Victims of nursing home neglect and abuse in Colorado deserve to have their rights protected and to be compensated for the damages they have suffered.
Victims of this type of abuse can:
- file a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home and/or the employee who caused the abuse;
- report the abuse to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment or to a local Adult Protective Services Department; and
- file a police report to request criminal charges against those responsible.
Who can file a claim?
In Colorado, residents of nursing homes are protected by the Protective Services for At-Risk Adults Act in CRS 26-3.1-101.
The law sets forth the protections afforded to seniors under Colorado law and remedies that can be pursued.
What are neglect and abuse?
Neglect and abuse basically mean:
- the non-accidental infliction of
- pain or injury,
- bruises or bleeding,
- malnutrition or dehydration,
- poisoning or suffocation,
- confinement or unreasonable restraint, or
- sexual abuse.
Abuse can also include more than this; any non-accidental harm caused to an elderly nursing home resident may qualify.
- 1. What is the legal definition of neglect and abuse under Colorado law?
- 2. What remedies are available if abuse occurs at a Colorado nursing home?
- 3. Can I file a civil lawsuit for money damages as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect?
- 4. Can I report abuse and neglect to a government agency?
- 5. Can I report this misconduct to the police?
- 6. What is a mandatory reporter, and am I one?
1. What is the legal definition of neglect and abuse under Colorado law?
Nursing home abuse occurs when an “at-risk adult” faces inhumane neglect, harm, or non-accidental injury. Specifically, Colorado law defines “abuse” as:
- (a) The nonaccidental infliction of physical pain or injury, as demonstrated by, but not limited to, substantial or multiple skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, dehydration, burns, bone fractures, poisoning, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or suffocation;
- (b) Confinement or restraint that is unreasonable under generally accepted caretaking standards; or
- (c) Subjection to sexual conduct or contact classified as a crime under the “Colorado Criminal Code”, title 18, C.R.S.1
1.1 What is an “at-risk adult” under Colorado law?
An “at-risk adult” actually covers more than just the elderly, including:
- an individual eighteen years of age or older
- who is susceptible to mistreatment or self-neglect
- because the individual is unable to perform or obtain services necessary
- for his or her health, safety, or welfare
- or lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to
- make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his or her person or affairs.2
What this means in simpler language is: an adult who is unable to take care of him or herself without help from another.
2. What remedies are available if abuse occurs at a Colorado nursing home?
If a person suspects that a family member is being abused in a nursing home, he or she has multiple remedies. That person can:
- file a civil lawsuit for damages in Colorado state court;
- request an elder abuse investigation by an appropriate government agency; and/or
- report the abuse to the police to seek criminal prosecution of the wrongdoers.
Reporting abuse is crucial to protecting loved ones from harm while in a Colorado nursing home. A civil lawsuit can hold the responsible party or parties liable for any damages caused by the abuse.
3. Can I file a civil lawsuit for money damages as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect?
Personal injury lawsuits can be filed against Colorado nursing homes that engage in abuse or neglect of their residents.
In a personal injury case, the injured victim must prove that the nursing home was negligent in its care of the resident. To prove a case for negligence, a person who is injured (the plaintiff) must prove:
- that the person being sued (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- that the defendant breached that duty of care;
- that the defendant’s breach was the cause of the injury; and
- that the plaintiff sustained monetary damages from his or her injuries.3
If the plaintiff can show that the defendant was negligent in causing the neglect or abuse, the defendant will be responsible for the plaintiff’s damages.
3.1 What if the abuse or neglect was intentional rather than negligent?
If the conduct was intentional rather than negligent, the injured victim can still file a personal injury lawsuit.
In that case, the plaintiff will have to prove:
- that the perpetrator of the neglect or abuse
- willfully and purposely intended to cause
- the harm at issue.
In either case, an abused person can file a claim for damages and be compensated for his or her injuries.
3.2 What damages can I or my family member receive in a civil lawsuit?
An injured person can recover both economic and non-economic damages if he or she was injured as the result of a Colorado big rig accident.
Economic damages include:
- medical bills;2
- future medical bills;
- cost of long-term care expenses;
- medical equipment costs;
- property damage;
- lost wages; and
- lost earning capacity.
These damages are more easily identifiable through documentary evidence and usually have a defined value.
Non-economic damages are those which are not typical “out-of-pocket” expenses. These losses are more subjective and include:
- pain and suffering;3
- emotional distress;
- emotional distress;
- loss of enjoyment of life; and
- loss of consortium.
3.3 Can I be awarded punitive damages?
Punitive damages can be awarded when an injured person proves that the harm occurred as the direct result of
- malice; or
- willful or wanton conduct.
This typically occurs in nursing home cases when employees or a business:
- act with a reckless disregard
- for the health and safety of others
- even knowing of the potential danger a person’s conduct poses to others around him or her.4
4. Can I report abuse and neglect to a government agency?
A person who becomes aware of neglect or abuse may report that issue to a government agency, such as:
- Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment; or
- a local Adult Protective Services Department.
Once the abuse is reported, an investigation will occur, and criminal charges may be filed against the wrongdoers. This also helps stop the harm occurring to elderly residents.
4.1 Can I file a complaint with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment?
Yes. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment investigates issues related to:
- quality of care;
- patient/resident rights; and
- building and equipment safety.
Complaints are anonymous; investigators will protect a filer’s information.
5. Can I report this misconduct to the police?
Nursing home abuse and neglect should also be reported to the police. This will start a criminal investigation, and the people who committed the wrongs will be investigated, possibly arrested, and subsequently charged.
Colorado does not have a specific crime for elder abuse, however, certain crimes can be considered together for elders aged 70 and older:
- Criminal negligence — 18-6.5-103(2), C.R.S.
- Assault — 18-6.5-103(3), C.R.S.
- Robbery — 18-6.5-103(4), C.R.S.
- Theft — 18-6.5-103(5), C.R.S.
- Caretaker neglect — 18-6.5-103(6), C.R.S.
- Sexual assault — 18-6.5-103(7), C.R.S. and
- Exploitation — 18-6.5-103(7.5) C.R.S.5
Depending on the type of offense, the neglect or abuse may constitute a felony or a misdemeanor. The penalty ranges for these crimes vary.
6. What is a mandatory reporter, and am I one?
A “mandatory reporter” is a person in a specific profession or legal position which requires him or her by law to report all instances of elder abuse or neglect.
Mandatory reporting is required for people who provide services (whether paid or unpaid) to “at-risk adults,” including:
- Health care providers, including emergency health care providers;
- Medical examiners and coroners;
- Nurses and nurse practitioners;
- Psychologists and other mental health professionals;
- Social work practitioners;
- Community-centered board staff;
- Court-appointed guardians and conservators;
- Law enforcement and fire department personnel;
- Home health providers or care facility staff members;
- Financial institution personnel; and
- Members of the clergy, under specific circumstances.6
Call us for help…
For questions about nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits in Colorado or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.
We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.
- CRS 26-3.1-101(1) (Definitions)
- CRS 26-3.1-101(1.5).
- Lopez v. Trujillo, 399 P.3d 750 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2016). (To prove a prima facie negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the defendant owed a legal duty of care; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff was injured; and (4) the defendant’s breach caused that injury. citing Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 325 (Colo.2004). Of these elements, duty is the threshold element.)
- A.B. ex rel. B.S. v. Adams-Arapahoe 28J School Dist., 831 F.Supp.2d 1226 (2011).
- 18-6.5-102 (3), C.R.S.
- Colorado Senior Law Handbook, Sandra M. Sigler, Esq. (Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse or Exploitation).