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How to Handle Negligence by an In-Home Caregiver

How to Handle Negligence by an In-Home Caregiver

In-home caregivers provide many kinds of services to the people they serve. Personal caregivers help the elderly and people with disabilities with nonmedical needs, like bathing, cooking, and household chores. When a caregiver causes an injury through negligent behavior, families may have questions about their legal options.

Nevada’s laws against abuse and neglect of the elderly and disabled

Under NRS 41.1395, a caregiver who abuses, neglects, or exploits an older (60 years of age or older) or disabled person and causes personal injury or other losses can be sued for double the actual damages suffered by the harmed person. The law provides for recovery of attorneys’ fees where the caregiver’s actions weren’t just negligent, but involved recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice.

There are three distinct causes of action under NRS 41.1395. Abuse involves (1) a willful and unjustified infliction of pain, injury, or mental anguish, or (2) deprivation of food, shelter, clothing, or services that are necessary for the health of the individual. Exploitation involves taking advantage of an individual’s trust to take his or her money or other valuable assets.

The third cause of action is neglect. Neglect involves a failure to provide food, shelter, clothing, or services by someone who has agreed to provide such care either through contract or by voluntary assumption of those responsibilities.

The scope of “neglect”

An important point about neglect is that it can be applied to someone who doesn’t have a formal written agreement, but has “expressly acknowledged” that he or she has taken responsibility for providing care. Depending on the circumstances, this could extend to someone who verbally agrees to look after a vulnerable person and fails to provide responsible care.

Another point is that a caregiver’s responsibility to provide services is limited to those services “within the scope of the person’s responsibility or obligation.” One can expect this phrase to be a focus in cases involving a verbal agreement. For example, a family might informally hire through Craigslist a non-professional “companion” to spend an afternoon with an elderly client making conversation, preparing a light meal, and helping with minor housework. In such a role the caregiver can be expected to take reasonable steps to protect the client’s health, such as calling 911 in the event of an emergency. However, such a caregiver probably can’t be expected to provide medical services that would require licensure or specialized training, such as assistance with oxygen or medication.

Suing a caregiver for damages in cases of neglect

One reason to hire caregivers through licensed agencies rather than through informal networks is to have access to the agency’s insurance in the event that something goes wrong. Nevada law requires numerous steps for an agency to be licensed to provide personal caregivers in a home. Among these are requirements that an agency carry adequate insurance, provide sufficient training to their staff, and screen employees’ criminal histories and professional credentials. Once in operation, an agency must comply with numerous regulations.

GGRM helps Las Vegas families

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez prides itself on providing clients with personalized, compassionate service. If you or a loved one has suffered neglect at the hands of a caregiver and you would like help understanding your legal options, our attorneys are here to help. To speak to an attorney at no cost, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.