Relative Injured (Or Killed) By Nursing Home Staff? How Long Do You Have To Act?

If your relative or loved one resides in a nursing home and has recently suffered harm due to the actions (or inaction) of staff members, you may be seeing red and ready to fight back with everything you have. However, if you're planning legal action, you may only get one chance to go to court -- and you want to be as prepared and organized as possible. Read on to learn more about the statute of limitations on elder abuse and neglect claims and what you should prepare before ever filing a case.

What is a statute of limitations?

In most civil (and some criminal) types of cases, there is a time limit during which a plaintiff or a prosecutor may bring a legal action against a defendant. This statute of limitations is designed to protect potential plaintiffs, defendants, and the courts -- by ensuring that claims can only be brought when recent enough in time that gathering evidence and finding witnesses is a fairly simple process.

Once the time prescribed by a specific statute of limitations has passed, the defendant may feel free to confess or to take full responsibility for his or her actions -- however, he or she can't legally be held liable as no lawsuit may be brought once the statute of limitations has expired. 

For this reason, it is important to be aware of the statute of limitations in your state -- you may need some time to mull over the thought of filing a lawsuit, or prepare a lawsuit for filing, but you'll want to be sure that this case is filed before the end of the statute of limitations. 

What are the states' statutes of limitations governing elder abuse?

Most elder abuse cases are filed in civil court, seeking damages for personal injury (a type of tort). The specific statute of limitations for personal injury cases ranges from state to state, but is generally between 1 and 6 years

If this abuse or neglect was a contributory factor in your relative's death, you may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on your relative's behalf. However, there are some additional restrictions and statutes of limitations that apply to these cases. For example, if the injury occurred several years before the death, and you (or your relative) failed to bring a personal injury lawsuit during the statute of limitations, you may be barred from bringing a wrongful death lawsuit for the same incident.

What should you prepare before filing a lawsuit?  

Whenever you're considering a personal injury lawsuit, you should consult an experienced attorney. Many attorneys deal specifically with elder abuse and injury cases and are especially equipped to gather specific medical and physical evidence that will help prove your claim. An attorney will also be familiar with the various statutes of limitations that apply to this case and will ensure that all the proper steps have been taken to preserve your relative's rights. 

For more information about pursuing a case against nursing home neglect, contact a firm such as Large & Associates Attorneys.