New Jersey’s 65+ age group is one of the state’s fastest growing demographics, its population increasing 31.5% between 2010-2021. With a rising elderly demographic, nursing home abuse in New Jersey must be addressed before it’s too late.
Federal officials recently identified many regulatory violations at the 20 New Jersey nursing homes they visited last year. The audit identified more than 360 violations at the facilities between March and May of 2022.
If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a New Jersey nursing home, it’s time to speak with a nursing home neglect attorney. Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering. If you live in or near Newark, Trenton, or the New York City metro area, it is time to take action.
New Jersey Nursing Home Resident Rights
All nursing home residents in the United States have defined rights and protections every facility must follow. New Jersey nursing home laws detail the following rights residents and patients are entitled to. These include the right to:
- Be treated with dignity and respect.
- Choosing the right physician for you
- Obtaining information about your medical diagnosis, and participating in your own care.
- Receiving adequate care that enhances your quality of life, free from humiliation, harassment, or threats.
- Be free from physical, sexual, mental, verbal abuse, and financial exploitation
Types of Nursing Home Abuse in New Jersey
Any action violating a nursing home resident’s rights is abuse, and several types of harm may exist in a facility. The things nursing homes aren’t allowed to do are well documented, but residents may not report due to fear or lack of information. If you’re unsure about whether your case constitutes abuse, don’t be afraid to talk to an attorney.
“Abuse” means the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation of services which are necessary to maintain a person’s physical and mental health.
If you feel a vulnerable adult is subject to nursing home abuse, you can report the situation to the police, who may then notify Adult Protective Services, per N.J. Stat. § 52:27D-409. You’re immune from criminal liability when reporting abuse, and your employer cannot retaliate against you when presenting your claim.
Keep in mind the following forms of abuse when collecting evidence for your claim.
When a nursing home resident suffers intentional bodily harm from a healthcare provider or aid, they suffer from nursing home physical abuse. Caretakers don’t need to make contact with your loved one to physically abuse them. They may purposely confine them in harmful ways to inflict damage to their physical health.
Examples of physical abuse include:
- Physical assault
- Intense confinement
- Bone fractures
- Soft tissue swelling
Evidence of physical abuse may include medical records, eyewitness accounts, or testimonies from the resident themselves. Physical abuse is unacceptable in a nursing home, and taking legal action may prevent further harm from happening to other vulnerable adults.
Nursing home emotional abuse is any behavior or talk intended to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Residents may refrain from opening up about emotional abuse in their facility, but there are clear signs, indicating harm.
Some examples of nursing home emotional abuse include:
- Verbal harassment
- Isolation from other residents
- Psychological manipulation
- Repeated threats of harm
Financial exploitation is a form of nursing home abuse that focuses on stealing or manipulating funds from nursing home residents.
Examples of nursing home financial abuse include:
- Financial transfers
- Transferring ownership of wills
- Changing banking information like debit or credit cards
- Control of a patient’s accounts
This type of abuse refers to subjecting residents to sexual conduct or contact classified as a crime, and cases have occurred where residents’ medical conditions raise the chances of them to be taken advantage of.
Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted sexual touching, penetration, or verbiage
- Taking or distributing sexual photos without consent
- Manipulation to perform sexual acts
- Forced nudity
- Lack of privacy
Early Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Being aware of the red flags of abuse is the best way to take care of your loved one. When suspecting physical nursing home abuse in New Jersey, look for:
- Unexplained loss of mobility
- Repeated ER visits
- Unexplained injuries
Emotional abuse is more subtle and leaves no direct physical injuries, but there are signs this type of behavior is happening:
- Emotional withdrawal
- Less eye contact than normal when loved ones visit
- Being unwilling to speak freely or answer questions
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Emotional distress when left alone
Financial abuse is just as subtle, but requires great care when initiating the conversation with your loved one. Spotting the warning signs is crucial to stopping further extortion and theft before it’s too late. Make sure your loved one isn’t experiencing the following signs of financial exploitation:
- A lack of access to the resident’s finances
- Unexplained transfer of assets or money to another person
- Unexpected changes to a resident’s banking info
- Abrupt changes to their will or other financial assets
- Recent reluctance to talk about financial matters
- Sudden loss of personal belongings
- Balance statements with transfers to another caregiver
Your loved one may feel shame in revealing how much they’ve been abused on a daily basis by their supposed caregivers. Make sure they feel safe when disclosing such personal information to you. Find an attorney who can work with your loved one while making them feel relaxed throughout the legal process.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in New Jersey
Your first priority should be ensuring your loved one’s safety. Whether that means involving the police or notifying APS, do whatever is needed to stop further harm to your loved one.
The Adult Protective Services Agency (APS) maintains offices in every state. Find the office in your county to report suspicious activity so they can investigate. APS will analyze your complaint and take necessary action to ensure the safety of residents at the home.
New Jersey Ombudsman
The New Jersey Office of Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly (OOIE) is dedicated to protecting the rights of residents aged 60 and older who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities in New Jersey. You can report abuse by:
- Phone: 1-877-582-6995;
- Mail: The Office of the Ombudsman, P.O. Box 852, Trenton, NJ 08625-0852
IMPORTANT: An in-person assessment happens within 72 hours of a complaint being lodged. Criminal charges can be filed based upon these investigations.
New Jersey Department of Public Health
The New Jersey Department of Health does on-site inspections of nursing homes every six to 15 months with specialized teams of professionals. They also respond to complaints, which you can file against your nursing home online or by calling the complaint hotline available 24/7: 1-800-792-9770.
Proving Nursing Home Abuse in New Jersey
To prove your nursing home abuse claim, have documentation and a written record of everything that occurred leading up to your action making the claim AND during the complaint process.
- Take photos of relevant injuries or rundown facilities
- Keep notes regarding the date when you first suspected nursing home neglect or abuse
- Note every nursing home administrator, official, and employee with whom you spoke about abuse or neglect
- Write down every action taken by the nursing home to remedy the problem
- Collect and maintain your medical records
Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
There are two types of damages you can file for in a nursing home abuse claim:
- Compensatory damages
- Punitive damages
Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages, meaning they are direct monetary compensation for harm, injury, or expenses incurred by the liable defendant(s).
Compensatory damages are not capped in New Jersey, so your settlement can go for thousands or may reach over $1 million for only the most severe cases of nursing home abuse.
Economic damages: Measurable expenses suffered due to abuse or neglect. These expenses may include:
- Medical care
- Relocation costs
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment
Non-economic damages are the non-measurable expenses from abuse. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages are designed to punish fraud, malice, or wanton conduct. In New Jersey, punitive damages are limited to $350,000, or five times the amount of compensatory damages.
New Jersey Statute of Limitations
Any legal action against a healthcare provider in the state of New Jersey must be filed within two years of the abuse or neglect.
If the case involves a wrongful death, NJ Stat. Ann. § 2A:31-3 applies, extending the timer to within two years of the date of death.
Find a New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse Attorney with LegalASAP
Nursing home abuse attorneys typically work under contingency fees. This means your family won’t have to pay them until your loved one’s settlement arrives. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and secure your family a much higher settlement than if you represent yourself.
Not sure how to locate an attorney to represent your New Jersey nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate in New Jersey.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.