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What’s the difference between nursing home abuse and negligence?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2022 | Nursing Home Abuse

As the American population ages, nursing homes are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. According to one report, about 1.6 million Americans live in nursing homes. Another 1 million live in assisted living communities and other residential care facilities. At best, these facilities provide elderly people with the care they need while they live safely and with dignity.

Unfortunately, all too often, these facilities fall short. Labor shortages can mean that nursing home staff is overstretched, and workers are unable to give their residents the care and attention they need. In some cases, nursing home management prioritizes profit over their own residents. In the most disturbing cases, nursing home staff abuse their residents.

When Virginia residents fear their vulnerable loved ones are being mistreated in nursing homes, they may speak to a personal injury attorney about their options. Generally, these cases fall under the umbrellas of negligence or abuse. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between these terms.


The biggest difference between the two terms is that abuse is intentional. Nursing home abuse can come in many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and financial exploitation.

There may be criminal penalties in some cases of nursing home abuse. The injured or their families may also be able to pursue a civil personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Neglect and negligence

Negligence is the legal theory underpinning most personal injury claims. Negligence theory holds that all of us have a duty of care to avoid the risk of injury to others in a foreseeable accident. When someone breaches that duty, they act negligently. If their negligence causes injury to another person, the injured may hold them liable for their damages.

When nurses and other professionals are involved, nursing home-related cases can go beyond average negligence. Medical professionals have a different duty of care than the rest of us. They have the duty to provide their patients with care that is up to professional standards. When they fail to live up to professional standards, and the patient is injured as a result, they can be found liable for the injured patient’s damages.

Many nursing home cases are based on allegations that the nursing home harmed a resident through neglect. For instance, a nursing home might fail to move an immobile patient, leading to bedsores. One might say that this is not the same as abuse because the injury was unintentional. However, it could be negligence. The nursing home staff had a duty to their patients to prevent such injuries. It breached its duty through neglect.

Every case is unique. An attorney with experience in nursing home neglect and abuse can explain how the law may apply to the unique facts of your case.