Putting a loved one in a nursing home or elder-care facility can be a difficult decision. In many cases, it is the only option for the elder to receive the round-the-clock care they need. Funding a nursing home stay can be costly. Fortunately, extended insurance coverage can help. Still, you should be able to expect a certain amount of value for your money—especially with your loved one’s well-being at stake. Sadly, not all nursing home staff are as compassionate as they should be. You may need to file a nursing home abuse claim on behalf of your family member. But what happens then?
In 1987, the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act, requiring all nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident.” Additionally, the Nursing Home Reform Act mandated that each nursing home that takes Medicare and Medicaid payments must meet federal residents’ rights requirements. However, all nursing homes in the country must guarantee their residents the following general categories of rights:
Additionally, all licensed nursing homes must abide by the Social Security Act, the Older Americans Act, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, the State Adult Protective Services, and the State Penal Code. Some states also have their own separate residents’ rights laws and regulations. At minimum, nursing home staff should keep the facilities clean and display compassion to the residents. Residents should also receive prompt medical support as necessary.
Unfortunately, not every nursing home lives up to these standards. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study found that every 2 in 3 nursing home staff members confessed to committing abuse in the past year. Approximately 1 in 6 older adults also reported experiencing some form of abuse within the same time frame. Nursing home abuse, which is a subtype of elder abuse, can manifest in many different ways. Victims tend to internalize the abuse and blame themselves, making it an underreported phenomenon. However, the most common types of nursing home abuse include psychological abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. If you suspect that your loved one has become the victim of nursing home abuse, take the time to speak to them privately. Make sure they feel comfortable and safe and keep the conversation away from any staff members that may hear. Speaking to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you figure out what your best options are. Depending on your case, it is likely that your lawyer will recommend you file a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit is a long and arduous process, one that can be extraordinarily complex for those without a full and comprehensive understanding of the law. These are legal claims filed in civil courts that require a professional’s expertise. Many different elements go into a nursing home lawsuit, including:
The plaintiff must also prove that (1) the nursing home was legally obligated to provide care, (2) the nursing home failed to provide said care, and (3) the plaintiff’s injuries happened as a direct result of the nursing home’s neglect.
Generally speaking, a nursing home lawsuit has four distinct phases: (1) investigation, (2) discovery, (3) pre-trial, and (4) trial. The right lawyer will be able to help guide you through all of these.
The first phase, investigation, is when all the relevant facts are collected and examined. Typically, it will involve compiling witness accounts, photographs, medical records, et cetera. During the discovery phase, the evidence is brought forth to the judge. If necessary, witnesses may be deposed and cross-examined. The discovery phase is especially important as it is the last chance to resolve the matter before litigation.
The third phase, pre-trial, is rather self-explanatory. During this time, lawyers on both sides will begin strategizing about how to attack the case during the trial period. They may also conduct follow-up investigations on any information that came to light during the discovery phase. Finally, the trial phase is when the case is brought forth to a judge and jury. This phase is also known as litigation. The judge and jury will decide on a verdict, including the degree and severity of the nursing home’s neglect (should they be found guilty). Depending on the awards of compensation and costs, the jury may also choose to dismiss the case. However, the plaintiff and the defendant have the option to settle the case as they see fit at any time before the jury’s final verdict.
By nature, most civil cases must be slow and deliberate. There are many different statutory laws and legal precedents to consider, all of which the right attorney will take into consideration on your behalf. Consequently, most nursing home abuse cases may take anywhere from a few months to a few years to resolve. If you choose to pursue a nursing home abuse claim, then it is crucial to stay patient. Be prepared to litigate if necessary. Stay patient and consult with your legal team to know just what you can expect for your specific case.
If you or a loved one have recently fallen victim to nursing home abuse, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide nursing home abuse attorneys. Let us fight for you.