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Nursing Home

Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?

By Walton Law APCMay 20, 2024No Comments
Elderly woman gesturing to stop violence, signaling against mistreatment and abuse of seniors.

Nursing home abuse and neglect is an unfortunate reality in many areas of the country. When nursing homes and their employees fail to properly care for their patients, fail to maintain safe premises, or otherwise behave carelessly or negligently, serious medical complications for patients can arise.

If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, always speak with an experienced nursing home injury attorney right away. Your lawyer can promptly begin an investigation into the circumstances and, if necessary, threaten the nursing home or its insurance company with a claim. In some cases, your attorney may also pursue litigation on your loved one’s behalf in the state court system, seeking a favorable monetary award.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect — and the Medical Complications That Can Result

Nursing home abuse and neglect can manifest in various forms, each with its own set of medical complications that can profoundly affect the well-being of residents. One common form of abuse is physical abuse, which includes hitting, pushing, or restraining residents. This can lead to injuries such as bruises, fractures, and head trauma, which may require medical attention and can result in chronic pain and disability.

Another type of abuse is emotional or psychological abuse, which involves threats, humiliation, or isolation. This can cause residents to experience anxiety, depression, and a decline in mental health. Furthermore, emotional abuse can worsen existing conditions such as dementia, leading to behavioral disturbances and agitation.

Neglect is also a prevalent issue in nursing homes, where residents may not receive adequate care and attention. This can result in malnutrition, dehydration, and untreated medical conditions. Malnutrition and dehydration can weaken the immune system, making residents more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Untreated medical conditions, such as pressure ulcers or infections, can worsen over time and lead to serious complications, including sepsis and organ failure.

Financial exploitation is another form of abuse that can occur in nursing homes when nursing home staff misuse or steal residents’ funds or assets. This can cause residents financial hardship, affecting their ability to afford necessary medical care and medications.

In addition to the direct physical and psychological effects of abuse and neglect, there are also indirect consequences that can affect residents’ health. For example, residents who experience abuse or neglect may develop a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, leading to a decline in their overall quality of life. They may also become distrustful of caregivers and reluctant to seek help when needed, which can delay necessary medical treatment.

Important Pieces of Evidence in a Nursing Home Abuse Case

Proving a case of nursing home abuse or neglect requires gathering evidence that can withstand legal scrutiny. Several key pieces of evidence are crucial in establishing a strong case:

  • Medical Records — Detailed medical records documenting the resident’s condition before, during, and after the alleged abuse or neglect are essential. These records can include documentation of injuries, changes in health status, and medical treatments received. Discrepancies or gaps in medical records can raise red flags and warrant further investigation.
  • Witness Testimony — Testimony from witnesses who observed the abuse or neglect firsthand can be invaluable. This includes statements from other residents, staff members, visitors, or anyone else who may have witnessed the mistreatment. Witness testimony can provide crucial details and corroborate the resident’s account of what occurred.
  • Photographs and Videos — Visual evidence such as photographs and videos can provide important documentation of injuries, unsafe conditions, or instances of abuse. Photographs of bruises, cuts, or pressure ulcers can help demonstrate the extent of harm the resident suffered. Video footage may capture abusive behavior or neglectful practices by staff members.
  • Documentation of Complaints — Records of complaints the resident or their family members filed with the nursing home administration or regulatory agencies can support the case. These complaints may indicate a pattern of mistreatment or neglect and demonstrate that these parties raised concerns before taking legal action.
  • Expert Testimony — Expert witnesses, such as medical professionals or forensic specialists, can provide professional opinions based on their expertise. They can interpret medical records, evaluate injuries, and provide insights into the standard of care expected in nursing homes. Expert testimony can help clarify complex medical issues and strengthen the case.
  • Physical Evidence — Preserving and documenting any physical evidence related to the abuse or neglect is important. This may include torn clothing, broken medical equipment, or environmental hazards within the nursing home. Physical evidence can provide tangible proof of mistreatment and support the resident’s claims.
  • Documentation of Staffing Levels and Training — Records of staffing levels, staff training, and supervision within the nursing home can also be relevant evidence. Inadequate staffing or insufficient training may contribute to instances of abuse or neglect and indicate systemic issues within the facility.

Filing a Lawsuit and Litigating a Nursing Home Abuse Case

Filing a successful nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit requires careful planning and execution. Here are the steps involved in litigating a case through the court system:

  • Consultation with an Attorney — The first step is to consult with an attorney experienced in nursing home abuse or neglect cases. An experienced attorney can assess the merits of your case, explain your legal rights, and guide you through the legal process.
  • Investigation and Evidence Gathering — Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence to support your case. This may include obtaining medical records, interviewing witnesses, and collecting documentation of complaints or incidents of abuse or neglect.
  • Filing the Complaint — Once your attorney has gathered sufficient evidence, they will file a complaint with the appropriate court. The complaint outlines the allegations against the nursing home or its staff members and specifies the damages the claimant seeks.
  • Discovery Phase — During the discovery phase, both parties exchange relevant information and evidence related to the case. This may include depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents. Discovery allows each side to gather information to support their arguments and prepare for trial.
  • Pre-trial Motions — Both parties may file pre-trial motions to address legal issues or procedural matters before trial. These motions may include motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, or motions to exclude certain evidence.
  • Settlement Negotiations — In many cases, parties may engage in settlement negotiations to resolve the case without going to trial. Settlement negotiations allow both parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution and avoid the time and expense of a trial.
  • Trial — If the case proceeds to trial, both parties will present their arguments and evidence before a judge and/or jury. The plaintiff has the burden of proving the allegations of abuse or neglect. Witnesses may testify, and attorneys will present evidence to support each side’s case.
  • Verdict and Appeal — After hearing the evidence, the judge or jury will render a verdict, determining whether the nursing home or its staff members are liable for abuse or neglect. If either party is dissatisfied with the verdict, they may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court.

What Happens During a Jury Trial Involving Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?

A jury trial concerning nursing home abuse or neglect involves a thorough examination of evidence and testimony. The trial begins with jury selection, ensuring a fair and unbiased panel to weigh the facts that both sides present. Attorneys representing both the party alleging abuse or neglect (the plaintiff) and the nursing home facility or its staff (defendant) carefully prepare their cases, aiming to persuade the jury through their arguments and evidence.

During the trial, the plaintiff’s legal team presents evidence to establish that the nursing home failed in its duty to provide adequate care, resulting in harm to the resident. This evidence may include medical records, witness testimony, expert opinions, and documentation of the resident’s condition before and after the alleged abuse or neglect. Witnesses, such as medical professionals or family members, may testify to the resident’s suffering and the facility’s negligence.

On the lawyer's desk, a statue of Themis, symbolizing justice, and a gavel. Concept of law and justice.Conversely, the defense tries to refute these claims by presenting its own evidence and witnesses. They may argue that negligence was not responsible for the resident’s injuries — that they resulted from pre-existing conditions or unforeseeable circumstances instead. In addition, they may attempt to discredit the plaintiff’s evidence or witnesses through cross-examination and counterarguments.

Throughout the trial, the judge ensures adherence to legal procedures and rules of evidence, maintaining order and fairness in the courtroom. Jurors carefully listen to the arguments presented by both sides, taking notes and deliberating on the evidence provided. Their role is to impartially evaluate the facts and reach a verdict based on the evidence.

The emotional toll of nursing home abuse or neglect cases is often observable in court, as families seek justice for their loved ones who suffered harm while under the care of a trusted facility. The trial serves as a platform for them to confront the alleged perpetrators and hold those individuals accountable for their actions.

The jury deliberates until reaching a unanimous decision or, in some cases, a majority decision, depending on the jurisdiction. Once the jury reaches a verdict, they announce it in court, and the judge may issue instructions for any further proceedings, such as determining damages if the verdict favors the plaintiff.

An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can guide you through the litigation process, help you make important decisions, and pursue the highest possible damage award in your case.

What Types of Damages Can My Loved One Receive for Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse can have devastating consequences for victims and their families. If your loved one has experienced abuse in a nursing home, they may be entitled to various types of damages as compensation for their suffering. These damages aim to provide financial relief and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.  They include the following:

  • Compensatory Damages" displayed in text format, representing financial recovery for losses in legal matters.Compensatory Damages — These damages seek to compensate the victim for the harm they have suffered. They can cover medical expenses, including treatment for physical injuries, therapy for emotional trauma, and ongoing care needs resulting from the abuse.
  • Pain and Suffering — This type of damage seeks to compensate the victim for the physical pain and emotional distress the abuse caused. It considers the anguish, fear, and humiliation experienced due to the mistreatment.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life — Nursing home abuse can rob victims of their ability to enjoy life as they did before. Loss of enjoyment of life damages seek to compensate for the diminished quality of life resulting from the abuse.
  • Punitive Damages — In cases of egregious misconduct or negligence, the plaintiff may pursue punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar future behavior. These damages go beyond compensating the victim and instead send a message that such actions are unacceptable.
  • Wrongful Death Damages — If the abuse leads to the death of the resident, their surviving family members may pursue wrongful death damages. These damages can cover funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and compensation for the emotional suffering the loss of their loved one caused.
  • Legal Fees and Costs — In addition to compensatory damages, victims may also seek reimbursement for their legal fees and court costs incurred during the litigation process.

The specific damages available in a nursing home abuse case can vary depending on the circumstances and the state laws where an attorney files the case. Consulting with an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable in elder abuse cases can explain your loved one’s rights and pursue the compensation they deserve.

Talk with an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Your Area Today

If you or a loved one was a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, always reach out to experienced legal counsel right away. A personal injury lawyer can immediately investigate the circumstances, determine your legal options, and pursue the compensation that your loved one needs to become whole again.

Nursing home injuries can be costly for victims, their families, and society in general. The law holds nursing homes accountable for harm to residents, but you must take action to seek the justice your loved one deserves. Schedule your free consultation with a nursing home injury attorney now.