Residents in nursing homes have guaranteed rights, including freedom from restraint, abuse, or neglect – liberties that the rest of us take for granted. Sadly, elderly residents in nursing homes do not always receive these rights, and do not have the means to defend themselves. One way to help the victims of abuse pick up the pieces and prevent the same thing from happening to others is to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
Pennsylvania Nursing Home Abuse
The Pennsylvania Health Care Association reports that the average nursing home resident in the state of Pennsylvania is most likely to be a widowed female over the age of 85 suffering from some form of dementia. It’s hard to imagine a more fragile, helpless individual when it comes to nursing home abuse. Nursing home abuse victims are often too sick to fully communicate their situation to friends and family about the neglect, mistakes with their medications, and/or untrained or uncaring staff members.
Such abuse can take many different forms, with actual physical abuse and neglect being the most common and prevalent. State surveys are supposed to catch these problems before they occur, but according to the National Center for Elder Abuse, 15 percent of state surveys conducted on nursing homes miss the abuse that residents are suffering. It is difficult to accept, but one of those 15 percent could be your loved one. It may be time to look into the steps for filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
The First Step is to Retain an Attorney
Nursing home lawsuits can be extremely complicated, and the laws involved require an experienced attorney to navigate them. Your first step in filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit is to retain an attorney who specializes in nursing home neglect and abuse cases. It is very important that you find a lawyer who is familiar with the complex and detail-oriented laws involved, experienced in trying such cases, and aggressive enough to see that justice is done.
Preparing to File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
There is a great deal of preparation required before the lawsuit itself can be filed, beginning with a thorough investigation of the facts of the case. There are different types of nursing home abuse cases, each requiring slightly different evidence. These cases include:
- Nursing home neglect
- Nursing home malpractice
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Abandonment and failure to monitor
- Falls and accidents
- Medication errors
Typical evidence involved includes nursing home contracts, witness statements, photographs, videos, and medical records. Your lawyer will look at the information for your case, including any evidence listed above, and advise you whether or not you have a case. If you do have a case, the next step involves filing the nursing home abuse lawsuit itself.
Filing and Serving the Complaint/Petition
The nursing home abuse lawsuit is referred to as a complaint or a petition. The purpose of the complaint document is to identify the claims being made by the plaintiff against named defendants, such as the nursing home facility and staff. It also establishes the legal basis for the claim, including facts and evidence as well as the compensation you are seeking.
The complaint is filed with the Clerk of Court in your particular jurisdiction. Once it has been filed, it will be served upon the defendants named. Note that there is usually a filing fee involved unless you are eligible for a waiver of the fee.
Exchanging Discovery in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
The next step in the legal process involves exchanging discovery. This includes activities such as asking questions, gathering information, and interviewing witnesses involved in the case. Preparation is made for the case to be resolved, which includes negotiation. The case will either be settled outside of court or a verdict regarding the case will be reached.
Who Can File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
Nursing home abuse falls under the category of civil cases. Civil cases are normally brought by the individual who has suffered the injury – which means the victim of abuse in nursing home cases. Many times, the victims are in a nursing home because they have what’s known as diminished mental capacity, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, and cannot file a suit for themselves. Fortunately, there are still ways that the law protects them, including a current power of attorney.
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that authorizes someone else to make decisions on one’s behalf. Depending on the language in the POA, whether it was signed while the person was of sound mind, and whether or not it has expired, the individual with POA can file a lawsuit in the victim’s name. Without POA, there is still the possibility of obtaining guardianship for the victim. This is obtained through a court order and is similar to a power of attorney with two exceptions: it is established by the court (not by the victim) and it is going to add additional costs and time to the lawsuit process.
Who Do You Sue and What Are Your Legal Claims?
Typical defendants in nursing home abuse cases include the companies that own or operate the nursing home, supervisors who either knew about the injuries or were involved in supervising and hiring the individuals who caused the injuries, and the individuals who actually caused the injuries.
The next key facet of the lawsuit is going to be the legal claims made. Typical claims include elder abuse, negligence, negligent hiring, breach of contract, medical malpractice, bedsores, medication errors, abandonment and failure to monitor, and other statutory violations. It is very important that the correct claims are listed in the complaint, which is yet another reason to hire a lawyer who specializes in nursing home abuse cases.
Personal Injury Attorneys with Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit Experience
At Donaghue & Labrum, we understand the horror, pain, and frustration that is involved when you discover that a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse. We would like the opportunity to fight for the rights of your loved one, including the monetary compensation they are due as a result of the abuse they suffered. We specialize in nursing home abuse, and invite you to contact us for a free consultation. Let us fight for you and your loved one!