What If I Believe a Family Member Has Died a Suspicious Death at a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly?

Posted on January 8, 2016 by bermanstaff

Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) are non-medical facilities that are designed to provide housing, personal care assistance, and supervision to elderly persons who are unable to care for themselves. Also known as assisted living centers, RCFEs are regulated by the California Department of Social Services and Community Care and Licensing. While RCFEs are not required to have nurses or medical professionals on staff, they can be held liable for certain injuries. If you believe that your elderly family member died in a RCFE due to a suspicious reason, such as elder abuse, the following provides an overview of things you need to know:

What Duties Do RCFEs Have to Residents?

RCFEs are not required, as mentioned above, to have nurses or doctors on staff. Further, they are prevented from housing patients with certain medical conditions. What’s more, there are only minimal qualifications for the staff: the passage of a state exam, completion of a 40-hour certification program, and maintenance of continuing education every two years. As such, RCFEs have few, if any, medical duties to patients.

However, RCFEs are required to provide a sufficient number of staff members for patient needs. Further, for night supervision, if there are 15 or fewer residents, there must be one staff person on call and on the premises; if there are more than 15 residents, there must be one person who is awake on the premises, and there must be another person who is on call and ready to respond.

RCFEs also have a duty to maintain the premises in a safe condition, and have a duty to assist residents with personal care assistance, such as taking medication, bathing, eating, housekeeping, transportation, and healthcare management.

When a Residential Care Facility Is Responsible for an Elderly Person’s Death

A death may be deemed suspicious, and the RCFE may be held liable for the death of an elderly person when one of the duties above is forsaken and negligence occurs. Examples of negligence include:

  • Failure to maintain and adequate staff-to-patient ratio;
  • Failure to maintain the required number of staff members on call during the night;
  • Failure of staff to assist elderly persons with needs, such as failing to administer an elderly person’s medication;
  • Failure to exercise the duty of care expected by the California Department of Social Services; and
  • Failure to maintain the property in a safe condition – i.e. a dangerous condition causes an elderly person to slip, leading to death.

Report the RCFE and Contact an Attorney

If you believe that your elderly loved one’s rights were violated and that he or she would not have died but for negligence, you should immediately report the RCFE to the California Department of Social Services. Then, you should pick up the phone and call an experienced San Diego Residential Care Facility for the Elderly attorney who can help you to investigate your loved one’s cause of death and file a personal injury claim for damages. At Berman & Riedel, LLP, our attorneys are ready to get to work on building your case today, and will advocate for your family’s rights throughout the entire process. To learn more, call us today at 858-350-8855.


About Berman & Riedel, LLP firm managing partner attorney William M. Berman:

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Attorney William M. Berman focuses his practice in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death and elder abuse and neglect. Strictly a plaintiffs’ dedicated firm, he never represents insurance companies in the defense of claims. Mr. Berman’s firm remains staunchly committed to helping those who have suffered serious injury or loss due the negligence, intentional misconduct or wrongful acts of others. Mr. Berman has grown his firm to what is considered one of the largest and most successful elder abuse/neglect practices within California. Through his continued successes in handling claims involving nursing home and elder abuse and neglect, Mr. Berman remains a prominent figure in advocating on behalf of this vulnerable class of citizens.
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Below are answers to common questions people have about personal injury cases and working with a lawyer. During your initial consultation, we will be happy to answer questions that are particular to your case.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?

The attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP, accept cases on a contingency-fee basis. This type of agreement means you do not pay any attorneys’ fees out-of-pocket for legal representation. Attorneys’ fees are also contingent on the outcome of your case.

You benefit from legal representation in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of a settlement or jury award. We will only recover a fee if you recover compensation.

Can You Tell Me How Much My Case Is Worth?

There is no way to determine the exact value of a personal injury case, especially early in your case. However, an experienced attorney can give you an estimated range based on their experience with similar cases.

There are many factors that may influence the value of your case, such as:

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  • The severity of your injuries
  • The impact of your injuries on your daily life
  • The strength of your case
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  • Insurance policy limits 

Some damages are easy to calculate, such as lost wages and medical bills. Calculating the value of diminished earnings for the rest of your life or future medical needs; however, may require the help of experts. Non-economic damages like pain and suffering have no intrinsic financial value. These damages are challenging to calculate. 

If your case goes before a jury, you may potentially be able to recover more than you could through a settlement. However, this introduces a new element of risk: the jury. The circumstances of your accident and even how sympathetic you or the defendant are can influence the outcome.

During your consultation, and throughout your case, we will help you understand how these factors influence your case. We will also work tirelessly to document the value of all your damages and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.

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The vast majority of cases are resolved by reaching a settlement agreement outside of court. Very few personal injury cases actually go to trial, but it is more likely if the facts in your case are in dispute, a legal issue is being contested, or you have a high-value case.

An experienced lawyer will build your case as if it will go to trial from the beginning. The stronger your case and evidence, the more likely a fair settlement will be reached.

How Do I Know If I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If your case involves mostly property damage or minor injuries, you likely do not need a lawyer to handle a claim with the insurance company. The more serious your injuries, or the more complex your case, the more important it becomes to seek experienced legal counsel.

Remember that the insurance company is not on your side, even if the insurance adjuster seems sympathetic and you receive a settlement offer. If you are being blamed for your accident or sustained serious injury, a lawyer will help you protect your rights and build the strongest case possible. This includes calculating the full value of your current and future losses.

Legal representation is also vital if your case involves a complex area of law such as elder abuse or neglect, premises liability, commercial vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, or serious work-related accidents. Determining liability, navigating decades of legal precedence, and interpreting specific statutes in these cases is best done with years of relevant legal experience.

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While our law office is located in San Diego, Berman & Riedel, LLP, accepts cases throughout the state of California.

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