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Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Sepsis?

Our attorneys hold nursing facilities accountable for serious neglect

We trust nursing homes to care for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and one of a nursing home’s most important responsibilities is to protect residents from illness. Unfortunately, too many nursing facilities in Georgia fail to meet that basic responsibility, leading to serious and often life-threatening complications. One of the most serious consequences of nursing home negligence is sepsis.

If your loved one developed sepsis in a nursing home, the facility’s negligence is very likely to blame. However, holding nursing homes accountable can be a difficult process without help from a lawyer. Our experienced nursing home neglect attorneys can help you fight for justice and accountability.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is an extreme response to an infection that triggers a life-threatening sequence of events. The body’s infection-fighting processes cause damage to vital organs like the lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain. Symptoms of sepsis can include:

  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Sweating for no obvious reason
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shivering
  • Changes in mental status

Sepsis is a medical emergency, like a heart attack or stroke. If not immediately diagnosed and treated, sepsis can progress to septic shock.

What is septic shock?

Septic shock is a severe and dangerous drop in blood pressure as a result of uncontrolled sepsis. This is a life-threatening complication that can lead to heart failure, kidney failure, brain damage, lung failure, and death.

What causes sepsis?

Any infection can lead to sepsis if it is not properly diagnosed and treated. Some of the most common types of infections that lead to sepsis include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTI), which affect the urethra, bladder, and kidneys. Symptoms of a UTI include burning while urinating, cloudy or discolored urine, strong-smelling urine, passing small amounts of urine, and pelvic pain in women.
  • Skin infections from untreated wounds such as pressure ulcers (bedsores). Symptoms of an infected wound include pus, yellow crust on the wound, pain, swelling, redness, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Bacterial gastroenteritis, a type of infection of the digestive tract. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, dehydration, and pain.
  • Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. In elderly patients, symptoms of pneumonia often include lack of energy, dizziness, increased rate of breathing, and confusion, in addition to shortness of breath and fever.

Why is the risk of sepsis so high in nursing homes?

Anyone can develop sepsis, but nursing home residents are exceptionally vulnerable for a few reasons.

First, most nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to sepsis itself. People over 65 are at increased risk to begin with, and many residents have medical conditions that further increase their risk, such as diabetes, immune disorders, and artificial joints or heart valves.

Second, nursing home residents are also vulnerable to many types of infections, including urinary tract infections and wounds that can easily become infected, such as pressure ulcers. Their bodies are also less able to fight off an infection when it does occur.

Third, nursing home residents are often less aware of their symptoms and less able to advocate for the treatment they need compared to the general population. It’s also easier for an infection to go undiagnosed in an elderly person because their baseline body temperature is often lower, meaning that a seemingly “normal” temperature could actually be a fever. This is why nursing homes need to monitor their residents closely for signs of infection and take immediate action to prevent sepsis.

What is the role of nursing home neglect in sepsis?

Sepsis can be linked to nursing home neglect in two ways. First, the underlying infection is often a result of neglect. Several types of infections are much more common in residents who are neglected, including but not limited to:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTI): Nursing home residents who struggle with incontinence are at an elevated risk of UTIs. Nursing homes need to mitigate the risk of UTI by changing diapers frequently, properly sterilizing catheters and using them correctly, assisting residents with toileting, and changing residents’ clothes and bedding regularly.
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores): Bedsores that become infected are a leading cause of sepsis. Nursing homes need to regularly turn residents in bed to ensure they do not develop bedsores, conduct regular body audits to check for bedsores, and provide appropriate wound care when pressure ulcers do occur to prevent them from progressing to Stage 3 or Stage 4.
  • Pneumonia: Nursing home-acquired pneumonia (NHAP) is one of the most dangerous infections residents can develop in a nursing facility. Nursing homes need to properly sanitize surfaces to prevent infections from spreading, properly vaccinate residents, recognize the symptoms of pneumonia, and intervene promptly.

Second, to the extent that some infections will always occur in nursing homes, the facility has a critical responsibility to monitor residents for signs of infection, which may present differently in nursing home residents compared to younger patients.

When medically indicated, nursing homes need to follow up with residents’ doctors and have additional medical tests performed, such as blood or imaging tests. Nursing homes also absolutely need to make sure residents get proper treatment for any and all infections before they can lead to life-threatening complications like sepsis.

Sepsis is ultimately a complication of an untreated or poorly managed infection, so when a resident develops sepsis or septic shock, it’s almost always the case that the nursing home did not do its job.

Holding nursing homes accountable for sepsis and septic shock

Nursing homes have a legal and moral responsibility to protect their residents’ health, and sepsis represents a catastrophic failure to meet that responsibility, often leading to death or permanent injury.

If your loved one developed sepsis in a nursing home, you have the right to pursue accountability under Georgia law. While nothing can change what happened, holding a nursing home accountable for neglect can provide compensation and closure for your family. It also sends a strong message that we hold nursing homes to higher standards.

However, the process of pursuing compensation is not easy. Winning a sepsis case requires a thorough investigation into exactly what happened and who was responsible. That means poring over medical records, talking to witnesses, and often consulting experts. Furthermore, you need an experienced, dedicated nursing home neglect attorney to weave that evidence into a compelling case for the compensation your family deserves.

Talk to an experienced nursing home neglect attorney today

If your loved one developed sepsis in a Georgia nursing home, you have legal options. We can help. Our attorneys would be honored to listen to your story and explain your rights under Georgia law. If you decide to move forward with legal action, we will be firmly in your corner every step of the way, from the initial investigation all the way through settlement negotiations and, if necessary, trial. We have a strong track record in nursing home neglect cases, and we will put our experience and resources to work for you.

Take legal action now with an experienced, compassionate attorney on your side. Give us a call or contact us online for a free consultation with Johnson Greer Law Group.

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