Between 2010 and 2021, the Evergreen state of Washington saw its population rise nearly 15%. Between 2010 and 2021, Washington State’s 65+ age group increased 50.5%. With a rising elderly demographic, nursing home abuse in Washington State may become more common due to understaffing.
According to the Seattle Times, 1,100 nursing jobs were posted per month for nursing home facilities in 2022. At the same time, 16% of the state’s population is 75 and older; in seven years it will be 20%.
If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a Washington State nursing home, speak with a nursing home attorney. Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering. If you live in or near Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Spokane, or any other part of Washington State, it’s time to take action.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Washington
Certain healthcare workers are required by Washington nursing home laws and regulations to report any signs of abuse. Mandatory reporters include:
- Employees of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
- Law enforcement officers
- Social workers
- Employees of a social service, welfare, mental health, home care, hospice, home health, adult day care or adult day health agency
- Owners or employees of nursing homes, boarding homes or adult family homes
Concerned individuals may report abuse as well through Washington’s dedicated channels. There is also a hotline: 1-866-ENDHARM. If you believe your loved one is in danger or it is an urgent situation, call 911 immediately.
You will be asked to give the person’s name, address, contact information and details about why you are concerned. You will also be asked for your name and number or some way of contacting you if the investigator has follow-up questions.
Unless there is a court action or law enforcement is involved, your identity is confidential unless given permission by you.
IMPORTANT: Because many nursing home abuse cases can result in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, contact an attorney at this time as well.
Other options for reporting include:
- Calling Adult Protective Services at 1-877-734-6277
- The DSHS Complaint Resolution Unit at 800-562-6078
- Contacting the Washington State Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman at 800-562-6028
IMPORTANT: It’s best to contact an LTC ombudsman according to the county in which the nursing home is located.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse in Washington
Nursing home abuse generally falls under the following categories, each ranging in severity depending on your case. If you’d like to review the relevant Washington State nursing home laws, click here.
According to the WAC 388-97-08010:
“The resident has the right to reside and receive services in the facility with reasonable accommodation of individual needs and preferences, except when the health or safety of the individual or other residents would be endangered.”
Make sure to consult with a nursing home abuse attorney to find out which type of abuse applies to your case. This will let you know what type of damage to sue for against the guilty party.
Physical or Emotional Abuse
When a nursing home resident suffers from intentional bodily harm from a caretaker, they are suffering from nursing home physical abuse. Examples of physical abuse include:
- Skin bruising
- Bone fractures
- Soft tissue swelling
Not every form of nursing home abuse is as direct as physical abuse. Nursing home emotional abuse is any behavior or talk intended to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Some examples of nursing home emotional abuse include:
- Verbal harassment
- Isolation from other residents
- Psychological manipulation
- Repeated threats of harm
According to 42 CFR 483.12:
“Residents have the right to be free from physical or mental abuse, corporate punishment, involuntary seclusion, and any physical or chemical restrains imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.”
Financial exploitation is a subtle but devastating 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 someone to unwanted sexual conduct or contact, which is classified as a crime. It may feel unthinkable that your loved one may suffer from sexual abuse, but cases have happened where their medical conditions raise the chances of them to be taken advantage of.
Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted sexual touching or verbiage
- Taking or distributing sexual photos without consent
- Manipulation to perform sexual acts
- Forced nudity
Evidence For a Nursing Home Abuse Trial
Types of evidence you can collect to sue your loved one’s nursing home include:
- Medical records and bills
- Personal journal entries
- Photographic and video evidence
- Conversation notes
- Witness statements
- Insurance claim documents
- Copies of written communications and forms
Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
There are three types of damages you can file for in a nursing home abuse claim:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages, compensation for harm, injury, or expenses incurred by the liable defendant(s).
- Economic damages: Measurable expenses suffered due to abuse or neglect. These expenses may include:
- Medical care
- Relocation costs
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment
- Burial costs
- Non-economic damages are the non-measurable expenses from abuse. Examples of non-economic damages include:
Each state carries laws about the maximum amount that can be awarded in any lawsuit. In Washington State, victims in personal injury cases cannot recover punitive damages. However, the state does not place caps on non-economic damages.
Washington’s state courts have held that these limits on non-economic damages are unconstitutional.
Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse in Washington
Nursing home abuse is sadly common due to ongoing staffing issues in the nursing home industry. According to an article from the Valley Record, “6,800 of the 19,386 licensed beds in skilled nursing facilities sat empty as of June 2022”. This vacancy was due to a lack of staff that can facilitate residents potentially occupying those beds.
Abuse and neglect can be caused by a facility’s administration failing to train or supervise staff. Workers with minimal training may be required to perform tasks they don’t know how to perform. This lack of proper training puts residents in harm’s way. Underpaying and overscheduling staff members can also lead to neglect.
Washington State Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitation for nursing home abuse cases in Washington State is three years according to RCW 4.16.350. Make sure to file your claim as soon as possible to avoid falling behind the statute of limitations. If you do, you won’t be able to present your case without getting barred.
Find a Washington State Nursing Home Lawyer 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 Washington State nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate in your city or county.
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.