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Many Illinois residents have heard the use of the term tort and likely know that it is a legal term. However, there can be confusion about exactly what a tort is. Simply put, a tort is an injury that any individual sustains that was caused by another party's actions or inaction.

Some tort situations can be minor and not really warrant any follow up. Other torts, however, can result in serious consequences to victims. Permanent injury or disability, loss of limbs and even wrongful death can all be outcomes of a tort.

Some key types of torts that may warrant legal action can include:

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Elder abuse is an ever-increasing problem in nursing homes today. As the number of elderly Americans grows, the 2010 Census recorded 13 percent of the U.S. population to be over the age of 65, so does the possibility of abuse at the hands of a caregiver. The National Center on Elder Abuse found in 2009 that 3.2 million Americans lived in long-term care facilities. In a 2000 study, cited by the NCEA, 45 percent of patients in nursing homes reported having been abused and 95 percent reported being the victim of neglect, or seeing another patient suffer neglect.

Such abuse and neglect is unacceptable and unlawful. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act provides certain rights to patients in long-term care facilities. Among these rights is the right not to be abused or neglected. The law defines abuse as "any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a resident other than by accidental means."

Who is required to report abuse and why is it under reported?

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For patients in Sangamon County, many don't expect that a routine procedure could potentially have life-threatening consequences. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical negligence is third in line after heart disease and cancer as one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Why hospitals aren't likely to stop medical malpractice

By definition, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional provides a patient with substandard treatment, or the results of their care cause harm or even death. Types of medical malpractice are varied. A patient may be the victim of medical negligence if:

  • Their doctor or nurse gives them the wrong dosage of a medication or they given the wrong medication altogether.
  • A surgeon operates on the wrong part of their body.
  • They are misdiagnosed with an incorrect illness.
  • Things are left in their body after surgery.
  • They suffer from back pain, a staph infection or pressure ulcers after receiving medical care.

Although medical negligence is an extremely serious problem, a recently published survey in JAMA discovered that hospitals are not taking action to prevent medical malpractice because of profits. According to the study, hospitals get paid more when patients come in with the effects of infections and other errors.

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Caring for loved ones is not always a possibility as they age, particularly as their medical needs increase. Despite being unable to care for them personally, most people will set out to find the best possible care available. Unfortunately, as demonstrated in a recent study, the care provided by nursing homes across the country is not always up to the standards most people would expect.

Researchers from Families for Better Care compiled data from nursing homes in all 50 states and ranked each state based on their findings. To determine their rankings, the researchers focused on a number of areas, including:

  • Staffing levels.
  • Inspection reports.
  • Complaints.
  • Deficiencies.

While some states received passing scores, the researchers concluded that the nursing homes in eleven states deserved failing grades - among those with the worst scores in the U.S. were the nursing homes in Illinois. In addition to receiving an "F," Illinois' nursing homes were ranked 42nd in the country.

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A patient at a Chicago nursing home failed to receive immediate care after suffering burns that took his life. Just days before he was to be released from the rehabilitation facility, the man's shirt started on fire. Nursing staff sprayed him directly with a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and did not provide necessary aid before a rescue crew arrived ten minutes later. The patient died of a heart attack shortly after the incident.

An expert stated in the Huffington Post report that the man may have lived if proper care was administered right away by care providers at the home. The care facility has been sued by the man's family for wrongful death and it was cited by authorities for failing to properly train staff.

Illinois care gives cause for concern

According to Families for Better Care - a citizen advocacy group which monitors nursing home care quality across the nation - Illinois is one of two states to receive a failing grade for care provided by its nursing home facilities. The group claims that patients are not provided adequate care, mostly due to a lack of sufficient staff members, and the facilities have high rates of serious incidents and deficiencies such as:

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