What to Expect in an Elder Abuse Lawsuit
If you or someone you care about has suffered abuse in a nursing home (or you suspect that they have suffered abuse), your immediate impulse may not be to sue the nursing home. You may attempt to resolve the issue directly with the nursing home staff or various senior administrators. If this does not solve the problem, then the next step likely would be to file a complaint with the California Department of Health, which will then initiate an investigation and attempt to resolve the problem in an official capacity. Regardless of the outcome at the agency level, however, you will not receive any damages for your injury or other remedies that you may be entitled to under the law. That’s why, we recommend you alert authorities of any abuse but at the same time reach out to qualified counsel.
Below, we’ll provide a general overview of what a plaintiff can expect during an elder abuse lawsuit.
Filing a Complaint
To initiate a civil suit, one of our litigators will work with you to draft and file a complaint, which is a legal document that lays out all of the claims that the plaintiff has against defendants and specifies what kind of relief he or she is seeking. Our lawyers will investigate who all the possible defendants are (and add them if we find others were involved) and will pursue every remedy to which you are entitled including extra damages and awards of attorneys’ fees and costs for bringing your action.
Generally, complaints do not have to be long or complex, so long as they contain at least the following elements:
- A statement of the facts constituting the cause of action in ordinary and precise language, and
- A demand for judgment for the relief to which the plaintiff claims to be entitled. If the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages, they must state the amount.
After the plaintiff’s attorney files the complaint and initiates the lawsuit, the defendant is allowed to file an “answer,” or a response to the plaintiff’s complaint. In their answer, the defense attorney for the nursing home will address each of the plaintiff’s claims and (normally) will deny them and present defenses and counterclaims.
Our lawyers will begin to investigate your case as soon as the law permits. This is known as the discovery phase of litigation. During this phase, the parties each request that the other provide information and facts about the case, which can be in written form or verbally under oath. Examples of discovery requests in a nursing home abuse case might be employee schedules, attendance logs, the patient’s medical records, medication charts, etc.
During discovery, but before trial, each party has the opportunity to ask the court to make rulings on specific issues. For example, each side could file a motion to compel discovery, a motion for extension (a delay in proceedings), or a motion for summary judgment (a request that the court decide the case without proceeding to trial).
Trial is the phase of litigation with which most people are familiar. During trial, each side’s attorney will present their side of the story to a judge and/or jury, who will then decide the ultimate outcome. In civil cases, including nursing home abuse cases, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the defendant’s fault by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the acts of which they are accused).
What About Settlements and Mediation?
In the real world, unlike on TV, very few cases actually make it into a courtroom. In fact, recent statistics suggest that roughly 95% of all lawsuits in in a pre-trial settlement. In most cases, settling and mediation offer many advantages over trial because these methods of dispute resolution are usually faster and less expensive than trials. The parties to a lawsuit may settle or mediate their dispute at any time.
Contact a California Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
If you suspect that someone you love may have been the victim of nursing home abuse and alternative resolutions have failed, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit. For more information about nursing home abuse, contact the California nursing home abuse attorneys at Evans Law Firm, Inc. by calling 414-441-8669.