The path to receiving compensation when a loved one has been harmed by nursing home negligence can be a long one. Even when it is clear that neglect has taken place, there are strong incentives for a nursing home (and its insurance company) to avoid admitting fault, to minimize wrongdoing, or to prolong settlement negotiations. But before compensation is available by settlement or court order, you have to build your case.
The first step in proving a nursing home negligence claim is to gather as much evidence about the suspected neglect as possible. Photographs, witness statements, videos, maps, medical records, and many other types of observations and information are the building blocks of your claim. If some of your evidence is complicated, your attorney may hire a subject matter expert to act as an expert witness who can explain technical details to a jury.
After this information is gathered, your attorney may file a lawsuit, probably in your local state court. Or, if they believe the case is strong enough that the nursing home might agree to a settlement without a trial, your attorney may issue a demand letter to the nursing home and/or its insurance company explaining your demands and asking for compensation.
If the case goes to trial, your attorney can start asking for additional information from the other side during a process called discovery. During the discovery stage, witnesses with information helpful to the case will be interviewed (“deposed”), and a variety of documents and statements will be furnished by to your attorney by the nursing home. After discovery is finished, your attorney will probably have most of the information necessary to argue your nursing home negligence case.
A few different things can happen at this point: the judge can set a trial date, during which you and your attorney will be given time to present your case in court; the nursing home and/or its insurers might reconsider a settlement; or the judge may order both sides to undergo mediation. Mediation is where a neutral third-party is asked to help both sides agree on a way to settle the case without the need of a trial.
A nursing home negligence claim can take many months or even years to resolve. On top of that, the process outlined above is simplified for clarity and can be much more complex, involving many more steps. If you believe someone you care about has suffered nursing home neglect, you should contact an attorney in your state with the knowledge and capabilities to help you determine what to do next.