One of the biggest unrecognized challenges for private duty home care companies is the potential for huge losses if you are sued by a client or family. Twice over the past four years I have been called upon to serve as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving a private duty home care company. The biggest lesson I have learned is that your loss is not from the judgment against you in court. It is the cost of attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the lawsuit. It is critical that you are properly insured to protect against potential liability from a lawsuit.
As a service to the members of The Academy for Private Duty Home Care, David Dickie, CEO of The Solutions Group, has put together a series of articles describing real life liability cases and what you as a home care owner can do to reduce your potential liability.
Claim of the Month: Deviation from Standard of Care
The matter involves client Susan Smith, age 90 (all names changed) who suffered injuries when she fell on her kitchen floor subsequent to returning from a restaurant with Jane Donner, caregiver for XYZ Home Care (the insured). On November 15th, 20XX the insured received a letter from Weis, Petersen, Bowles & Skinner stating that the accident was a proximate result of a deviation from the standard of care expected from a home care aide. In particular, when Mrs. Donner dropped Mrs. Smith off from the restaurant she was left at the door and not secured in her home. A demand for damages of $350,000 included medical bills totaling $135,000 and pain and suffering of $215,000.
The insurance company responded to the demand with a denial of liability on the grounds that 1) Mrs. Smith did not fall immediately upon entering her apartment, she fell on the way to her bathroom; 2) the duty to care for Mrs. Smith ended when Mrs. Donner left Mrs. Smith at her door and 3) because the contract for services was not for around-the-clock care the insured did not have a duty to secure Mrs. Smith in her apartment.
Attorney Weis responded by dropping his demand to $50,000 and expressed his interest in resolving the case pre-suit. After back-and-forth between the insurance company and the attorney a settlement was agreed to.
Result: Settlement of $20,000, Defense Cost $8,839.45
Prevention: Adjustment to policy for returning clients home at the end of shift. All clients must be returned and settled in their home prior to departure.
For more information on reducing your cost for liability and workers compensation insurance, contact The Solutions Group.
Premium Members of The Academy can get more information on the principles of liability and workers compensation insurance by viewing the recorded version of our live web conference in the online learning section of the Academy web site.