Nursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable persons in society and the least equipped to defend themselves from abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, Illinois has a long history of nursing home abuse ranging from physical abuse and stolen medications to patent neglect. Discovering that a loved one’s death or injury occurred as a result of abuse or neglect by nursing home staff is devastating. It can cause severe financial difficulties for children and grandchildren of the victims who may be have to leave their jobs to care for loved ones who cannot care for themselves.
Fortunately, as a result of rampant nursing home injuries, the Illinois legislature has passed the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (“INHCA”). Under the INHCA, it is illegal to neglect or abuse nursing home residents. The nursing home is financially liable for any injuries caused by its employees as a result of neglect or abuse. In fact, the nursing home must pay the attorney’s fees and litigation costs if it is successfully sued for neglecting or abusing a nursing home resident.
Our Illinois Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys, represent clients on all types of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse claims throughout the State of Illinois, including, but not limited to:
- Bed sores and pressure sores;
- Clogged breathing tubes;
- Failure to Provide Proper Medication;
- Physical Abuse;
- Protection from Safety Hazards; AND
- Sexual Assault.
There are many questions that persons have following a nursing home injury, including:
- What steps should I take following a nursing home injury?
- How do I file a nursing home lawsuit?
- How is an insurance company involved in a nursing home claim?
- Who is sued in a negligence action, the individual who caused the injury, or the nursing home?
- What happens during the nursing home suit?
- What are the costs of litigating a negligence suit?
- If we go to jury trial and win, can the Defendant be ordered to reimburse my legal costs and fees?
- How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
Frequently Asked Questions
What steps should I take following a nursing home injury?
If you or your loved one has been injured by nursing home staff, whether by negligence or abuse, there are steps you can take protect you and your family from further injury and to have the claim investigated.
One of the first things you should do is file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. (“IDPR”) If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should file the complaint quickly, to avoid destruction of evidence. The IDPR is a governmental regulator that will investigate allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect – for free. The agency will interview witnesses, review the appropriate medical records, and make a written record of its findings for your review. Sometimes, this simple process will provide you and your family the closure you need following a questionable nursing home injury. Sometimes, it will reveal horrible abuse and neglect by faculty staff.
You can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation by mail or online. The online complaint form can be obtained at https://www.idfpr.com/Admin/DPR/Complaint.asp.
You should also maintain meticulous notes about how the injury occurred, witnesses, and other details about the nursing home in question. Oftentimes, memories fade over the months and years. It can be difficult to remember the names of nurses, physician assistants, or other persons who may have been a witness to your loved one’s injuries. You should take meticulous notes of everything regarding a nursing home injury and provide it to your attorney. You should also keep a meticulous log of all medical treatment that you or your loved one required as a result of the nursing home neglect or abuse.
An attorney should be retained to prepare a preservation of evidence letter. To avoid disappearing evidence, or material “alterations” of the medical records, this should be done immediately. Oftentimes, medical information is kept in electronic form. You do not want any evidence to be routinely “overwritten” by the computer systems.
How do I file a nursing home lawsuit?
Your attorney will usually file the lawsuit in the county where the action forming the basis of the injury occurred. The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure states:
§ 2-101. Generally. Except as otherwise provided in this Act, every action must be commenced (1) in the county of residence of any defendant who is joined in good faith and with probable cause for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against him or her and not solely for the purpose of fixing venue in that county, or (2) in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose. 735 ILCS 5/2-101. Source: ILGA.gov
The “Plaintiff” is usually the person who was injured, or, if the injured persons died as a result of their injuries, the administrator of the probate estate, who files the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased person and living heirs. The lawyers will file a “Complaint at Law,” describing the violations of the INHCA, and describing the types of injuries sustained. For example, the Complaint may allege that nursing home staff neglected a bed-bound resident, causing bed-sores that eventually became infected. The Complaint will request that monetary damages be paid to the resident, in addition to attorney’s fees and costs.
How is an insurance company involved in a nursing home claim?
Most nursing homes carry insurance policies to cover any non-intentional acts or omissions that injure residents. The insurance companies usually “indemnify,” or pay monetary benefits, to the injured person on behalf of the Defendant in cases of nursing home negligence.
For example, consider the case of a nursing home resident who was not properly strapped into her wheelchair. If the resident falls and was injured, the insurance company would pay for the subsequent medical care required by the resident, together with pain, suffering, and any long-term disability sustained.
Who is sued in a nursing home action, the individual who caused the injury, or the nursing home?
Under the INHCA, the nursing home is sued as opposed to the employee who actually caused the injury. The employee is considered to be an extension of the larger nursing home. Therefore, the nursing home is liable for the employee’s actions.
For example, consider the case of a nursing home nurse who forgets to provide necessary diabetic medication to a resident which causes substantial injury. Under this example, the resident would likely file suit against the nursing home in the county where the injury occurred. If the case went to jury trial, the damages (i.e., money) awarded by the jury would be paid by the insurance company to the extent of policy coverage.
What happens during a negligence lawsuit?
As discussed above, the Plaintiff or their legal representative will file suit against the Defendant nursing home. The process begins when the attorney files a “Complaint at Law,” seeking monetary damages for the Defendant’s violations of the INHCA.
After the Complaint is filed, the registered agent for the nursing home is usually served. Your attorney will arrange for “summons,” to be issued, and request local law enforcement or a private investigator to serve the legal paperwork. Once service is effectuated, the nursing home typically has 30 days to enter an appearance and claim any possible legal defenses. Usually, an attorney enters an appearance on behalf of the nursing home
After the Defendant’s attorney has entered an appearance, discovery will commence. This process usually involves exchanging copies of the evidence held by the Parties, and taking the depositions of witnesses. Independent experts will likely be retained for trial. Their depositions will also be taken.
Your attorney may also choose to file requests for admission and other legal documents in order to simplify the issues presented at trial. Following the close of discovery, summary judgment motions and other pre-trial motions will be heard. Trial preparation will then begin in earnest. Witnesses will be subpoenaed, trial exhibits prepared, and other pre-trial paperwork will be filed. Jury instructions will be prepared. Jury trial should follow shortly thereafter. When the jury awards a verdict, the sums are usually paid by the insurance company. If a person died as a result of the nursing home’s actions, the probate judge will decide how the funds are distributed.
Some nursing homes have taken the position that if a person passes away, the INHCA is no longer valid and attorney’s fees and costs should not be paid. Such a position is ludicrous, given that the clear intent of the legislature is to prevent abuse and neglect. If the persons injured the most (i.e. killed) are no longer able to sue under the INHCA and receive attorney’s fees and costs, the entire statute will be undermined. Moreover, most nursing home residents’ estates do not have the funds to pay attorneys on an hourly basis. Still, this issue will need to be litigated at the Illinois Supreme Court level in coming years.
What are the costs of litigating a negligence suit?
Costs of litigation are generally high in nursing home actions, because independent experts are usually retained by both Plaintiff and Defendant’s counsel. Therefore, it can cost up to $80,000.00 to go to trial. However, under the INHCA, attorney’s fees and costs “shall” be paid to a prevailing Plaintiff after trial. The Illinois legislature has provided this relief in order to incentivize nursing homes to avoid abusing and neglecting residents.
If we go to jury trial and win, can the Defendant be ordered to reimburse my legal fees?
Yes. The INHCA allows for an award of attorney’s fees and costs.
How do I prepare for my legal consultation with the Noll Law Offices?
To expedite legal review of your claim, you should bring a copy of the medical records, IDPR investigations, photographs, videos, Facebook pages, text messages, correspondence, insurance information, and any other evidence in your possession to your claim. The attorney will review the records, together with any other evidence in your possession and provide you with a free legal opinion as to the merits of your claim.
At the Noll Law Office, our Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys have the legal experience needed to represent your family. Our family firm is renowned for compassionate communication with clients and aggressive advocacy in court. We are willing to take cases all the way through jury trial and pride ourselves on our communication. If you or a loved one would like a free consultation, call today at (217) 414-8889. You will not be a charged unless our firm obtains a settlement offer on your behalf or wins at trial.