According to the latest figures from the CDC, over two million Americans now reside in nursing homes. While most do so and receive the care they need and deserve, others, unfortunately, find themselves the victims of abuse and neglect by staff and others. As a result, many not only suffer needlessly but also die as a result of the abuse. Therefore, it is extremely important for family members of residents to visit regularly and pay close attention to any signs of abuse, such as bruises, bedsores, changes in personality, weight loss, and other signs that may point to abuse and neglect. If you find yourself facing this situation with a family member and decide to take the case to court, here are eight important tips to keep in mind.
Filing the Lawsuit
If you decide to pursue a nursing home abuse case in court, you will likely file a civil lawsuit against the nursing home, specific staff, and possibly the corporation that owns the home. Once done, lawyers for both sides will exchange documents and interview witnesses, then a date for the trial will be set.
In many of these situations, the case never makes it to trial. Instead, out-of-court settlements are often reached by both parties, which can not only allow the case to be completed much faster but also help family members avoid the emotionally painful process of testifying about their loved one’s abuse. More information about this can be found at www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/proving-damages-nursing-home-injury-abuse-case.html.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
Before taking a nursing home abuse case to court, always make sure you hire an attorney who is experienced in handling these cases. By doing so, you can greatly increase your chances of winning the case, since the lawyer will know exactly how to proceed with regards to gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and other pertinent aspects of the case. Additional details about this can be found at www.nursinghomelawcenter.org/news/nursing-home-abuse/what-must-be-proven-to-win-a-nursing-home-neglect-lawsuit/.
Have Plenty of Evidence
Before pursuing these cases, always make sure you have plenty of evidence documenting the alleged abuse. This can include photographs of bruises and other injuries, notes detailing conversations with nursing home staff or doctors, and information regarding medications prescribed to the patient. By having these types of documentation, you will be able to not only pursue a civil lawsuit but also criminal charges if necessary.
Proving a Breach of Care
Since these cases are considered medical malpractice, plaintiffs must prove that the standard of care was breached in regards to the care given to their loved one. By this, it must be shown the nursing home staff and doctors deviated from what would be considered the normal standard of care that would be administered by a reasonable person under similar circumstances.
If you are unable to reach an out-of-court settlement in your case, be prepared to have plenty of patience while your case plays out in court. In most nursing home abuse cases, it may take a year or more for the case to finally be decided.
Suing for Damages
Since there are multiple factors involved in nursing home abuse cases, it is usually possible to sue for a variety of damages. Since the damages awarded in these cases are meant to compensate the victim for their injuries and abuse, several types of damages can be pursued. The most common include physical suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and financial compensation to cover the cost of any medical treatment associated with abuse or neglect. If the abuse or neglect is considered to be extreme by the court, punitive damages may also be regarded as a way to punish the defendants.
Rely on Expert Witnesses
To have a better chance of winning your nursing home abuse case, your attorney will likely bring in numerous expert witnesses to testify regarding the abuse or neglect suffered by your loved one at the nursing home. In most cases, these will be doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals. In addition, law enforcement personnel may also testify if the case has criminal charges associated with it as well. In these situations, your attorney will handle all details regarding these witnesses, such as interviews and gathering any documentation pertinent to the case.