What Is a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
A nursing home abuse lawsuit allows older Americans and their loved ones to pursue justice if they’ve been harmed in an assisted living facility. These lawsuits allow victims of nursing home negligence and abuse to seek compensation from the facility and/or staff responsible.
Almost all nursing home abuse lawsuits award money through settlements. Settlements are legal agreements between the victim’s lawyers and the lawyers for the nursing home/staff.
A small number of nursing home lawsuits may go to trial where a judge or jury decides the outcome of the case.
If you’re considering filing a lawsuit, connect with a dedicated nursing home abuse lawyer who will listen to your story and help you pursue compensation if you’re eligible.
Why File Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes?
A nursing home lawsuit can be filed to obtain compensatory damages for the pain and suffering the victim has already endured. This is monetary compensation paid out to the nursing home resident.
Compensatory damages can help pay for:
- Costs associated with changing nursing homes or caregivers
- Medical bills
- Mental health counseling
- Physical therapy
- Other expenses
At a bare minimum, nursing home abuse lawsuits should help recover the costs of medical care or recoup stolen money. That said, some lawsuits may award more money to punish the care providers for harming the nursing home patient. These are called punitive damages.
Finally, lawsuits not only bring the threat of financial loss to a nursing home — but they can also bring bad publicity that means fewer people will want to live there.
Types of Nursing Home Lawsuits
Lawsuits against nursing homes fall into two main categories: tort law or breach of contract.
Tort Nursing Home Lawsuits
A tort lawsuit is filed when a resident suffers harm or loss and claims that the resident’s health care fell beneath a reasonable standard. Nursing homes usually have insurance for negligence and medical malpractice, meaning victims can often collect more money through a tort lawsuit.
Generally, a tort lawsuit falls into one of two major categories. One category is negligence, which includes any careless conduct that injures a resident or leads to their death.
Negligence tends to fall under tort law in order to:
- Provide a peaceable method to resolve disputes
- Minimize conduct that is considered socially unacceptable
- Encourage socially responsible behavior
- Provide compensation and return the victim to as close to the same condition as they were prior to the wrongdoing
The other category is an intentional tort, which includes any civil wrong done with malice or deliberate intent to cause harm or death — in this case, any type of nursing home abuse.
If a case is not covered under one of the previously described categories, it might fall into a breach of contract lawsuit. Our team of dedicated Patient Advocate can help determine which type of lawsuit you may have with a free case review.
Breach of Contract Lawsuits
Breach of contract cases include any conduct that violates the agreement between a nursing home resident, the staff, and the facility. Unlike tort lawsuits, this type of legal action is arguably more limited in scope.
Breach of contract cases cover:
- Any type of abuse
- Nursing home neglect in which the services fall below those outlined in the contract
There also may be limits on the amount of money a nursing home resident can receive through a breach-of-contract lawsuit. This is because contract law limits damages by how much risk was reasonably foreseen by both parties when the agreement was signed.
Criminal vs Civil Nursing Home Lawsuits
Criminal and civil nursing home lawsuits are very different. A victim can only file a civil lawsuit, as criminal lawsuits are brought by members of the prosecution (lawyers who argue why someone should go to jail or pay a fine for their crimes).
Criminal lawsuits involve felonies and misdemeanors, whereas civil lawsuits are typically only about compensation.
In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff (the victim of nursing home abuse or their family members) must show that the defendants (senior living facilities or staff members) are liable for causing harm.
Liability in civil lawsuits can be established by showing:
- Negligent supervision
- Negligent hiring of employees or insufficient staffing
- Negligent upkeep of the nursing facility
- Negligent equipment selection or upkeep
Nursing homes can be found negligent if the victim can prove:
- The owner or employees of the facility breached an appropriate standard of care
- The victim’s injury was caused by the breach
- The owner’s or employee’s conduct caused the personal injury or wrongful death
The main differences between civil and criminal lawsuits are detailed below.
|Criminal Nursing Home Lawsuits||Civil Nursing Home Lawsuits|
|Criminal cases have a higher burden of proof. They come with more severe punishments, meaning they must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.||Civil cases are less severe and only require that a lawyer prove that responsibility for the wrongdoing is more likely than not.|
|In a criminal case, lawyers are required, and one will be provided for the defendant if they cannot afford one.||Civil lawsuits do not require lawyers, but they are highly recommended.|
|If found guilty, the defendants face jail time and/or fines.||The defendants will not go to jail if they lose. They will only be required to pay money to the plaintiff.|
|Criminal cases almost always require a jury.||Civil cases are most often negotiated into settlement outside the court system.|
|Criminal lawsuits are initiated by members of the United States government.||Civil cases are filed by individuals and their lawyers in the appropriate state or county court system.|
Nursing Home Lawsuit Process
While they can seem intimidating and complicated, nursing home litigation is simple when broken down into steps.
First, a lawsuit against a nursing home must prove:
- The nursing home was in a legal contract to provide care
- The nursing home failed to uphold that duty of care
- The facts stated in the lawsuit resulted from a lack of nursing home care
Once these three elements are confirmed, the following steps occur.
The plaintiff’s lawyer will file a complaint that details the senior’s injuries, outlines the defendant’s liability, and explains the court’s jurisdiction over the case.
The defendants must then respond and explain why they believe they are not at fault. Otherwise, they will automatically lose the case.
The two parties will begin collecting evidence to support their cases. This can include gathering medical records, witness statements, and testimonies from medical experts. Motions can also be filed at this time requesting the court to rule, act, or gain clarification on aspects of the lawsuit.
After each side has built its case, they will usually meet to try and settle the lawsuit before it goes to trial. A successful nursing home abuse settlement occurs when the defendant’s lawyers agree to pay the plaintiffs. In exchange, the lawsuit concludes.
If the nursing home abuse case is not settled out of court, it goes to trial with a judge and sometimes a jury.
The two parties will present case summaries to the judge. Each party will have an opportunity to present their case and evidence followed by closing statements. The judge or jury will deliberate before presenting the court with a verdict.
A settlement is still possible even as the trial occurs, however. Some lawsuits have even reached settlements just as a trial was about to conclude.
If either party does not agree with the jury verdict, they may choose to appeal the decision. The civil lawsuit will then be presented to an appellate court, each party submitting a brief and record of evidence from the trial.
The court will look for legal errors made in the pre-trial or trial proceedings. After a review, the appellate court will release an opinion either backing the previous verdict, overturning it, or calling for a new trial to be conducted.
It’s wise to begin a civil suit as soon as possible. Laws known as statutes of limitations prevent legal action from being taken after a certain period of time, and these laws differ for each state. Additionally, it may be easier to gather evidence for more recent cases.
Even if you think you may be outside of the statute of limitations in your state, an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine your options.
Common Questions About Nursing Home Lawsuits
How much is a nursing home neglect case worth?
Nursing home neglect lawsuits — which claim that the inactions of a staff member harmed a resident — can award millions of dollars.
For example, a family received $13 million in 2019 after a man died from nursing home neglect. Another wrongful death case in which neglect led to a resident’s passing resulted in a $1 million payout in 2016.
Your particular case may have a higher or lower value than these examples. Speak with an experienced lawyer to get an estimate of your case value.
What factors impact how much I might win in a nursing home lawsuit?
Factors affecting nursing home lawsuit compensation include your evidence and the decisions of a jury.
If you have solid evidence of nursing home abuse, you have a better chance of getting compensation. For example, a videotape showing nursing home staff abusing a resident may have more legal weight than just pictures of the victim’s injuries.
Even if you have strong evidence, though, there’s no way to predict the outcome of a case if it goes to trial before a jury. A jury can award you more or less money than a typical settlement amount, or they may find that you cannot receive any compensation.
How long does a nursing home lawsuit take?
Most people can expect to see nursing home lawsuit compensation in 1-2 years. Of course, the amount of time can vary with each case. A lawsuit that has to go to trial will likely take longer than one that reaches a settlement.
How do I find a nursing home abuse lawyer?
Our Patient Advocates can help connect you with a skilled nursing home lawyer in your area. Give us a phone call at (800) 896-7040 to speak to one of our trusted advocates.
Get Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse
No one should have to endure the injustices of elder abuse. Fortunately, a nursing home lawsuit can award you compensation to cover your medical expenses and hold the long-term care facility and its staff accountable.
To see if you’re eligible to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit and pursue compensation, get a free case review now. Our team may be able to help you start the legal process today.