Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

Many families are faced with the heart-wrenching decision of putting a loved one into a nursing home. A nursing home abuse lawsuit can force negligent facilities and caregivers to pay.

What Is a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?

Victims in nursing homes who experience abuse or neglect during their stay can work with an attorney to file a personal injury claim.

When filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit, your case will likely either be considered a tort or a breach of contract.

The damages that incur from nursing home abuse can be severe, but victims of nursing home abuse may receive financial compensation through settlement in a civil suit or trial verdict.

Quick Facts About Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits

  • In 2014, almost 8% of nursing home residents filed nursing home abuse lawsuits, alleging abuse, neglect, or exploitation in their nursing home.
  • Physical abuse makes up 25% of the abuse complaints from nursing homes.
  • 95% of residents said they had seen or experienced nursing home neglect in a 2000 study.

Why File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?

Nursing home lawsuits can be filed to prevent further abuse and to obtain monetary compensation for the abuse the victim has already endured.

Those that suffer nursing home abuse often have injuries through accidents, deliberate abuse, and disease. Filing a lawsuit can help victims get financial compensation to recover the losses they’ve suffered.

Reasons to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit include:

  • Paying for medical bills
  • Paying for mental health therapy
  • Paying for physical therapy
  • Paying for costs associated with changing nursing homes or caregivers
  • Receiving justice for pain and suffering
  • Discouraging nursing homes from mistreating others in the future

Coping with the trauma of nursing home abuse can be incredibly difficult for both the victim and their family. Filing nursing home abuse lawsuits can be a critical step in keeping the nursing home resident safe and free from future harm.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits

Lawsuits against nursing homes tend to fall into two categories: tort law or breach of contract.

Tort Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits

Nursing homes often have insurance for negligence and malpractice. Because of this, victims can collect greater financial compensation through a tort lawsuit, which involves civil wrongdoings or misconduct that fall beneath what society considers a reasonable standard of care under the circumstances.

A tort lawsuit covers a range of conduct such as:

  • Nursing home wrongful death lawsuit
  • Medical malpractice lawsuit
  • Negligence or abuse lawsuit

Generally, a tort lawsuit falls into one of two major categories. One category is negligence, which includes any conduct that could be considered careless or falls below a legally recognized standard of care.

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. If a case is not covered under one of the previously described categories, it might fall into a breach of contract lawsuit.

Breach of Contract Lawsuits

Breach of contract cases constitute any conduct that is in violation of a contract with the resident detailing the services a nursing home must contractually provide. This lawsuit type is less common than tort lawsuits.

Breach of contract cases could include:

  • Perceived abuse that is contrary to the promises and agreements made in the contract
  • Neglect in which the services fall below those in the contract or below what is considered “reasonably necessary”

This form of lawsuit may help a victim of nursing home abuse recover the amount they paid to stay in the nursing home, but financial compensation beyond that is often limited.

Criminal vs Civil Lawsuits

When filing nursing home abuse lawsuits, victims may have the option to bring a criminal case or to file a civil lawsuit.

Criminal lawsuits involve felonies and misdemeanors, whereas civil lawsuits involve a disagreement between individuals about the legal responsibilities they have with one another.

Liability in civil lawsuits can be established by:

  • Negligent supervision
  • Negligent hiring of employees
  • Negligent upkeep of the 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 a duty of care owed to the victim
  • The victim’s injury was caused by the breach
  • The owner’s or employee’s conduct caused the injury

The main differences between civil and criminal lawsuits are detailed below.

Burden of Proof

Criminal cases come with more severe punishments, and therefore 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, forcing the defendant to hire a lawyer themselves.


As penalty, the court has the option to order an individual act or cease action given the circumstances of the case.

Criminal cases most often deal punishments through jail or fines, while civil cases can offer monetary compensation.

Trial Type

Criminal cases almost always require a jury whereas civil cases are most often negotiated into settlement outside the court system.

Nursing Home Abuse Civil Lawsuit Process

Criminal lawsuits are initiated by the state in which the alleged criminal act occurred. Civil cases, however, are filed by individuals. While they can seem intimidating and complicated, civil lawsuits are simple when broken down into steps.

First, a lawsuit against a nursing home must prove three elements:

  1. The nursing home was in a legal contract to provide care
  2. The nursing home failed to uphold that duty of care
  3. The facts stated in the lawsuit resulted from a lack of care

Once these three elements are confirmed, the following steps occur.


The two parties file paperwork with the court detailing their side of the story. The plaintiff will file a complaint that details the events, outlines the defendant’s liability, and explains the court’s jurisdiction over the case.


The two parties will begin collecting evidence to support their cases. This can include gathering documents, witnesses, examination of the scene, and more. Motions can also be filed at this time requesting the court to rule, act, or gain clarification on aspects of the lawsuit.


If the 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.


If either party does not agree with the 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 reviewing, the appellate court will release an opinion either backing the previous verdict, overturning it, or calling for a new trial to be conducted.

Nursing home abuse lawsuits take approximately 18 months to complete.

It is advised to begin a civil suit as soon as possible, as the statute of limitations differs for each state. Additionally, it may be easier to gather evidence for more recent cases.

Get Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse

No one should have to endure the injustices of nursing home abuse. If you or a loved one are a victim, you may be entitled to compensation.

The first step is to find an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to help you navigate the complex legal process and get the best settlement figure.

If you or a loved one were a victim of nursing home abuse, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Get a free case review now.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: June 4, 2020

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