When checking into drug addiction treatment centers, patients and their family members trust that the facility will provide for the patient’s medical care, safety, and well-being while in treatment. Due to the nature of drug addiction and withdrawal, rehab facilities must supervise patients continuously to prevent self-harm or injury to other patients.
All of which makes the story of Graeme Hill not just incredibly tragic, but also anger-inducing. What happened?
Mr. Hill flew to River Oaks Drug Treatment Center in Riverview, Florida from Illinois after speaking to a patient recruiter over the phone in the midst of a mental breakdown. He was taken into custody by River Oaks at the Tampa Airport, as he was suffering a psychotic episode. However, after arriving Mr. Hill walked away from the facility and was hit and killed by a car.
The story gets worse. In its two-year history, River Oaks has had hundreds of emergency calls – including other patient deaths. Due to all of this, Mr. Hill’s widow is currently in the midst of a wrongful death lawsuit against River Oaks, where she is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.
This incident raises – and the history of River Oaks in general – raises questions about the duty of care for rehab centers in Florida.
Rehab Clinic Negligence and Duty to Care
Due to the nature of recovering from drug addiction, inpatient rehab centers have a duty to ensure patient safety and welfare 24 hours per day. Patients require constant supervision to ensure that they do not harm themselves or others, and may also need supportive medical care to manage the symptoms of drug withdrawal.
America is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic, placing rehab centers in high demand. This means that many new facilities have recently opened, and some (such as the facility entrusted to care for Mr. Hill) are inexperienced and do not provide an adequate standard of care. Many rehab centers are understaffed, or have under qualified staff, which can result in patient injuries.
When a rehab facility does not provide an adequate standard of care and this substandard care leads to the injury or death of the patient, it is appropriate to seek compensation. Rehab clinic negligence lawsuits are an increasingly common area of personal injury law.
How Florida Rehab Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work
Florida Statutes section 768.19 states that when a person’s death “is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default or breach of contract” of another person or entity, the estate of the decedent may bring a civil suit in Florida courts.” The purpose of a wrongful death claim is the seek a legal remedy for the death and the financial losses stemming from it.
Wrongful death suits may be filed by the deceased person’s (decedent’s) spouse, children, parents, or any blood relative who is dependent upon the decedent. Only one representative of the estate can file the wrongful death suit, though damages may be sought by multiple individuals in the estate.
If your loved one died due to the negligence of a rehab facility, your wrongful death claim will work the same as any other wrongful death suit. Regardless of where the death occurred or who was responsible, the elements that your lawyer needs to prove remain the same:
- That the death of a human being, known as the decedent, occurred
- That the death was caused by another’s negligence, or with the intent to harm
- That the surviving family members are suffering financial injury as a result of the death
- That a representative of the decedent’s estate has been chosen to file suit
How Do Wrongful Deaths Occur in Florida?
There are a number of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death. The following situations are common accidents in wrongful death suits:
- Medical malpractice that causes the decedent’s death
- Negligence of a full-time care facility, such as rehab centers or nursing homes, that causes the decedent’s death
- Automobile or aircraft accident
- Occupational hazard that occurred due to employer negligence
- Criminal activity
- Death that occurred during a supervised activity
If You are Considering a Wrongful Death Suit
If you have suffered the loss of a family member due to another’s negligence, you are no doubt trying to make sense of this unnecessary and preventable loss. You may also be facing financial concerns due to funeral expenses and medical bills, or to lost wages if your family member contributed to the family income.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help secure your family’s financial future, and hold the person or entity responsible for your loved one’s death responsible for their negligence. Wrongful death should not go unpunished. An experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help review your case, and fight to get your family the compensation it deserves. Get in touch with our office today to get started.
About the Author:
A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.