Millions of older Americans have experienced mistreatment at the hands of those who are supposed to care for them. One of the most common places for elder abuse, unfortunately, is the nursing home.
Suing a nursing home for negligence is a situation no family wants to deal with. But sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to do.
It might seem like enough to just pull your family member out of that bad situation and transfer them somewhere better. But if you don’t sue, your loved one won’t get the compensation they deserve. Even worse, you won’t have helped prevent that facility from continuing to abuse other elders in their care.
Sueing a nursing home might seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before. However, this guide will help. Keep reading to learn exactly how to start a nursing home lawsuit to protect your family and many others from future abuse.
Reasons to Sue a Nursing Home
Not sure if your situation is a reason to sue or not? Let’s take a look at some of the situations where suing makes sense. While many cases of negligence are straightforward and obvious, these are some situations you may not have thought of.
Keep in mind that nursing home laws vary by state (more on that later), and some of these reasons to sue will be affected by the specifics of your state.
1. Failure to Follow Regulations
Nursing homes that take Medicare have to follow federal regulations governing the standard of care. If they don’t, you can definitely sue them.
For example, these regulations state that the facility should be kept safe from possible accident hazards. They also state that residents should be given the right amount of supervision and the correct devices to help them avoid falling and other accidents.
A nursing home that doesn’t follow these and other federal regulations should be sued so they’ll become compliant.
2. Restricting Provider Choices
Did you know that nursing homes aren’t allowed to restrict which doctors and healthcare providers a senior can see?
After moving to a nursing home, the staff might give recommendations on doctors and pharmacies. But their clients must still be allowed to see the providers they choose, whether or not they’re recommended by the facility.
If the facility doesn’t allow this freedom, you might want to sue.
3. Lack of Private Communication
Nursing home patients are required to allow private, free communication with people inside and outside the facility.
Residents need to be able to get and send mail, texts, emails, and any other type of communication without having it read or censored by nursing home staff in any way. They also should be able to access a phone, make calls as needed, and have visits from anyone, including overnight guests.
Finally, nursing home residents have the right to leave at any time. The facility can’t hold them against their will.
4. Financial Controls
Unless a resident consents to let the nursing home staff help them with their finances, they should retain total control.
Many seniors are perfectly capable of managing their finances on their own. But even if they aren’t, the nursing home can’t step in and take over their finances without the proper permission to do so.
If the nursing home has permission to control a resident’s finances, they still have to make information about those finances available to the resident.
There are many other reasons you might want to sue a nursing home, but those are just a few of the ones you might not have known about.
Nursing Home Neglect Laws
The specific laws governing nursing home neglect vary by state.
In 1965, the Older Americans Act was put into law to protect elders. Most of today’s nursing home neglect laws came later at the state level. Every state has some laws regarding nursing home neglect, although the exact nature of the laws varies.
Even though the above reasons are causes to sue in many states, you’ll want to work with a lawyer to understand your state’s laws before moving forward. Now, let’s take a look at what moving forward looks like.
Suing a Nursing Home for Negligence: A Step-by-Step Guide
These basic steps will get you started on a successful nursing home lawsuit to get your family member the proper compensation.
1. Determine Who Can Sue and Who to Sue
You can’t sue on behalf of a family member, most of the time. The neglect victim will likely have to file suit themselves.
However, if that person doesn’t have the capacity to make decisions on their own behalf, the person who has Power of Attorney can often sue for them. You can also get a court order that establishes you as a guardian.
You’ll also need to figure out who the target of the lawsuit is going to be. Will you sue the facility itself, the person who caused the neglect, or the supervisors of that person?
2. Figure Out the Legal Claims
Next, you have to figure out your legal claims. It’s important to check your state’s laws to make sure you get this step right, so the case doesn’t get slowed down.
3. Find an Attorney
At this point, you might have already started working with an attorney to help you understand your state’s laws and other details. But if you haven’t done so yet, now is a good time to find an attorney to work with.
Suing a nursing home for negligence without an attorney is rarely successful. A lawyer who’s experienced with this situation will save you time, money, and strife, and help you get the results you want.
Do You Need to File a Nursing Home Lawsuit?
You might have never expected to find yourself suing a nursing home for negligence. However, this can happen to anyone. No matter how carefully you choose the facility, neglect is sadly all too common.
Why is it so common? To better understand this problem, read more about the causes of elder abuse before you take the next steps.