There are two critical factors we look for in every case: (1) was the nursing home / hospital / doctor negligent; and (2) did THAT negligence cause the injuries or death?
Why is Causation Necessary?
Usually families who contact us are pretty sure the defendant was negligent—they didn’t provide timely or adequate care under the circumstances.
But you might be surprised to learn negligence is not enough.
Think of it this way. When someone cuts you off in traffic, there’s a moment where anything might happen. Maybe you react quickly enough and avoid a crash. Maybe not. Either way, it was their fault, and you have every right to be angry.
But if you avoid the crash, you can’t file a lawsuit. Because you avoided the negligence—their bad driving—causing you injuries.
When a nursing home or hospital is negligent, you have every right to be angry. But if we cannot prove that negligence caused the injury or death at issue, you do not have a case. This is called “causation”
How Do We Prove Causation?
Once we have a handle on the negligence—what the nursing home, hospital, or doctor did wrong—the question is, how do we prove causation: that the negligence caused the injury or death? We prove causation through expert medical testimony: what doctors and nurses testify caused the injury or death.
We often can use the coroner or medical examiner’s findings and testimony as part of this process. If the death certificate lists the cause of death as determined by the coroner, that is a presumptive cause of death.
We also interview witnesses from family, friends, and third parties. This can include the nursing home former employees or staff, although there are limitations on speaking with current employees.
Sometimes the medicine is clear. For example:
- Head trauma leading to brain bleeds;
- Falls with broken bones leading to decline and death;
- Bedsores (or “pressure ulcers”) leading to infection, sepsis, decline, or death;
- Malnutrition or dehydration leading to hypernatremia, organ failure, or death;
- Understaffing leading to falls, bedsores, malnutrition, choking, etc.
- Poor supervision of dysphagia or swallow-risk residents dying from choking; and
- Unsupervised residents at risk of wandering being able to elope or leave from the facility.
By reviewing medical records, obtaining witness statements, consulting with experts, interviewing current or former employees, and understanding the medicine behind relevant conditions, we can establish a causation case when negligence causes injury or death.