Nursing home abuse and assault is a very common problem, and probably vastly underreported. That’s because many victims of nursing home abuse suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or are otherwise unable to verbally communicate.
However, even residents who are able to communicate may shy away from filing reports due to shame, guilt, etc. This is especially true in sexual assault and sexual abuse cases. For instance, a nursing home resident who is sexually assaulted by another resident may be too embarrassed to report the incident. The resident may want to avoid a criminal case and therefore keeps quiet.
The reality is that residents of nursing home who suffer neglect and abuse must take a stand and assert their legal rights. Otherwise, nursing home neglect and abuse, including assault, will continue. Essentially, the problem will never be resolved.
Below are common questions victims of nursing home abuse/neglect and their families often have about the civil justice process.
At the outset, it is important to note that the civil justice system and the criminal justice system are entirely separate from each other. There is no requirement that the victim of nursing home abuse, assault or neglect file a criminal case in order to be able to file a civil one, or vice versa. The victim may choose to file both types of cases or proceed with just one.
How is a civil case filed?
In a civil nursing home abuse case in Pennsylvania, the plaintiff (injured resident) will file a lawsuit against the nursing home and/or perpetrator, depending on the facts of the case. In order to get a case or lawsuit filed in a nursing home abuse-neglect situation, the plaintiff only needs to discuss the matter with their lawyer and the lawyer’s team. The document which begins the legal action, the Complaint, will detail what occurred and why the defendant (at-fault party) is liable. The Complaint will also ask for a remedy, usually fair and reasonable financial compensation.
Will the victim have to testify in court?
Not necessarily. The reality is that the vast majority of civil cases are resolved short of trial. This often means that the plaintiff does not have to testify in court. At most, the plaintiff will have to testify at a deposition, which is usually held in an attorney’s office with a court reporter. Depositions are under oath and mimic what the deponent (person giving testimony) would testify to at trial.
It is important to note even though the case is unlikely to go to trial, the plaintiff must prepare the case to proceed to trial. This means being fully prepared to testify at trial, if necessary.
How long does the case take?
Civil nursing home injury cases in Pennsylvania can take anywhere between 2-3 years to resolve, at the trial court level. In some counties, like Philadelphia County, these types of cases will be resolved in shorter periods of time due to mandatory court scheduling. The Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County requires all cases to be placed on a specially designated track, which will determine the length of time the case is allowed to take before it is scheduled for trial. In Philadelphia County, a nursing home injury case will probably take 12 to 24 months to resolve after the Complaint is filed. Some cases take longer. If there are complex legal issues, either side may choose to appeal to a higher court.
What is the outcome?
The outcome of a civil nursing home case will usually be settlement by way of mutual agreement or via a special proceeding, i.e., mediation or arbitration. In about 10% of cases, a trial will determine the outcome.
If the plaintiff succeeds in the case, the end result is often a reasonable financial award to provide compensation for medical bills, economic expenses, and pain and suffering.
Philadelphia, PA Nursing Home Injury Lawyers
Our lawyers handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases in the Philadelphia area and surrounding suburbs including Norristown, Delaware County, Bucks County, etc.
If you would like more information about filing a civil case for a nursing home injury, please call our office for a free case assessment. (215) 985-0777
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