A number of Florida nursing home statutes exist to regulate the services, care, and well-being of nursing home residents across the state. These varying regulations and laws are enforced and regulated by state agencies such as the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Elder Affairs. Florida nursing home laws aim to promote elder health and reduce instances of elder abuse. For residents and family members who wish to file nursing home abuse claims, protocols such as the statute of limitations exist.
Florida Statute 400.022 states that nursing home residents are entitled to a basic set of rights. A number of nursing home abuses lawsuits arise due to violations of these resident rights by nursing home staff members. It is important for nursing home residents and their family members to be educated and aware of these rights to ensure that residents do not become victims of nursing home abuse. In the event that nursing home abuse is suspected, educated individuals can take the appropriate legal action.
Among other rights, Florida nursing home statutes entitle residents with the right to:
- Be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness
- Be free from any form of physical, mental, emotional, or financial abuse
- Receive necessary services to maintain and preserve health and well-being
- Select a pharmacy and physician within reason
- 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
Civil Enforcement for Nursing Home Residents
Florida Statute 400.023 discusses the rights of nursing home residents to pursue civil action when their legal rights are violated. In the event that nursing home abuse and violation of rights caused the death of a nursing home resident, the resident’s family is entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim. In a lawsuit, the party filing the claim is referred to as the plaintiff. The party against which the claim is filed is referred to as the defendant.
Florida nursing home statutes state that lawsuit plaintiffs must establish the following:
- The defendant owed a certain duty to the nursing home resident
- The defendant breached, or violated, this owed legal duty
- As a result of the breach of duty, the resident suffered loss, injury, damage, or death
Florida Statute of Limitations
Florida Statute 429.296 sets the statute of limitations for nursing home abuse lawsuits in Florida. A statute of limitations sets limits for the amount of time after a harmful incident occurs that an individual may file a lawsuit against the harming party. In cases of nursing home abuse, the statute of limitations outlines the maximum amount of time that passes before a nursing home abuse victim’s case is legally nullified.
The Florida statute of limitations on nursing home abuse states that victims have a standard time window of two years to file a lawsuit. In some cases, the statute of limitations may be extended. This occurs in cases where intentional misrepresentation or fraudulent concealment prevents victims and their families from discovering a wrongful incident. When this occurs, the statute of limitations typically extends to four years. In no event can the statute of limitations be extended past six years.
The statute of limitations begins at one of three scenarios:
- When the harmful incident occurred
- When the victim or the victim’s representatives learned that an existing injury was caused by a specific incident
- When the victim or the victim’s family should have reasonably been aware that a specific incident was the cause of the victim’s injury
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse in Florida
Due to the statute of limitations, those who suspect nursing home abuse should act immediately. If the resident is in immediate danger, steps should be taken to remove the resident from the facility as soon as possible. To report nursing home abuse, residents and their family members can call the Florida Abuse Hotline provided by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs works in conjunction with Adult Protective Services, the Aging Network, and the Department of Children and Families to ensure elder safety and well-being.
“400.023: Civil enforcement.” The Florida Senate. State of Florida. Web. 28 Sep 2013. <http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/400.023>.
Manos, Tom J. “Florida’s Nursing Home Reform and its Anticipated Effect on Litigation.” Florida Bar Journal. 75.11 (2001): n. page. Web. 28 Sep. 2013. <http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/JNJournal01.nsf/128c8017467c98d385256ad20044c99b/267bbbb49d7e7f4985256b0b0056e7f5?OpenDocument>.
“Report Elder Abuse.” Department of Elder Affairs. State of Florida. Web. 28 Sep 2013. <http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/report_abuse.php>.