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Standard of Care

Standard of care is defined as the degree of care or competence that one is expected to exercise in a particular circumstance or role. It is a term that is used to determine a negligent act in tort cases, such as personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability cases. In nursing home abuse cases, the term standard of care would define the conditions and treatment that any reasonable physician, nurse, or staff member of a nursing home facility would be expected to provide under the circumstances of an elderly, injured, or ill resident. Negligence would be determined by evaluating whether the specific facility or staff in the given case acted as others would in the same situation.

Standard of Care at Nursing Facilities

Not all nursing facilities are legally defined as medical facilities. However, federal and state reforms have developed an expected standard of care for the elderly and/or disabled residents of nursing facilities. Some of these expectations include:

  • the requirement that nursing facilities have qualified and professional staff, including at least one physician, one registered nurse, and enough staff members in order to provide quality care for each of the residents
  • access to nutritious meals, snacks, and drinking water for all residents
  • a comprehensive care plan that is created for each resident, in which residents and their loved ones have the right to be included in the formulation of these plans
  • nursing facilities must ensure that residents have access to necessary services to maintain good nutrition, grooming, and personal and oral hygiene
  • nursing facilities must ensure that residents have access to medical care and therapy and that residents are free of any medication errors
  • residents have the right to choose activities, schedules, and health care
  • residents must be provided with exercise and social activities
  • nursing facilities must maintain accurate, complete, and accessible clinical records on each resident
  • nursing facilities must do what is possible to prevent bed sores, and if bed sores exist, the facility must provide proper treatment and services to promote healing and prevent infection or the occurrence of new sores
  • nursing facilities must prevent abuse of residents by other residents or staff
  • if abuse occurs, it must be documented, and management must properly investigate and deal with the situation that led to the abuse or neglect
  • nursing facilities must care for residents in a manner that maintains or promotes the resident’s quality of life

Using Standard of Care to Prove Negligence

In personal injury, nursing home abuse, or medical malpractice cases, proving negligence often involves the testimony of expert witnesses, generally from the medical community, to discuss what a reasonable professional in the same circumstance would have done. This would be part of the second element in proving a negligence case. The five elements of negligence are as follows.

  1. Duty: determining that the defendant owed a duty to the claimant. For example, nursing facilities owe their residents care that maintains or promotes their quality of life.
  2. Breach of Duty: determining that the defendant failed to act in a manner consistent with how others in the same circumstance would act (standard of care). For example, the nursing facility failed to prevent bed sores, which caused the resident to contract an infection.
  3. Cause in Fact: proof that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
  4. Proximate Cause: determining whether the plaintiff had any responsibility in his or her own injuries.
  5. Damages: proving that the actions of the defendant led to actual damages to an individual to whom they owed a duty of care.

If you or your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at a nursing facility, you may be eligible to recover compensation. Call to schedule your free consultation at 1-800-516-4783.


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