Deaths at Drug Treatment Facilities

Posted on March 26, 2021

Drug treatment facilities can hurt patients as much as they help them. Not all treatment and addiction rehabilitation centers prioritize patient safety and wellbeing. Negligence or malpractice by a rehabilitation center can cause long-threatening problems for a patient, sometimes resulting in death. Surviving loved ones may have the right to bring wrongful death claims against drug treatment facilities for catastrophic outcomes.

Common Causes of Accidents and Deaths at Addiction Centers

A drug treatment facility owes a professional duty of care to its patients. It is legally obligated to protect and properly treat its patients. When a facility or one of its employees breaches this duty of care, patients can suffer serious consequences. Common causes of accidents and deaths at addiction centers include:

  • Dangerous premises
  • Diseases
  • Infections
  • Maltreatment
  • Medical malpractice
  • Medical product liability
  • Neglect
  • Patient-on-patient violence
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Slip or trip and fall accidents
  • Suicide or self-destructive actions
  • Untreated withdrawal symptoms
  • Verbal, mental or emotional abuse

Patients checking into drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities are extremely vulnerable. By the time they seek professional help, their substance abuse disorders are often severe enough to have a major effect on their bodies and minds. Many patients have dual diagnoses; they are diagnosed with both substance use disorders and mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is especially important for rehabilitation centers to care for the needs of these patients.

Who Is Liable?   

If a drug treatment facility fails to fulfill its duties of care to patients, fatal incidents can take place. For example, if a staff member mistreats, neglects or abuses a patient, that patient may be unable to recover. If a treatment center has lax emergency protocols, a patient in need of help may die rather than being taken to a hospital. Liability, or legal responsibility, for patient deaths will rest with the person or party most at fault for causing the fatal injury or illness. This party could be:

  • The treatment facility
  • An employee or staff member
  • A physician or nurse
  •  A medical product manufacturer
  • The owner of the facility or property
  • Multiple parties 

Treatment centers must do everything they reasonably can to keep their patients safe. This includes removing dangerous conditions or defects from the property, creating a safe environment, and addressing the needs of its patients. If a treatment center or one of its staff members fails to fulfill these duties, it will be liable for a related patient death, meaning financially responsible for a family’s losses.

Differences of Inpatient and Outpatient Centers  

An inpatient treatment center houses patients for the duration of their programs. Patients live at inpatient rehabilitation centers for 30 to 90 days at a time, for the most part, while undergoing intensive treatment. Outpatient centers, on the other hand, are part-time programs that allow the patient to continue living at home and attending work and school during treatment. Both types of treatment centers have a legal obligation to keep patients reasonably safe.

Tips for Choosing a Safe Addiction Treatment Center    

Choosing a safe addiction treatment center takes ample research into each center’s methods, protocols and histories of deaths. Look at a center’s policies for patient monitoring and how it handles life-threatening emergencies. There should be doctors onsite or the center should have a plan for bringing an endangered patient to a nearby hospital immediately for treatment. Avoid for-profit centers that use high-pressure sales tactics or incentives. Ask a doctor for a referral or recommendation for a center near you.

If your loved one died while in the care of a drug treatment or addiction facility in California or elsewhere in the US, you may have legal options. Discuss them with a compassionate and experienced wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles today. Call (310) 477-1700 for a free consultation.

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