What is a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
Nursing home abuse occurs when a resident suffers harm from mistreatment. This could include physical abuse, sexual abuse and assault, financial extortion, neglect, or medical malpractice. Laws protect residents of nursing homes, and when facilities fail to meet the required standard of care, you may take legal action.
A nursing home abuse lawsuit is the final step in any attempt to get justice and recover damages related to abuse. You may first try to resolve the situation with the facility or work with a lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement. You may even need to report criminal behavior to the police. If your loved one does not receive justice or recover adequate damages after these steps, you may need to file a lawsuit.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
The type of lawsuit filed in the case of nursing home abuse depends on the situation. Abuse can be considered criminal. The victim of the abuse does not file this type of lawsuit. Prosecuting attorneys decide if the individual or facility has committed a crime and must be brought to justice.
The victim, or more likely a loved one with power of attorney, may choose to file a personal injury civil lawsuit. Most cases of nursing home abuse fall under the heading of personal injury. An individual, or more likely the nursing home facility, is negligent in the abuse and you can sue them for damages.
In some cases, mistreatment in a nursing home may overlap with medical malpractice. If the negligent individual is a doctor or nurse who did not follow the appropriate standard of care, you may file a malpractice lawsuit to sue for damages. For instance, errors in medication types or dosing could be malpractice.
How Do I Know if I Need to File a Lawsuit?
Knowing when to take this legal action is not simple for most people. You need the guidance of a personal injury lawyer experienced in nursing home abuse cases. They can review the evidence and determine if a settlement may be possible or if you need to go further and sue the facility.
How is Negligence Proven in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
The key to winning a lawsuit over nursing home abuse and recovering damages is proving negligence. You need a good lawyer on your side because they have the resources, experts, and experience to find evidence and prove that someone is negligent and liable for damages. Proving negligence in a lawsuit involves showing that the employee or nursing home:
- Had a relationship with the victim, making them responsible for care and rights under relevant laws
- Breached the duty to provide such care and ensure the victim’s rights
- Caused harm to the resident as a result of this breach
- Caused damages because of the harm
As an example, a typical result of abuse in nursing homes is painful bedsores. As a resident in a skilled nursing facility, the resident had a right to adequate medical care. For bed-bound residents, this includes regular turning to prevent bedsores and treatment if they develop despite good care.
If the facility is understaffed, and employees did not have enough time to turn the patient regularly, they breached the duty of care. This caused direct harm in the form of bedsores. The bedsores led to pain, suffering, and a need for additional medical care, significant and measurable damages.
What Can We Recover in Damages from a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
The main reason to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit is to recover damages to compensate the victim. Abuse and neglect lead to emotional and physical suffering as well as additional medical expenses. If your lawyer can prove negligence, they can show that the nursing home, or another party, is negligent and must pay these damages.
What your case is worth depends on several factors, and no reputable lawyer will guarantee a certain amount. They have the experience to give you a reasonable estimate based on:
- The victim’s injuries and their severity
- The duration and severity of the abuse and neglect
- Medical bills related to the abuse
- Emotional suffering and trauma
- Physical pain and any disability caused by the abuse
- Funeral costs and emotional suffering in the case of a wrongful death
Most cases result in economic and non-economic damages for actual costs and unmeasurable costs, like pain. If the facility violated regulations, they might also be forced to pay punitive damages.
Is There a Time Limit on Filing a Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations, a time limit on when you can file, varies by state and sometimes by type of lawsuit. Most nursing home cases are personal injury lawsuits. The statute of limitations for these are between one and six years from the time of the incident, depending on the state.
If the case is considered medical malpractice, there may be exceptions to the statute. For instance, you may not discover that symptoms or medical conditions your loved one developed resulted from a doctor’s errors years later. Some states allow for these discovery exceptions.
What Are the Steps in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
The first step is to talk to a reputable, experienced nursing home abuse attorney or law firm. They will likely try to settle with the nursing home or their insurance company before recommending a lawsuit. If they cannot resolve the situation, you may choose to file. The steps in a lawsuit include:
- Filing the Lawsuit
Also known as the complaint, this is the first official step in a lawsuit. Your lawyer will file it to notify the defendants of your claims of abuse, negligence, and liability.
- Investigation and Discovery
The complaint triggers a period of investigation on both sides. Your lawyer will build a case to prove negligence and that the defendant owes damages. They will build a case to prove they owe you nothing and were not negligent. During the discovery period, each side can collect information from the other.
- Attempting to Settle
Most personal injury lawsuits end here. It’s a risk for the insurance company behind the defendant to take the case to court. A jury verdict award is almost always larger than a settlement amount. A settlement also benefits the victim by bringing about a quicker resolution and compensation.
- Going to Trial
The plaintiff may decide to go to trial if the other side will not settle or only offers inadequate compensation. A trial takes longer but can result in a substantial award to cover damages. Both sides present their evidence, experts, and witnesses before a jury who will decide the result.
A lawsuit is never ideal, but if your loved one is injured because of nursing home abuse or neglect, and they are not willing to provide compensation, it may be your best option. Choose a lawyer specializing in personal injury and with proven experience negotiating and litigating nursing home cases.