When we put our elderly loved ones into a nursing home, we expect them to be treated with the utmost care and respect. We expect them to be comfortable, have all their needs met, and to have their remaining years be the best they can be. So when our elderly loved one becomes the victim of nursing home abuse, we are filled with a mixture of emotions- Anger, betrayal, fear, guilt, hurt, worry, and many other emotions.
So with all those emotions running through us and knowing the horror our loved ones face, it’s only natural that we want to get justice for them. This means filing a claim for elder abuse in nursing homes. But how do we go about proving they have been abused? How do we get the evidence we need? And how do we find the right lawyer to help us get the compensation our loved one deserves? All those questions and more will be answered.
Identifying the Abuse
There are five different types of abuse in nursing homes that can happen to your loved one. Those types of abuse are- Elderly abandonment, Emotional or Psychological Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, and Sexual Abuse. For more information on these types of abuse and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of them, here is an article to help you identify which form of abuse they have suffered from.
How to Gather Evidence for Your Case
The moment you suspect that your elderly loved one is being abused, begin taking notes of any changes you notice in them. If your normally cheerful and talkative grandmother has now become angry and silent, make a note of when that difference started occurring. Behavioral changes are a red flag that abuse has started, so noting the difference in behavior is your first form of proof in building your case.
Every time you visit your loved one, get the information of everyone who is working during your visit. This includes their name, title, and any other information that might be relevant to building up evidence. If someone new has been assigned to care for your loved one, or if any staff members are new hires, make sure to keep a close eye on them when you visit. If the abuse started around the time they were hired or assigned to your loved one, there is a good chance they might be the abuser.
To go along with this, talking to the staff members you encounter can lead to evidence as well. Don’t hesitate to record your conversations with them, especially if they are quick to cover up, downplay, or dismiss your concerns for your loved one. This is normally a sign that they know about the abuse and want to keep it under wraps. So record those conversations and keep a watchful eye when you visit.
Other things you can do are speak to others who are visiting their loved ones and see if they notice any changes to their behavior. If they have made similar observations or heard similar complaints from their loved one, get their name, contact information, and a written statement if they are willing to provide one. Also, taking photographs and videos can help back up your loved one’s claim. If they are claiming physical abuse, take photos of their bruises, bed restraints, or anything else that might have contributed to their physical abuse. By having the photos to back up their claim, you are only strengthening your claim.
The most important thing you can do is listen to what your loved one has to say. It’s easy for people to dismiss an older person’s words as senile ravings, but dismiss what they have to say. Every concern, comment, complaint, or remark your loved one makes, take it seriously and listen to them. Not only is this evidence, but it also shows your loved one that you’re on their side and believe them when no one else does.
If you notice your loved one is suffering from abuse, get them out of the nursing home as soon as possible. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance and the police. Call your loved one’s primary care provider so they can look over your loved one and offer their professional opinion on the injuries your loved one sustained. Report the nursing home to your State Adult Protective Services Office with the following information:
- The incident date
- Name of the person(s) involved
- Names and addresses of any witnesses
- Description of harm done
- How the nursing home responded
By doing everything listed above, you are building a strong case for your claim, putting you one step closer to getting the justice and compensation your loved one deserves.
Contacting a Lawyer
After you identify which form of abuse your elderly loved one experienced and have gathered the evidence needed, it’s time to contact a lawyer. For this, you will want to find a lawyer who specializes in nursing home abuse cases as they will know how to proceed with your claim. With their help, you will be able to determine whether your case is a civil one or a criminal one. They will also be able to assess whether you have sufficient evidence for the “burden of proof” that unlawful abuse took place in whichever form you’re claiming.
Remember- The lawyer’s role is to fairly represent their client’s (the plaintiff) best interests while respecting the legal rights of (the defendant) the nursing home. After all, even though they want to help you prove your claim is truthful, they have to work within the law. So when looking into your case, they must stay within the law to prove these facts:
- The nursing home knowingly and willingly entered into a binding legal contract to provide a “duty of care” to your loved one (the victim).
- The nursing home failed to hold up its end of the contract by neglecting or causing intentional harm to the victim.
- The case evidence and facts gathered prove “on a balance of probabilities” that the abuse you’re claiming is relevant to the proceedings of this case.
Once the lawyer gets all of this information together, it’s time to go ahead with the claim.
What Can I Expect from the Case Process?
A nursing home abuse lawsuit is no different than any other civil lawsuit, so it will follow the typical process of a civil lawsuit. This means before the process even starts, your lawyer will have a discussion with you (the plaintiff). This is done so all evidence that is disclosed is relevant to the case and honest. And once the lawsuit commences, these four steps will happen:
- Pre-Lawsuit Investigation
- Trial Preparation
- Trial and Appeal
There is a possibility that during these four steps a settlement will be reached, meaning the case won’t make it to trial. 95% of nursing home abuse cases never make it to court, but that is entirely dependent on whether both parties are cooperative. On occasion, cases will make it to the courtroom and can take anywhere from several months up to two years. Rarely do cases go on for longer than two years unless a large sum of money is involved.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect and need an experienced lawyer, call Scott Senft today! With his years of legal experience, he can advise and guide you through your case and help you win! Call today for a free consultation.