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Law permits nursing homes to conceal records of abuse, neglect

A Wisconsin state law that passed in 2011 changed the way long-term health care providers are required to report their facilities' records for injuries, abuse and deaths. The tort reform law, known as Wisconsin Act 2 of 2011, makes state records related to injuries and death on their property inadmissible in court, including records regarding investigations of these facilities for abuse, medical malpractice and other events. However, these records are still available for the public to view.

Furthermore, the law also places an upper limit on the amount of damages that those who pursue a personal injury lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death may obtain from cases against long-term care providers. Prior to this law's passage, there was not a cap on punitive damages in these cases. The law also places a greater burden on the plaintiff who was seeking punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit; he or she is now required to prove that the provider knew about the actions or behaviors that resulted in the injury.

Proponents of this law state that it permits long-term healthcare providers to speak more freely about issues at their facilities without fear of recourse. Others argue, however, that it can affect the health and safety of the residents who live in these facilities.

The negligence and abuse of a loved one who is being cared for in a Wisconsin long-term healthcare facility can be heartbreaking. The abuse may have resulted in emotional as well as physical pain and suffering or even the death of a loved one. While the 2011 law may have limited the amount of punitive damages that may be awarded through a personal injury lawsuit, a personal injury lawsuit remains a viable option for seeking compensation in civil court and holding a negligent practitioner or facility liable.

Source: GreenBayPressGazette.com, "State law conceals nursing home abuse, neglect records ," Sarah Karon, Feb. 18, 2013

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