When an incident of sexual assault occurs in a nursing home, our immediate thoughts are with the well-being of the victim. But once the dust settles, we want answers. Who is responsible? What happens next? What are the victim’s rights? What obligations does the care facility have?
Duty of Care
A nursing home or care facility has a duty of care to provide a safe environment for residents and to protect them from harm. Although many instances of sexual assault in such facilities are perpetrated by staff members, many others are committed by fellow residents.
Facilities carry out detailed criminal background checks on their staff to ensure that employees do not have previous convictions, particularly of a sexual or violent nature. But Louisiana is one of the few states that also requires background checks on potential residents. This is a procedure that makes sense. After all, violent and sex offenders also get old or ill to the point where they require care.
Nursing Home Obligations
It doesn’t matter whether the perpetrator was a staff member or another resident. Ultimately, responsibility for the assault lies with the nursing home as they have a legal obligation to provide an environment in which the residents are safe.
As well as requirements to vet employees and residents, any allegations made regarding sexual assaults must be investigated by the facility and also reported to the relevant authorities within hours of the initial report.
This chain of events must happen in every instance, even if the initial report does not seem credible.
In cases where the nursing home is found to have failed in its duty of care, there are a number of possible actions. The regulatory authorities may issue a fine, but if there are repeated incidents, then the facility may be suspended from the Medicaid and Medicare programs. And there will likely be civic liability if the victim and their family decide to pursue a claim for compensation.
Victims of Crime Act
The 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was set up to provide financial assistance to victims of crime across the U.S. With funds allocated to and administered by separate state organizations, it is funded by monies diverted from fines, forfeited bail and bonds.
It not only provides assistance to victims but also helps to fund organizations, such as counseling, who support victims in other ways.
There are a number of ways where VOCA may provide assistance to a victim of sexual assault in a nursing home. It could help cover any related medical bills as well as any psychological counseling needed after the incident. It may also help with relocation to a different nursing home if the victim did not want to remain there.
Louisiana’s Victims Rights Laws, under Article I, § 25 of Declaration of Rights, any victim of crime has the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect…”. The victim should receive all appropriate care, including medical and social services, where required.
The victim and their family should also be notified of any relevant court action, appeals and dates of release. There is also a requirement that the district attorney should interview the victim, or the victim’s family, to determine whether restitution is being sought.
Sexual assault not only takes a physical toll, but it can also have devastating psychological effects that last far beyond when any physical damage has healed. We understand this is a sensitive and emotional issue, and we deal with such cases in an empathetic and compassionate way.
If a family member or loved one has suffered any form of sexual assault in a nursing home, then you need an experienced attorney on your side. To book a complimentary consultation and case evaluation with us, please contact us.