the victim, but no compensation. Your family deserves both, and a civil case can do both. Finally, the burden of proof is a lot higher in criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt) than civil cases (more likely than not). So, frankly, civil cases are easier to win.

Georgia’s primary elder protection law is O.C.G.A. 30-5-8. It is essentially a misdemeanor enhancement provision. It applies to:

  • Abuse,
  • Neglect, and
  • “Exploitation,” a term that usually means financial abuse.

We’ve already looked at abuse and neglect. Exploitation means things like stealing money from a resident’s room, using a scam to get money (e.g. “your grandson is in jail and needs bail money”), or tricking a person into signing financial documents.

The law applies to any resident of any nursing home in Warner Robins. It also applies to any adult over 65, Alzheimer’s patients, dementia patients, and any “mentally or physically incapacitated” individuals.

The primary assault and exploitation laws are located elsewhere, and these laws apply equally to everyone. Speaking generally, a serious injury is usually a felony. If the patient did not have to go to the hospital, the crime is probably a misdemeanor. Most theft (financial exploitation) cases, regardless of value, are also felonies. Resident neglect is almost always a misdemeanor.

Schenk Smith are Warner Robins nursing home lawyers

Most of the law firms that handle nursing home negligence cases in Georgia are general tort firms. They deal with all kinds of torts, such as dog bites, car crashes, shopping mall falls, and nursing home negligence. There is nothing wrong with that. All these victims deserve compensation and justice.

But at Schenk Smith, we believe there is a better way. We focus exclusively on nursing home abuse and neglect matters. We also want to share our knowledge with you, which is why we created this webpage.

There is a lot of information here, but it is only a fraction of what is available on the rest of our user-friendly website. If you are not sure where to begin, our video FAQ page is a good place to start. We’re quite sure that, once you get to know us better, you’ll want to work with us as we try to make the best of a very bad situation.

If you live near Wilkinson Lake, the Lockerly Arboretum, or the Museum of Aviation, we can come to you. We also do hospital visits.

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect in Warner Robins, Georgia – What you need to know.

Warner Robins, Georgia is in Houston County. It has a population of 73,265 residents. Of those, 10.3 percent are over 65. Nursing home abuse is just as common in communities like Warner Robins as it is in other parts of the state.

What are the symptoms of nursing home abuse?

Regardless of your relationship with the nursing home resident, there is almost no chance that the resident will tell you about nursing home abuse. Many residents rationalize abuse as “just an accident.” Others fear retaliation from the staff if they report abuse; still others simply do not want the abuser to “get into trouble.”

It’s also quite possible the resident does not know the abuse has occurred at all. Or, the resident may only recall bits and piece of the incident. That’s especially common if the resident suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, or if the resident was heavily medicated.

So, a resident’s loved ones, like yourself, must usually do a bit of detective work. Start with the physical signs of abuse. These include things like:

  • Broken glasses,
  • Bruises and other such injuries,
  • Unusual soreness,
  • Torn clothes, and
  • Signs of restraints, like rope burns on the wrists.

When they see such evidence, some people talk to their loved ones. But that may do little good. As mentioned earlier, most residents either cannot or will not report nursing home abuse. Moreover, if you see evidence like this, abuse is usually the only reasonable explanation. Some people talk to the nursing home staff, but that may not do much good either. Most likely, they will either be defensive or evasive. If the staff was truly on top of the situation, you would have already received a report.

Instead, a better idea may be to go straight to a lawyer. As outlined above, there are a lot of things that a lawyer can do outside of filing a lawsuit to protect your loved one. It’s usually best to let us do our job, so you can have peace of mind about your loved one’s safety.

We quickly start assembling additional evidence of abuse. We work with various private investigators and other professionals to expedite this process.

What injuries happen most often?

Many nursing home residents are physically frail. So, incidents which would not be of much concern to many adults often cause serious injury among the elderly. Some common injuries include:

  • Falls: Over half of the nursing home residents in Georgia fall every year, and most of these individuals are repeat fallers. Sensory perception degrades with age, and that includes the sense of balance. Furthermore, a slightly uneven surface or small wet spot is more dangerous than an obvious hazard. Older people can compensate for the latter, usually by walking around the danger, but the former often catches them off guard.
  • Infection: These injuries often come from bedsores. If the resident is turned in bed at least once every two hours, pressure ulcers almost never develop. If they do develop, they often go away on their own, if caught early enough. But serious infections often accompany advanced bedsores. In many cases, these infections are life-threatening.
  • Medication Errors: Most residents receive multiple doses of multiple medications per day. One momentary lapse while dispensing medications can have serious consequences, especially since some medicines interact very badly with other medicines. Both overmedication and undermedication is rather common in Warner Robins-area nursing homes.

Damages in nursing home injury cases usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Even if an individual failed to turn the resident over in bed or erroneously filed a pill bottle, the nursing home is usually liable for these damages. While the personal responsibility rests with the negligent actor, the legal responsibility rests with the employer, according to the respondeat superior rule. So, if your loved one was hurt at a Georgia nursing home, we must turn to the nursing home for compensation. The respondeat superior rule has three basic prongs:

  • Scope of Employment: Medication errors fall within the scope of employment. Correctly dispensing medication is something that nursing home employees are expected to do. Technically, any activity that benefits the employer in any way legally falls within the scope of employment.
  • Employee: Unpaid volunteers often assist residents with tasks like walks down the hall. If a resident falls on one of these walks, the nursing home is still legally responsible. A volunteer is not an “employee” in the ordinary sense of the word. But that person is an “employee” in this legal context. The employer controls the volunteer when it comes to things like work hours and job duties.
  • Foreseeability: Infection is a foreseeable result of neglect. However, a car crash in the ambulance on the way to the hospital is not a foreseeable result of neglect. The nursing home is legally responsible for the first, but not the second.

Slightly different rules apply if the nursing home facilities, and not an employee, caused the injury. Some examples include a fall due to a wet spot on the floor or elopement (leaving the facility unsupervised) because of a door without a lock. In these cases, the victim/plaintiff must establish the following:

  • Legal Duty: Nursing home residents are “invitees” under Georgia law. These individuals have express or implied permission to be on the land. And, their presence conveys an economic or noneconomic benefit on the owner. In these situations, the landowner has a duty of ordinary care.
  • Knowledge: The landowner must know about the dangerous property condition. This evidence can be direct, like a “smoking gun” maintenance report. The victim/plaintiff can also use circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known). Most Georgia courts use the time-notice rule in this area. In general, the longer the hazard existed, the more likely it was that the owner should have known about it.
  • Foreseeability: It is foreseeable that a certain nursing home residents may not be able to read, understand, and/or comprehend an “Under Construction” sign, possibly due to antipsychotic medications.

Other legal duty categories include licensees (permission but no benefit) and trespassers (no permission and no benefit).

What makes nursing home abuse so common?

There is an old saying that “money is the root of all evil.” That’s clearly not true in all cases, but it is mostly true in this context.

Most nursing homes in Warner Robins rely heavily on Medicaid funds. Economically, this environment is not the same today as it was fifteen or twenty years ago. Around the late 1990s and early 2000s, many states, including Georgia, made some substantial changes to their Medicaid programs. Because of budget cuts, Medicaid reimbursements dropped sharply in many cases.

There’s more. In many cases, Medicaid stopped reimbursing for each staff-patient contact. Instead, Medicaid began paying a flat fee per resident per day. So, around 1995, the nursing home made money every time a staff member visited a resident. Therefore, such contacts were frequent. But by 2015, the nursing home lost money with each such contact. So, such visits became few and far between.

While both these changes were earth-shattering, the declining reimbursement triggered more of a domino effect. With fewer dollars coming in per patient, many nursing home administrators tried to make up the difference with volume. As a result, lots of Georgia facilities became dangerously overcrowded. The Nursing Care Center Accreditation Program usually declares a facility “full” when it gets to about 85 percent capacity. Many Georgia nursing homes are at or above that level.

Many administrators also looked to cut expenses. When business owners trim costs, they often look to payroll first. As a result, many facilities are dangerously understaffed. That’s especially true on weekends and other low-census periods. Other facilities hired less-qualified and cheaper employees. For example, they may ask patient care technicians to perform services that Licensed Practical Nurses should legally perform.

My loved one was hurt in a Warner Robins nursing home – What do I do next?

As outlined above, there is a tight timetable when it comes to nursing home abuse and neglect in Warner Robins, Georgia. So, you must act quickly to protect your loved one’s rights.

First, report the incident to the appropriate Georgia authorities

The Georgia Department of Community Health’s Healthcare Facility Regulation investigates claims of nursing home abuse and neglect. This agency also regulates and certifies nursing homes in Perry, GA.

You can file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation online by clicking this link. Some additional contact information is:

Georgia Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation

2 Peachtree Street NW

Atlanta, GA 30303

Tel: (800) 878-6442

Fax: (404) 657-5731

You can file a complaint with the Georgia Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman online by clicking on this link. Here is some additional contact information:

Georgia Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Middle Ombudsman Program

239 NE Park Avenue, Suite C-1

Baxley, GA 31513

Tel: (912) 367-4866

Fax: (912) 367-3849

You may also report physical assault or abuse to local law enforcement

For abuse occurring in a Warner Robins, Georgia nursing home, report the crime to one of the offices below.

City of Warner Robins Police Department

100 Watson Blvd.

Warner Robins, GA 31093

Tel: (478) 302-5378

Houston County Sheriff’s Office

202 Carl Vinson Pkwy.

Warner Robins, GA 31088

Tel: (478) 542-2125

Houston County District Attorney

201 Perry Pkwy.

Perry, Georgia 31069

Tel: (478) 218-4810

Find another facility for your loved one

Where there is smoke there is usually fire. Although that saying does not hold up in court, it is a good rule of thumb for nursing home relocation. If you suspect any kind of abuse or neglect, that may just be the tip of the iceberg. For your loved one’s safety, and for your own peace of mind, an immediate move is probably a good idea. Not moving your loved one could lead to a lifetime of regret if something even more serious occurs. We certainly do not want that to happen.

So, we encourage you to explore alternative facilities. Click here to go to the Nursing Home Compare Website. This site has a very user-friendly layout and quickly delivers lots of basic information. To make things even easier, we have included some information about facilities located in or near Warner Robins, Georgia. That information is located below.

Get the medical records from the hospital and the nursing home

Medical records are one of the pillars of a nursing home abuse or neglect claim. Much like the photographs of a car crash scene, we can use medical records to accurately reconstruct the events which transpired at the nursing home. In addition, so long as they meet the technical requirements, these records are almost impossible to challenge in court.

Typically, if your loved one was seriously injured, the nursing home would probably transfer that person to a nearby hospital. So, it’s important to obtain these records as well. Much like nursing home documents, hospital records may not be easy to obtain, because of privacy laws. The closest hospitals to Warner Robins nursing homes are:

Houston Medical Center(478) 922-4281, and

Perry Hospital,  (478) 987-3600

Begin the probate process if your loved one has passed away

If your loved one passed away, the legal claim belongs to that person’s estate. To preserve that claim, you or someone you trust must be named the representative of your loved one’s estate. The probate court can engineer that change, whether or not your loved one had a will.

Click here for the Houston County Probate Court

Houston County Probate Court

(478) 218-4710

201 Perry Parkway

Perry, GA 31069

Nursing Homes in Warner Robins, Georgia

Moving your loved one to a local nursing home is usually the least disruptive alternative for everyone involved. Some possible destinations in the Warner Robins area include:

 

The Lodge,

(478) 293-4900

200 South Kimberly Road
Warner Robins, GA 31088

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)

Number of Beds: 106

Number of Residents: 77.5

RN hours per resident per day: 14min (GA Avg: 24 min)

Health Inspections Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)

Staff Rating: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)

Quality Measure Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)

Most Recent Health Inspection Date: 08-03-2017

Number of Health Citations: 2

Average Number of Health Citations in Georgia: 3.2

Number of Complaints in previous 3 years resulting citation: 2

Federal fines in previous 3 years: 0

Warner Robins Rehabilitation Center

(478) 922-2241

1601 Elberta Road
Warner Robins, GA 31088

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 (Much Below Average)

Number of Beds: 126

Number of Residents: 112.4

RN hours per resident per day: 26min (GA Avg: 24 min)

Health Inspections Rating: 1 out of 5 (Much Below Average)

Staff Rating: 3 out of 5 (Average)

Quality Measure Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)

Most Recent Health Inspection Date: 10-26-2017

Number of Health Citations: 8

Average Number of Health Citations in Georgia: 3.2

Number of Complaints in previous 3 years resulting citation: 4

Federal fines in previous 3 years: 0

Elberta Health Care

(478) 923-3146

419 Elberta Road
Warner Robins, GA 31093

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)

Number of Beds: 66

Number of Residents: 54.7

RN hours per resident per day: Not Available (GA Avg: 24 min)

Health Inspections Rating: 4 out of 5 (Above Average)

Staff Rating: Not Available

Quality Measure Rating: 3 out of 5 (Average)

Most Recent Health Inspection Date: 08-24-2017

Number of Health Citations: 1

Average Number of Health Citations in Georgia: 3.2

Number of Complaints in previous 3 years resulting citation: 2

Federal fines in previous 3 years: 0

Why Choose Schenk Smith as your Nursing Home Lawyers?

In negligence cases, there is simply no substitute for experience. Seasoned lawyers know how to collect evidence in a case, which legal theories to apply, what procedures to follow, and what defenses to be ready for. Your legal claim is not the place for on-the-job training.

At Schenk Smith, we have that experience. Our knowledge is not limited to negligence cases in general. Since we focus exclusively on nursing home abuse and neglect cases, we have developed proven methods over the years. That background, along with our commitment to fight for you, often produces results which exceed our client’s expectations.

Warner Robins Nursing Home Abuse lawyers

We’ve also reached a level of excellence that few other nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers attain. A prestigious industry group recently named Rob Schenk as one of the top nursing home negligence attorneys in Georgia. We want to do our part to end nursing home abuse and neglect in Georgia, and we want your case to be a part of that effort. Call us at Schenk Smith (678) 823-7678 for a free consultation.