Home Health Care Negligence Claims in Florida
9 Types of Negligence Claims Against Home Health Care Aides, CNAs, Nurses and Their Agencies
What Is A Home Health Care Agency?
In Florida, a home health agency is authorized to provide:
- Home health aide and homemaker/companion services;
- Home medical equipment;
- Nursing care;
- Physical, speech, occupational, respiratory and IV therapy;
- Nutritional guidance; and
- Medical social services in the patient’s home or place of residence.
The most common caregivers provided by home health care agencies are Home Health Aides, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Nurses and other licensed home health care professionals.
Alan represents clients and their families against all home health agencies throughout Florida, including these popular home health agencies:
- Comfort Keepers
- Visiting Angels
- Home Instead Senior Care
- Interim Healthcare
- Kindred At Home
- All Ways Caring Homecare
- Carter HealthCare
- Maxim Healthcare Services
- Right At Home
- Senior Helpers
- Sonas Home Health Care
- Southeast Homecare
To find a complete list of licensed Home Health Agencies, you can use the facility/provider locator provided by the Florida Agency For Health Care Administration.
Understanding The Root Cause Of Home Health Care Negligence in Florida
As the baby boomer generation grows older, more retirees than ever are choosing to age in place and seek home health care assistance from professional care givers
The good news is that the majority of home health aides, CNAs and Nurses provided by home health agencies are reliable, experienced, and competent.
However, like any profession, some caregivers hired by these agencies unfortunately fall short of fulfilling their duties to those they care for on a daily basis.
This is often caused by the agency cutting corners by providing inadequate training or failing to conduct thorough background checks on those they hire. The cutting of these corners is the root cause of most home health negligence claims.
Are Home Health Care Aides Licensed?
According to a Fact Sheet provided by the Florida Agency For Health Care Administration, the State of Florida does not have a state-administered test of home health aides. In fact, “there is no state law that requires the licensing or certification of home health aides in Florida. However, to work for a Medicare or Medicaid home health agency, a home health aide must complete at least 75 hours of training and/or successfully complete a competency evaluation given by the home health agency.
Also, “to work in a licensed-only agency the home health aide must complete at least 40 hours of training or successfully complete a competency test given by the home health agency. Some home health agencies require additional training above these minimum hours.”
To learn about health care services in the home, visit the online consumer guide provided by the Florida Agency For Health Care Administration.
9 Types of Home Health Care Negligence Claims
Whether due to inexperience or carelessness, home health care givers and their agencies can be held liable for the injuries their actions or inactions may have caused.
Here are nine reasons why people are hurt and sue home health care agencies for negligence in Florida.
1.Failure to prevent a slip and fall or a trip and fall. Falls among home care clients can be attributed to a number of factors, including acute and chronic medical conditions, advanced age, balance, mental health, and vision. It is up to the home healthcare professionals, however, to assess and document a patient’s fall risk during their initial home visit (via a “Fall Risk Assessment”) and reassess that risk during the course of care. It is especially important to conduct a fall risk assessment after a patient returns home after a hospital stay. Falls happen often during this transition period.
If the patient is or becomes a high or moderate fall risk, the home health care worker should immediately implement fall prevention steps to mitigate the potential for slips, trips, and falls. These steps should also be discussed with other home health care workers supervising the client, as well as the patient and family.
2.Medication errors. By far, medication and dosage errors are the most common type of in-home health care negligence. Many in-home patients take prescription drugs to manage health conditions, maintain their health, or alleviate pain or discomfort. While doctors bear responsibility for ensuring the proper dosage amounts, and pharmacies are responsible for making sure the prescriptions are filled correctly, in-home health care workers have a duty to ensure medication is taken as prescribed by their patients. Medication errors can include administering the medication in the wrong manner, administering the wrong medication, or administering the wrong amount of the medication.
3.Failure to report or communicate. Home health care workers have a duty to report accidents, abuse, and changes to a patient’s condition. For example, if a patient reports falling or happens to fall while under the care of the worker, the private duty aide has a responsibility to note the statement or incident on their end-of-shift report—or even communicate the information to a supervisor, if it’s serious enough. Even if the patient claims to be OK, the home health care worker is still required to list the accident on the report, since internal injuries, fractures, or brain damage may not be discovered until later. Likewise, if a patient reports being handled roughly, demeaned, or verbally abused, these accusations must be reported by the in-home health care aide. Finally, if a patient begins to deteriorate mentally or physically, the home health care aide must describe the situation in the report and/or alert a supervisor or family member.
4.Failure to follow instructions. Failure to follow a doctor’s treatment plan or adapt to updates in orders can result in injury, illness, or even death. While failing to properly follow doctors’ orders doesn’t typically happen on purpose, the outcome of the negligence can be actionable under the law. Most often, the home health care worker simply overlooks part of the plan or doesn’t check for an update to it. Sometimes, however, the home health care agency fails to communicate treatment changes to the private duty aide, resulting in an injury. It’s also important for aides to communicate with one another from shift to shift, so the on-duty worker has full understanding of a change in condition or an update from the doctor
5.Emotional or physical abuse. Of all the reasons to sue a home health care worker or agency, abuse is the most troubling. Intimidation, threats, bullying, hitting, sexual contact, confinement, or the use of restraints are just some of the examples of emotional or physical abuse that are all-too common among the elder care population. In certain circumstances, such as when a physical injury occurs, the abuse can even rise to the level of a crime. In other instances, contacting an attorney to review your case is the least you can do to make sure you or your loved one receives justice.
6.Lack of attention or neglect. Not all elder abuse stems from verbal or physical assaults. Sometimes, a caregiver’s lack of attention or care can produce equally alarming harm or injuries. Bed sores, rashes from unsanitary conditions, dehydration, or malnourishment are all evidence of a home health care aide’s neglect. Failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation constitutes a large number of reported cases of elder abuse, and very often the inaction is done without intent. Even if the abuse was unintentional, it may still be actionable.
7.Financial exploitation. Older adults are much more susceptible to scams, fraud, and theft, and home health care workers are in a unique position to financially exploit the patients in their care. Financial exploitation can come in a variety of forms, including duplicate billing from the health care aide or agency, missing cash or valuables, unauthorized ATM withdrawals, or missing checks. With such a large retiree population, Florida has enacted laws to protect those vulnerable adults who have been financially exploited. Regardless of whether law enforcement files criminal charges, victims can pursue civil action and, if they prevail, can be awarded attorneys’ fees, court costs, and damages.
8.Failure to use equipment in a reasonable manner. If equipment misuse harms the patient, the healthcare agency could be held liable.
9.Failure to act as a patient advocate. Depending on the level of care being provided by the home health agency, patients may rely on the company to act in their best interest. Failing to act as a reasonable patient advocate, could create liability for the home care agency.
Civil Actions Against Aides and Home Health Agencies Under Florida’s Adult Protective Services Act
The Florida Adult Protective Services Act protects vulnerable adults who are abused by their home health caregivers. Aides and other caregivers can be sued under section 415.1111 of the statute. The benefit of pursuing a cause of action under this statute is that it allows a prevailing party to recover damages (including punitive damages) as well as recovering their attorney’s fees and costs.
However, please note, it is not easy to successfully sue a home health care agency under Chapter 415. This is because they will try to avoid liability by claiming they do not employ the home health care workers. Instead, they hire the aides, CNAs and Nurses as independent contractors.
What to Do Now
The majority of home health care workers are experienced, competent, and professional individuals. However, many are not.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury, abuse, or neglect at the hands of a home health care aide or other caregiver, and there is admissible evidence to prove a home health aide negligence claim, then you have the right to seek justice through the Florida judicial system.
Since 1982, Alan Sackrin has represented clients in negligence cases throughout Florida. He is a Board-Certified Civil Trial lawyer, which means he is an expert at proving negligence in a court of law. His goals are to recover an amount of compensation necessary to make his clients whole again and to avoid having his clients be re-victimized by a wrongdoer’s insurance company.
Get a Free Case Evaluation – Call (954) 458-8655
Contact Alan today to find out how he can help you. You can contact us by phone at 954-458-8655 or by filling out the “Talk With Us” form at the top of this page. You can also email us through this website. He offers a free initial consultation.