When you place a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you expect them to be taken care of with compassion and dignity. Illinois nursing homes are legally responsible for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their residents. Learning that a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse can be very upsetting. You may be wondering what legal options you have and how to find a nursing home abuse lawyer.
Nursing home abuse lawyers are personal injury lawyers that specialize in helping people who have suffered abuse while living in a nursing home. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help you to build a strong case by gathering evidence and helping you decide what type of legal claim you might have. A nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to guide you through the legal processes of discovery, mediation, and, if necessary, trial. A nursing home abuse lawyer can also help you understand what legal compensation you may be entitled to.
What Is the Definition of Nursing Home Abuse?
There are approximately 2.5 million people living in nursing home or long-term care facilities in the U.S. These residents are dependent on staff to provide for their basic needs including eating, dressing, bathing, and medical care. This dependency on caretakers, combined with physical and mental limitations, puts nursing home residents at risk for abuse and neglect. Nursing home abuse is defined as the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.
Nursing home abuse can take several forms including such as:
- physical abuse
- mental or emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
- financial exploitation
- nursing home neglect.
Nursing home residents may experience one or a combination of several forms of abuse. For example, a resident may be left alone for long periods of time with no social interaction. This could constitute mental abuse and neglect.
Physical abuse in nursing homes occurs when a resident is physically injured by those who are supposed to be caring for them. Physical abuse might include hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, pushing, or shoving. Physical abuse may also include the unnecessary use of restraints and unnecessary rough treatment.
Mental or emotional abuse in nursing homes is one of the most common forms of abuse that occurs in nursing homes. Mental or emotional abuse can involve verbal abuse such as name-calling, belittling, and threats. It may also take the form of isolating patients, leaving them alone, and withholding food, water, or medications. This type of abuse can sometimes be more difficult to spot since there is usually no physical evidence of the abuse. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of mental or emotional abuse because it can lead to severe mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Nursing home residents may also be vulnerable to sexual abuse. Sexual abuse in nursing homes could range from rape to unwanted touching or exposure of body parts. Sexual abuse could be from nursing home staff, visitors, or other residents.
Financial exploitation, or financial abuse, is the improper or illegal use of another person’s money, assets, or property. In many cases, the victim of financial abuse is not aware they are being exploited. Some examples of financial abuse include cashing a resident’s checks without their permission, forging a resident’s signature, or coercing a resident to sign legal documents such as a will or contract.
Nursing home neglect occurs when a nursing home’s negligent conduct results in harm to the resident. Neglect may take several forms including medical neglect, social neglect, or neglect of basic needs. To establish a claim for nursing home neglect, you will need to provide evidence to show that the nursing home was responsible for meeting a duty of care, that the nursing home negligently or intentionally breached that duty, that the breach caused an injury, and finally that the injury resulted in loss or damages.
Some warning signs of nursing home neglect include:
- Failing to provide adequate water and nutrition
- Failing to provide proper medical treatment
- Failing to provide proper hygiene and dental care
- Not providing residents with activities and socialization
- Not ensuring residents clothing and surrounding are clean and safe
Finding a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
There are many Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys that may be able to assist victims and their families. You will want to find a lawyer that is experienced in identifying the signs of nursing home abuse and who knows what evidence you will need to support your claim. A good nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to help you through the process with knowledge and compassion.
There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing a nursing home abuse lawyer. The first thing you will want to look for is background and experience. It is a good idea to research the education and background of the nursing home abuse lawyer you choose to work with. You will also want to consider the reputation of the lawyer you choose. While it is a good idea to read online reviews, it can be even more valuable to hear what others have to say about their experiences with any lawyer you are considering. Finally, you will want to consider cost. The cost may or may not correlate to the quality of the representation a nursing home abuse lawyer will provide, but it is an important factor to consider.
When speaking with potential nursing home abuse lawyers, you will want to ask questions and find a lawyer you feel comfortable with. Some questions you might want to ask a potential lawyer include:
- What is your experience with cases similar to mine?
- How long will my case take?
- Do you think my case will go to trial?
- What percentage of your cases settle?
- Will you be the one handling my case?
A nursing home abuse lawyer can help you through all the steps of the lawsuit, beginning with filing the lawsuit. There are several steps your lawsuit may go through after filing. These might include:
Signs You May Need a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
There are several signs you should be aware of that could indicate that you might need help from a nursing home abuse lawyer. Some signs that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse include:
- Lack of medical care for wounds or infections
- Unexplained injuries such as bruises, cuts, or broken bones
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Medication errors
- Negative changes in behavior or acting fearful or nervous around nursing home staff
- Soiled bedding or unclean living areas
Another sign of nursing home abuse or neglect is untreated bedsores. Bedsores are pressure ulcers that occur due to a prolonged period of laying or sitting in the same position. Untreated bedsores can result in sepsis, gangrene, and infections. Depending on the severity, treatment for bedsores may require surgery or even amputation of the affected body part.
How a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Will Help You Win Your Case
Discovery is the process through which both parties investigate and gather evidence to support their claims. In this step, a good nursing home abuse lawyer will collect photographs, witness testimony, and other evidence to support the claim of abuse.
Mediation is a process through with both parties present their evidence and work to resolve the lawsuit without going to trial. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, this is known as reaching a settlement. Most cases of nursing home abuse end in settlement.
If the parties are not able to reach a settlement, the case will go to trial. If the case goes to trial, your lawyer will present evidence of the abuse to a judge and jury. Going to trial can sometimes be risky. You may end up with more compensation than you would have in a settlement, or you could lose the case and receive no compensation. In addition, if you go to trial, it could take a long time to resolve the case. If you lose your case, a nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help you with an appeal.
The amount of compensation you receive either in a settlement or are awarded at trial will depend on the nature and extent of the abuse. A nursing home abuse attorney can help you understand what compensation you might be entitled to. Compensation for nursing home neglect may include coverage for costs of current and future medical treatment, mental health counseling, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and repayment of legal fees.
If your loved one passes away while in a nursing home, and you believe neglect or abuse was involved, you may be entitled to additional compensation. In cases when death results from nursing home abuse, you may be able to receive compensation for funeral costs or even wrongful death awards.