Nursing home abuse incidents, whether neglect or intentional physical or emotional abuse, are not routine cases for most lawyers. In fact, the vast majority of trial lawyers have little or no experience in dealing with nursing home abuse. That includes criminal prosecution and civil litigation firms.
Taking on and navigating a nursing home abuse case through the civil courts is a complex matter. A good number of very competent lawyers will not take a nursing home case due to the expertise and time required to successfully investigate and litigate these unpleasant situations.
Fortunately for families who have a legitimate case to plead where a loved one has been the victim of neglect, physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional trauma, or even financial theft or fraud that occurred in a nursing home, there are law firms at their disposal — law firms that specialize in nursing home abuse and have been exceptionally successful in getting justice and proper compensation.
The challenge for the plaintiffs is to find that right law firm and a lawyer who they can trust and communicate with as well as professionally represent their best interests. The trauma of suffering or witnessing abuse in a nursing home is bad enough without having to bear the burden of a lengthy and drawn-out court battle.
Most large urban centers have law firms that dedicate themselves solely to handling nursing home abuse cases or at least have specialized lawyers on staff who are experts in nursing home law and how to litigate a complaint against a nursing home or its staff members.
Prior to contacting a lawyer or law firm about taking on a nursing home abuse case, it’s important to know exactly what these legal professionals do.
What Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Do
Litigating a successful case of abuse against a nursing home requires four things:
- Experience in investigating and developing neglect and abuse cases specific to the nursing home industry
- Ability to research and understand medical and financial records
- Extensive knowledge of the nursing care home industry
- Proper resources including access to expert witnesses
An abuse litigation against a nursing home undergoes four distinct phases:
- Investigation phase where the basic details are gathered including witness and documentary evidence
- Discovery phase where evidence is preliminarily tested under oath in court
- Preparation for the trial phase where further investigation is made and expert witness opinions are obtained
- Trial phase where evidence is placed before the court and a verdict is obtained
Clearly, there is a tremendous amount of expertise involved in bringing a nursing home abuse case to trial. There are also a number of factors to look at in choosing the right law firm to represent an abuse case and ensure the best chance of fairly representing the facts, proving them and obtaining the proper damage awards.
Choosing a Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm
Not all law firms are created equal and that includes the firms specializing in litigating nursing home neglect and abuse cases. Here are the main points to consider when selecting a law firm to represent an abuse case.
- Experience: A law firm that represents nursing home abuse cases must be experienced in that form of civil litigation if not entirely specializing in them. This includes knowledge of the specific laws of the state and how they pertain to nursing home abuse incidents.
- Track Record: A good nursing home abuse law firm will have a proven track record of successful cases and will be willing to disclose those. Often, the firm’s cases will have details published on their website.
- Accessibility: Clients or plaintiffs must be able to access their law firm when needed. A law firm should appoint one particular lawyer to handle the case and not be transferring files between staff.
- References: Law firms should be ready and willing to refer potential clients to other plaintiffs who they successfully worked with. Building confidence in a lawyer-client relationship is vitally important.
- Transparency in Fees: It’s standard in the legal industry that law firms take on nursing home abuse cases without any up-front fees charged to their clients. The law firm and its legal staff are only paid from the award or settlement funds after they have been disbursed. If the firm loses the case, they absorb the costs.
Qualities in a Good Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Selecting the right lawyer is just as important as selecting the right firm. It’s common for a client to first select the lawyer they want to work with as opposed to selecting the firm and then having a staff lawyer delegated to the case.
Here are the important qualities to look for in a lawyer who specializes in nursing home abuse cases.
- Knowledgeable: A lawyer must understand the laws pertaining to nursing home litigation and the applicable rules of evidence.
- Communicative: It’s vitally important to be able to communicate with a lawyer who can speak in simple terms free of legalese and technical terminology.
- Honesty: A lawyer has to be open and frank with their clients, even when delivering bad news or telling them something they might not want to hear.
- Organized: Litigating a nursing home abuse case can be highly complex with volumes of information. Being organized and detail-orientated is a crucial quality to look for.
- Confident: Lawyers taking abuse cases to court must be confident in their skills to present the case factually and clearly. Competency before the eyes of the court is a must.
- Persuasive: Juries must be persuaded that the lawyer is presenting them the complete facts and they are consistent with wrongful neglect. A lawyer representing the plaintiff must also be able to persuade the defendant’s lawyer of the case strength.
Finding a Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm and Lawyer
The best way to find the right law firm or individual lawyer to represent a nursing home abuse case is to hear a direct reference from someone who has already been involved in a similar case.
Fortunately, few people ever have to experience the trauma that abuse cases bring on. The next best form of referral is to do internet research for cases in the same area and identify those law firms and lawyers who specialize in nursing home abuse.