Oregon’s Hidden Senior Care Abuses

One of the most troubling decisions you may face in your lifetime is deciding whether or not a parent or senior relative should be placed in the care of a nursing home. In many cases, families do not have a choice as the health of their relatives depends upon a continuous cycle of care by doctors and nurses. One would hope that the caregivers and other personnel at these facilities are fully vetted, trained, morally noble and responsible individuals, eager to provide their best care and peace of mind to the families who rely on them. Unfortunately, with the number of abuse cases we see here at Rizklaw, this isn’t always the case.

Misleading Records

The number of incidents of senior care abuse is likely higher than anyone assumes, but we don’t have reliable information to draw from. There is no national database to keep track of abuse complaints, and agencies at the state level do a poor job. Most agencies dedicated to conducting investigations and filing reports are severely underfunded and understaffed.

What’s worse? In Oregon, the state’s taxpayer-funded website for consumers researching care facilities omitted nearly 8,000 substantiated abuse complaints against senior care centers. That’s 60% of all complaints filed. Complaints ranging from serious medical concerns like a fractured hip or medication mixups to complaints filed about valuables gone missing were deleted from the website, misleading consumers looking to place their relatives in the 600+ long-term care facilities throughout the state. Record of wrongful death due to negligence were also missing.

What little data remains on the website includes excruciatingly vague descriptions, such as “inadequate hygiene” or “exposed to potential harm.” In one instance, a resident of a northeast Portland facility fell in the middle of the night and started to bleed from the head. Rather than call upon a nurse to evaluate the situation more closely, the resident was placed back in bed by the caregiver on duty. The next day, the same resident complained of pain. It was discovered that the resident had suffered a fractured hip. After all this, the report online simply stated the outcome of the complaint as “unreasonable discomfort.”

If you are looking to place your parents in a facility, would “unreasonable discomfort” be enough

By |April 21st, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Update on Youth Sports Concussion State Laws

Since Washington State passed the Zachery Lystedt law in 2009, each state has enacted legislation to protect young athletes from the risks associated with concussion in sport.

On October 2006, 13-year old Zachery Lystedt collapsed from a traumatic brain injury when he was allowed back into the game just fifteen minutes after suffering from a concussion and then spent months in a coma followed by years of rehabilitation. As a result of that event, Washington State enacted the first youth sports concussion safety law to address management in youth athletics, called the Zachery Lystedt law.

The key provisions of the Zachery Lystedt law are:

  • School districts board of directors and state interscholastic activities associations must develop concussion guidelines and education programs.
  • Youth athletes and a parent and/or guardian must sign and return a concussion and head injury information sheet on a yearly basis before the athlete’s first practice or before being allowed to compete.
  • Youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion in a practice or game must be immediately removed from competition.
  • Youth athletes who have been taken out of a game because of suspected concussion are not allowed to return to play until after:
    • Being evaluated by a health care provider with specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions
    • Receiving written clearance to return to plan from that health care provider
  • A school district complying with the law is immune from liability for injury or death of an athlete participating in a private, non-profit youth sports program due to action or inaction of persons employed by or under contract with the sports program if:
    • The action or inaction occurs on school property.
    • The non-profit provides proof of insurance.
    • The non-profit provides a statement of compliance with the policies for management of concussion and head injury in youth sports.

NFL Commissioner Urges State Governors to Enact Youth Concussion Laws

Following passage of the Zachery Lystedt law, in the spring of 2010, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to 77 U.S. Governors to encourage them to push for concussion legislation to protect youth athletes in their states.

He said: “Given our experience at the professional level, we believe a similar approach is appropriate when dealing with concussions in all youth sports.  That is why the NFL and its clubs urge you to support legislation that would better protect your state’s young athletes by mandating a more formal and aggressive approach to the treatment of concussions.” 

States Pass Youth Concussion Laws Modeled after Zachery Lystedt Law

By 2013, all states except Mississippi had enacted youth sports concussion safety laws modeled after Washington State’s Zachery Lystedt law. Finally, in 2014 Mississippi became the 50th state to respond by passing legislation to protect young athletes from the risks associated with concussion in sport.

The three main tenets of each state’s concussion legislation are:

  • To mandate educational outreach to coaches, parents and athletes
  • To mandate immediate removal from play of any athlete who sustains a concussion or who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with the injury
  • To only allow those athletes who exhibit such signs, symptoms, or behaviors to return to physical activity after receiving written clearance from an appropriate health care provider who is trained in concussion management

Many state laws also require parents to sign an acknowledgement form prior to allowing their child to play a contact sport after they have received information on concussion and acknowledged concussion risks involved with that sport.

Although nearly all laws include those three tenets, based on their own individual needs, many state laws vary on what sport programs must comply, what penalties exist for those who do not comply, and what medical providers are “appropriate” to make return to play decisions.

By |April 17th, 2017|Brain Injury|

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse in the United States

Imagine that you are helpless in bed, relying on another’s care for survival. One day, as you are being fed or bathed or changed, your caregiver turns against you and forces you to perform sex acts on him or takes advantage of you while you are sleeping. Now, imagine that you are elderly and that the likelihood of anyone believing what you have experienced is slim simply due to your age or other disability. These are the experiences of thousands of senior citizens and mentally or physically incapacitated patients throughout the country who reside in residential care facilities, assisted living centers, and other long-term care facilities.

Elder care sex abuse is not an issue most people are familiar with or have ever even conceived. It is not an issue that should ever have been conceived, yet the thought has crossed the minds of dozens of unfit caregivers, and many have acted upon them. As horrifying as it sounds, elder care abuse is barely on the radar. It is not even a priority for most law enforcement agencies and officials. But it is a serious issue that is gaining more awareness, as instances of abuse are on the rise.

A Hidden Problem

Throughout the United States, incidents of sex abuse toward those who are in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes have increased. Residents are assaulted by caretakers, facility personnel, other residents, and sometimes, even the owner himself. Sadly, there are currently no reliable national data due to a lack of organized data collection regarding these statistics. Just one organization — the Administration for Community Living based in Washington D.C. — has compiled any kind of data: approximately 20,000 complaints in a span of 20 years. This works out to about 3 complaints per day; this statistic excludes incidents of resident-on-resident sex abuse. Realistically, the numbers are likely much higher.

The issue is rampant and yet plagued by unawareness, apathy, and sheer neglect. No one really “believes” that elderly or incapacitated persons could be the victims of rape or other forms of sexual abuse. Victims may be too embarrassed to speak up, or they don’t think anyone will believe them. Families and friends who visit may suspect abuse but don’t wish to believe it or don’t want to get involved,

By |April 16th, 2017|Personal Injury|

Portland Bike-Share Bars Lawsuits

Nike-sponsored Biketown is Portland’s premier bike-share program. A thousand bright red-orange bikes eagerly await commuters at one hundred stations across downtown and local neighborhoods. At $2.50/ hour or $12 for a full day, these bikes are attractive and convenient options for city transportation. The program launched in July 2016 with extremely promising results. A total of 136,000 miles were traveled over 59,000 trips in its very first month. Biketown allows locals and tourists alike to traverse our bike-friendly city easily and relatively cheaply; yet what consumers may not know is that with each Biketown agreement they sign, they waive their constitutional right to a civil jury trial in court if something goes awry.

How Forced Arbitration Impacts Consumers

Arbitration clauses were developed as an informal, expedited method of resolving common disputes among businesses. The model does not work well when a consumer is pitted against a corporation, for these two entities are not equal.

Companies that include forced arbitration clauses in their user agreements try to paint them as user-friendly alternatives to complicated and unpleasant court proceedings. Little do most people know that arbitration is heavily biased toward the corporation. It is also generally not a more cost-effective approach to dispute resolution than taking someone to court.

Portland’s Biketown yet Another Peddler of Forced Arbitration

The program boasts it is the perfect solution for one-way trips around town. Its own website states it is “fun, affordable, and convenient;” yet, in the depths of the Biketown User Agreement there is a forced arbitration clause buried in the section titled “Binding Arbitration; Class Action Waiver” that prevents users of the popular bike-share program from pursuing their claims in court or as part of a class action settlement. The only solution the contract provides is to pursue mandatory arbitration to resolve disputes.

A portion of the clause reads:

“You agree that any dispute or Claim relating in any way to Your use of the Services will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court.”

Forced arbitration clauses have long stripped away the rights of consumers to stand up to corporations for wrongdoing. Over the past 30-odd years, companies have used these clauses as shields against taking responsibility for violating a myriad of consumer protections. These clauses are everywhere —

By |April 14th, 2017|Bicycle Accidents|

Top 7 Ways Forced Arbitration Harms Consumers

Arbitration is a dispute resolution alternative that aims to keep court costs down and quicken the time it takes to reach an agreement between two parties. Originally, arbitration was used to settle matters between two companies on equal footing. Today, arbitration is used by large corporations against consumers who are at a blatant disadvantage, having few resources and no power in the industry. While arbitration was first intended as an alternative for parties in mutual agreement of using arbitration instead of taking matters to court, these days millions of consumers are forced into it without even realizing it. Talk to an attorney if you believe you are bound by an arbitration clause in your personal injury case.

Where Can I Find Arbitration Clauses?

Arbitration clauses are hidden in contracts of everything from the terms and conditions of your credit or debit card to your cable, internet, or Netflix subscription. If you are a fan of shopping online, you may be surprised to know that Amazon’s Conditions of Use subjects shoppers to binding arbitration to resolve disputes. Even some healthcare providers hide these in the paperwork you have to fill out before a doctor will see you. Nursing homes and adult care facilities may also include arbitration clauses in their contracts, although changes to the laws allowing this are currently in progress.

How does Arbitration Hurt?

When a powerful entity such as a hospital is pitted against a single consumer, it rarely works out well for the consumer in the end. Arbitration is cheap for the company that mandates arbitration, and it is a high-cost pursuit for the claimant who wishes to proceed with the complaint. The “neutral third party” who is in charge of deciding an appropriate course of action is usually a retired judge, a judge who does arbitration as a source of extra income, or a lawyer trained in arbitration. These arbitrators have usually been hired several times by the same company and have a chummy relationship with the company, automatically inserting bias into the supposedly “neutral” nature of their position. Ultimately, forced arbitration is currently an accepted way for companies to strip consumers of their legal right to sue.

High Costs to Pursue Claim

To begin the arbitration process, claimants

By |April 12th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|