Small Town Values.Big City Results.

Blog

Group Home Abuse

10-18-19    

A group home is defined by dictionary.com as a “home where a small number of unrelated people in need of care, support, or supervision can live together, such as those who are elderly or mentally ill.” Traditionally, a group home is a private residence with specific medical care for those with complex health needs, such as young children or seniors who cannot live with their families. Unfortunately, group homes are not often regulated, and many of the owners are more concerned with money than they are for their residents and the residents’ needs. Group homes are supposed to be a safe haven, but all too often, they are not.

Group homes are ideally supposed to provide a comfortable living environment for a small number of people with similar issues, whether that be elderly persons, developmental disabilities in young children, or people with chemical dependencies that needs support for daily living. The main difference is that these are not medical facilities, but group homes do have staff available to help residents with their daily needs for survival. Unfortunately, many smaller group homes that elderly and disabled persons find themselves living in have limited regulations through both the state and federal laws. Although they must be licensed and adhere to certain rules, because of the smaller size of many of these homes, many problems are often overlooked. In a smaller home, there may be a very small staff, which means that it is easy for abuse to happen and be overlooked.

living in a group home

Group homes can have owners or staff that become abusive to their residents, using their position of power within the home to abuse those that they are trained to care for. Some of the types of abuse that are most often seen in these homes are:

  • Physical—residents of group homes can be subjected to physical abuse such as being restrained or struck by a group home staff member.
  • Emotional—group home staff can be verbally abusive and controlling, causing worsening depression and mental illness among residents.
  • Sexual—sexual predators are drawn to working at group homes where victims are both easily accessible and vulnerable due to lack of supervision and disability.
  • Financial—Caregivers in group homes are easily able to steal checks, credit cards, and more from their residents.

Group homes have an overall goal of helping children and adults gain self-confidence, personal independence, and a better quality of life. A good group home would strive to meet these objectives every day, and there are truly compassionate caretakers at many group homes to look after strangers who have been through traumatic situations, and help those strangers begin to heal. However, there are many workers with ulterior motives who see these people in need as easy prey. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation are the three most common types of criminal incidents in group homes.

Caretakers in group homes who commit these atrocities often have incredibly low rates of prosecution. The Columbus Dispatch did a four-month investigation in 2015 that showed how many of the perpetrators of these crimes slip through the cracks. According to their research, 2,000 reports of sexual abuse were made over a five-year period, and only 25 percent of these reports were substantiated; when it came to physical abuse, over 8,600 reports were made, and only 30 percent of those were considered valid.

The Ohio State Bar Association also advises family members of those living in group homes to know the signs of abuse. If there are sudden changes in behavior, strange marks on his/her body, or anything noticeably different about your loved one, then it should be a red flag that something is going awry.

Rinehardt Law Firm proudly stands up for the rights of the victimized in Ohio. Abuse is becoming too common across the state of Ohio, and our firm uses all of our skills and experience to represent victims and bring them the justice that they deserve. If you or a loved one has been abused in a group home setting, contact the Columbus injury attorneys at Rinehardt Law Firm today.


Understaffing in Nursing Homes

09-24-19    

wheelchair in empty hallThe majority of nursing homes (both across Ohio and across the United States) have staffed fewer nurses and caretakers than what they have reported to the government, proving the long-held suspicions that nursing home staffing is incredibly inadequate across the nation.

According to recent federal data, there are frequent and significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing at nursing homes. On the lowest staffed days at an average facility, each staff member had to care for twice as many patients as s/he would care for on a fully staffed day. However, there are facilities that fall much below this line, leaving staff members to care for many times the number of patients than they are equipped.

This data came from daily payroll records that Medicare recently began gathering and publishing from more than 14,000 nursing homes. Previously, Medicare simply rated each facility’s staffing levels based on each home’s own unverified reports, leading to many homes reporting staffing as being far more adequate than what was reality. These payroll records provide strong evidence that the previous system for rating nursing homes—the five-star rating system—more than often exaggerated staffing levels and rarely identified the daily periods in which inadequate staffing was common.

Nearly 1.4 million people across the United States are cared for in nursing facilities. When nursing homes are short of staff, the nurses and aides are often found scrambling to deliver meals, help residents carry out daily tasks, and answer calls for medication. Essential tasks in a nursing home can be overlooked when the staff is overburdened, which can lead to injuries and hospitalizations that could have been avoided with a proper staff.

In addition to this, in a desperate search for staff in order to meet standards for Medicare’s new reports, homes often find themselves hiring underqualified and undertrained staff. These staff members, untrained and unqualified as nurses and aides, can harm the nursing home patients more than help them. While Medicare does not set a minimum resident-to-staff ratio, it does require the presence of a registered nurse (RN) for eight hours per day, and a licensed nurse (LN) on the home’s property at all times. However, this could lead to one nurse (either RN or LN) becoming responsible for up to dozens of patients at a time.

However, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that it is “concerned and taking steps to address fluctuations in staffing levels” that have emerged in new data. Recently, it said that it would lower ratings for homes that have gone more than seven days without a registered nurse in the home and on-the-clock.

In April, the federal government started using these daily payroll reports to calculate average staffing ratings in an attempt to put a stop to nursing homes “gaming the system” and covering when they were understaffed. These new records show that at least one day during the last three months of 2017, a quarter of nursing homes reported no registered nurse at work. Furthermore, out of the 14,000 homes that submitted daily payroll reports, 70 percent had lower staffing than they had reported with the previous method of self-reporting.

With all good things comes a downfall, and this new Medicare system is no different. Medicare still assigns stars (on a five-star system) by comparing homes to each other, rather than to a set scale, which leads to a curved grading system. As a result, a vast number of homes have kept their star rating, despite acknowledging the decrease in staffing levels.

The staff members who work at nursing homes who are not trained nurses—namely, the nursing assistants—earn an average of $13.23 per hour. Nursing homes compete for these workers with each other, and with better paying employers such as hospitals and retailers. This leads to an incredibly high turnover rate for both nursing assistants as well as trained nurses. It seems to be a vicious cycle that never ends: understaffing leads to more responsibility for the remaining staff members, which leads to a high turnover rate, et cetera.

One resident at a nursing home claims that he would roam the halls in search for an aide who was not already bombarded with work, seeking assistance with putting on his shirt. He claims that it is “almost like a ghost town.” Obviously, this is unacceptable and if your loved one needs assistance, they should be able to get it. If you suspect that your loved one is not getting the care they need in a nursing home, the Columbus nursing home abuse attorneys of Rinehardt Law Firm are prepped to help you. Contact us at (419) 529-2020 for a free consultation.


Animal Injuries

08-22-19    

For many farmers, livestock and animals are the majority of their business. Farmers and employees take significant measures to care for these animals and ensure that they remain safe; unfortunately, this same level of care is not always extended to employees or other bystanders. When farm animals cause harm, the farm owners can be held liable for injuries sustained.

Farm workers are often in direct contact with livestock, whether it be feeding, grooming, or transporting the animals. Animal injuries can range in severity from minor cuts and bruises to severe, life-threatening injuries. This could be biting, trampling, kicking, or goring. These accidents can have catastrophic consequences, leaving the victim with brain injuries, amputations, paralysis, and other severe injuries. These incidents can be caused by inadequate containment of livestock or inadequate training for handing livestock, both of which are preventable and inexcusable.

The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020, injuries will be responsible for more death, morbidity, and disability than all communicable diseases combined. Right now, injuries account for one in seven potential life-years lost worldwide, and by 2020 they will account for one in five. During the last decade, workers in the United States agriculture industry received particular attention because of the increasingly high risk of fatal injuries and suspected risk for serious, nonfatal injuries. Studies have consistently reported that farm machinery, livestock, and falls are major contributors to agricultural injuries.

The weight of farm animals can vary from a few pounds in newborns to close to two tons (4,000 pounds) in adults. Horses and cattle, rather than any single type of agricultural machinery, are reported the leading cause of injuries on farms. Animals sense their surroundings differently—for example, cattle have close to 360-degree panoramic vision, which means that any quick movement behind cattle may spook them and cause injury to the person. Animals also have extremely sensitive hearing and are often frightened by loud noises, such as the heavy machinery or loud yelling near them. It is estimated that about 30 farmers are killed each year from contact with farm animals, primarily horses and cattle. A study conducted by Oklahoma State University found 150 cases of cattle handling-related injuries among 100 Oklahoma cow-calf operations, and more than half of the injury cases resulted from preventable human error.

In general, the risk factors among farmers have been categorized into physical characteristics of the farming environment and the personal characteristics of the farmers. Farm machinery, falls, and animal-related injuries are the three major external causes of injury, and young male workers are considered the most vulnerable to on-the-job injuries. Due to the increasing mechanization of farming over the past century, and the high fatality rate associated with injuries due to machinery, most studies of agricultural injuries have focused on injuries related to interactions with machinery or tractors, leaving a large gap in the study of animal based injuries, even though livestock-related injuries account for the highest rate of lost work days in the agriculture industry.

When farm animals cause injury, you deserve compensation from farm and livestock owners. With the professional help of the Columbus animal injury attorneys at Rinehardt Law Firm, you can feel confident that your case is being handled by skilled and experienced attorneys. With offices in Columbus and Mansfield, we assist injured parties across the state of Ohio. Contact us at (419) 529-2020 for a free consultation, or reach out to us online.


Dash Cams- What Are They and Do You Need One?

07-01-19    

Often times, the term “dash cam” is used when discussing incidents involving police—the majority of police vehicles are equipped with these devices to protect both the officer and citizens. However, an increasing number of civilians are investing in dash cams for their own protection in the event of an auto accident, theft, or vandalism.

A “dash cam” is a dashboard camera, typically mounted on the front windshield of a vehicle. Dash cams, depending on the make and model, can record both when the vehicle is driving and when it is parked, as well as recording audio and connecting to a smartphone in order for the user to watch recorded video; much like a home security system. All dash cams turn on automatically and begin recording when the vehicle is in use. For dash cams with parking mode, the dash cam will also record when the vehicle is off and parked. Dash cams can serve as a virtual witness to incidents and can be more reliable than simply recalling from memory. Some insurance companies offer discounts if your car has a dash cam installed, and dash cam footage can help attorneys if there is a dispute about who is at fault for an auto accident.

The most common known use for a dash cam is for reliable evidence in the event of an accident. This footage creates a clear picture of what happened in cases of automobile accidents—insurance companies, police departments, and personal injury attorneys can use dash cam footage. Sometimes the footage will show important information like that the person who caused the accident was driving distracted or was driving erratically.

Dash cams also protect against vandalism and theft. While the dash cam itself can also be stolen, many dash cams are so discreet they are usually unnoticeable. A dash cam can capture footage of accidental dings, vandalism, or interior theft. Dash cams can capture hit-and-runs, showing who is responsible for the damage, as well as preventing insurance spikes for the owner of the damaged vehicle.

While a car may have a backup camera, these cameras are not equipped for recording and cannot replace a 2-channel dash cam. There are three kinds of dash cams, which vary in cost by model and features:

  • 1-channel dash cams record from the front windshield to the front of the car (these are the most common)
  • 2-channel dash cams give front and rear protection. There are also 2-channel IR dash cams, which give front and interior protection (mostly for rideshare drivers)
  • 3-channel dash cams provide front, rear, and interior protection.

Dashboard cameras can cost anywhere from $30 to upwards of $300 depending on the make and model of the camera, with the highest ranked cameras averaging $100, and the best-selling dash cams averaging under $50. Higher-end dash cam have touchscreens and smartphone compatibility, higher resolution cameras providing clarity to read license plates, a wider field of view, and higher storage capacity.

There are many types of dashboard cameras, but they all have one common thread—they can greatly benefit the driver in cases of accidents, vandalism, and theft. The bottom line is a dash cam can help save thousands when dealing with unexpected insurance claims and can help hold responsible parties accountable for bodily injuries due to automobile accidents.


I Just Got Hit by a Car—What Should I Do?

03-18-19    

by John Rinehardt

Safety First

Don’t panic. Try to stay calm and evaluate your surroundings. If your air bags have deployed, the air inside your car will be cloudy with powder from the air bags. Many people think the airbag powder is smoke and then rush to get out of the car fearing their car is on fire. You should only get out of your car when it is safe to do so. As soon as you can, put on your four-way flashers to warn other drivers.

If your car has come to rest in a high traffic area and you are physically able, consider getting out of your car and getting safely to the berm or median while you wait for the police to get there.

Call the Police

Call 911 to alert the police. You should call even if you think someone else may have already called. Stay on the phone with the 911 operator until the police are sure they know your location. You should call even if the other driver suggests just exchanging insurance information instead of calling the police. Sometimes it takes the police a long time to get there and you might be tempted to leave—don’t, because having a police report is going to be important to prove what happened and make sure that you are treated fairly when you submit an insurance claim for your car and your injuries.

Tell the Other Driver not to Leave

assessing damaage after car accidentEven though you may not think you are hurt, you should tell the other driver that you have called the police and that they should stay until the police arrive. If the other driver starts to take off, try to take a quick photo on your phone of the license plate. Ohio law requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident to stop and remain at the scene to provide his or her information to the police and the other driver. See Ohio Revised Code Section 4549.02.

When the police get there, make sure the officer takes down your account of what happened and give the officer the names of any witnesses who you have talked to.

Ask anyone who stops to check on you to give you their names and phone numbers so that you can contact them if the other driver makes up a story about what happened. Many times, the driver at fault will apologize at the scene only to later tell his or her insurance company and the police a made-up version of what happened. Use your phone to take a bunch of pictures—of your car, the other driver’s car, and the scene of the crash. Your pictures may end up being important evidence. Remember no one at the scene is looking out for your interests except for you.

Get Medical Help

Even if you only feel shook up, you should get medical treatment at the emergency room or urgent care as soon as possible. After an accident, you are going to have a lot of adrenaline pumping, which may mask injuries. Lots of times you think you are okay, only to have serious pain later. You may have broken bones, an injury to a disc in your back or neck, a torn rotator cuff or tear of the labrum of the hip. Many of these serious injuries start off with relatively little pain. People with serious injuries often start out thinking it’s just a bruise or a minor strain.

After the emergency room or urgent care, if your pain gets worse, you must see your family doctor or go back to the emergency room because a more serious injury may have been missed at your first visit.

Contact the Other Driver’s Insurance Company

You can get the other driver’s insurance information from that police officer at the scene or from the accident report once it is completed. You should then call the other driver’s insurance company to set up your claim. When setting up the claim, only give basic information—your name, where it happened, where your car is now located—so that their adjuster can evaluate the damage.

The insurance company may try to record you while they ask you questions about what happened or what your injuries are. Do not give a recorded statement to the insurance company. The insurance company is going try to get you to say something so it can put all or part of the blame for the accident on you. You shouldn’t let the insurance company record anything until you have spoken to a lawyer. The insurance company will pester you with calls and emails and even threaten not to pay your claim. Don’t cave in to these hardball tactics. The insurance company is just trying to increase its profits by trying to invent a reason not to pay your claim.

Get Legal Advice

The insurance company has lots of money and resources. When it is you against the insurance company it is not a fair fight. Contact a lawyer even if you are not sure it is necessary. An attorney specializing in accident cases will be able to stand up to the insurance company and look out for your best interests. A lawyer can make sure that you get paid for everything you are entitled to—things the insurance company won’t tell you about.

Ready to get Started?

We’re here to help you and your family get back on track after an accident. Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation.