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Nursing home death liability under Illinois law

Nursing home death laws emanate from the broader legal principles of medical negligence. Medical negligence makes any medical practitioner liable for any injury caused to an act or omission on part of the latter. Nursing home neglect and abuse have become a great cause of concern for the state of Illinois.

Under Illinois personal injury law, the right to punitive damages dies along with the victim. The same law applies to nursing home death patients and victims. Thus, in case of nursing home deaths occurring due to any negligence or malpractice by the nursing home staff, under general Illinois personal injury laws, the surviving dependents and relatives of the victim may not have the right to punitive damages.

Punitive damages refer to monetary compensation ordered by a court as a means of punishment to provide a deterrent for others. The Nursing Home Care Act under Illinois law, however, does provide for damages or compensation in case the victim or his family can prove that it was an act or omission on part of the nursing home staff and medical practitioner that resulted in the neglect and abuse, thus causing damage to the victim.

As mentioned above, punitive damages are based on the common law principle of tort of negligence. The underlying principle behind punitive damage was one of deterrence. Therefore, besides slander or libel suits, all other tort law cases did not survive the injured person's death. While Illinois law does not expressly provide for punitive damages for nursing home death cases under the Survival Act, it does not mean that the victim's family has no remedy in law. One may contact a legal professional for help in order to get compensation for compensatory and monetary damages incurred.

Source: Illinois Bar Journal, "Punitive damage claims do not survive death of nursing home residents," Helen W. Gunnarsson, accessed on Oct. 4, 2014

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