Nursing home abuse can come in many forms. Sexual, physical, emotional, and financial abuse can all occur, even in well-monitored and highly staffed facilities. If you suspect that one of your loved ones is being abused in any way at a nursing home, the safest step to take is to remove them from the facility and place them in the care of an organization that you trust. If necessary, you may choose to provide in-home care for a certain period of time. Next, you may decide to report the suspected abuse to authorities, including the local Adult Protective Services (APS), the ombudsman, and possibly the police. If the nursing home is not aware of the suspected abuse, you may choose to warn them, but this can be risky if your loved one is still in their care, and an investigation is launched into the abuser's behavior.
The physical, psychological, and financial costs of abuse can be substantial. For this reason, many victims of elder abuse and their families choose to file lawsuits against the abuser and/or the nursing home in which the abuse took place. There are multiple ways in which a lawsuit can help victims and their families move past traumatic experiences. Settlements and financial awards from the court can help compensate the victim for the emotional fallout of the abuse while covering their medical bills, alternative care, physical therapy, and counseling. Lawsuits can also bring a sense of justice to victims and their families who can rest assured that the abuser and the facility have been held responsible for their actions.
How to File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
In order to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit, you will need to contact an attorney, preferably one with personal injury experience. The lawyer will file a petition or complaint with the local, county, or state court on behalf of the plaintiff (the victim of the abuse or their loved one in the case of wrongful death). The nursing home involved in the case will file similar papers with the court, or file a motion to dismiss the case if they disagree with the charges. If the nursing home files a motion for dismissal, there will be a hearing before a judge, who will decide whether or not the case can go forward.
Once the trial is approved by a judge, the case enters a stage called “discovery.” During this period, both the plaintiff and the defendant build their cases through investigation and compiling information pertinent to the case. This can include medical reports and bills, witness testimonies, nursing home charts, and production of documents or photographs related to the case. Sometimes, a document will be withheld, and the plaintiff's attorney will have to argue before the judge that the document is pertinent. Discovery is one of the most important stages of a pretrial lawsuit, and it is therefore important to retain the counsel of an attorney experienced in litigating against nursing homes.
Proving Nursing Home Injuries
In order for the nursing home to be found liable for the injuries and abuse suffered by the victim, the plaintiff's case will need to prove three things. First, they will need to show that the nursing home had a duty to the patient that was not fulfilled. For example, in an abuse case, the plaintiff will need to show that the nursing home had a duty to keep their residents safe from harm. Then, they will need to prove that the nursing home failed to uphold their duty, such as by negligently hiring staff, failing to implement safety procedures, or ignoring obvious signs and patterns of abuse. Lastly, they will need to show that the failure to uphold their duty directly caused the plaintiff's injuries.
Trial or Settlement
The vast majority of civil lawsuits end in a settlement, a resolution outside of the courtroom. Nursing homes often offer plaintiffs settlements in order to avoid a public trial which could bring bad publicity to their organization. Settlements are attractive to some plaintiffs because they can avoid the court fees associated with a lengthy trial. Deciding whether or not to accept a settlement can be a difficult decision, and an attorney can help explain the pros and cons of a settlement offered by the defendant.
Elder Abuse Damages
Damages in a nursing home abuse lawsuit are similar to those in most personal injury cases. Plaintiffs can receive compensation for any medical care provided to the victim associated with the abuse. They also often receive damages for mental, physical, and emotional pain and suffering, which can be substantial in a case of abuse in which there is obvious intention to harm, abuse of power, or repetitive and systematic behavior. In particularly egregious cases, the court may assign punitive damages to the defendant as well. These damages, as the name suggests, are designed to punish the defendant for their misconduct and discourage the situation from repeating itself in the same and other facilities.
Statute of Limitations
It is important to note that there is a limited period of time in which to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit after the fact of the abuse occurs. In Maryland, the plaintiff has three years from the time of the accident to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a nursing home or other long-term care facility. In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs have two years to file.
Elder Abuse Trial Attorneys in Baltimore
Filing a suit swiftly can also be a good idea because witnesses and evidence in the case are easier to access. Over time, photographs and documents pertaining to the case might be more difficult to obtain, and witnesses may quit or be transferred to different nursing facilities, making them harder to track down. Trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian have a reputation for fighting for their clients and record-setting verdicts in personal injury cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. For a free case evaluation, call 800.529.6162 or contact them online.