How Much Does It Cost To Get a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney?

Getting legal help with your nursing home abuse case

By Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 19, 2023

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If you live in a nursing home and have experienced neglect or abuse from caregivers or other staff, there are steps you can take to address the situation: 

  • Report the abuse. Nursing homes are subject to regulation and oversight by state and, in some cases, federal government agencies. Depending on where you live, you can request an investigation through your state’s department of health, adult protective services, or the state’s ombudsman program. Read this article for more information about reporting nursing home abuse. 
  • File a lawsuit. Filing a report with your state’s agency can stop the abuse. If you are seeking monetary compensation for the harm you suffered due to abuse or neglect, you will need to pursue legal action against the nursing home facility. 

When filing a lawsuit against a nursing home, it’s essential to immediately speak with an elder law or nursing home abuse attorney. Elder law attorneys can also assist you in filing an abuse report with a state or federal agency. 

What if you are a family member or friend who suspects that a loved one is suffering mistreatment in a long-term care facility? You can also take action, but the process is more complicated. To act on behalf of your loved one, you will need legal authorization to do so. Individuals can get legal authorization in one of two ways: 

  • The individual in the nursing home has appointed a power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf 
  • In the absence of a power of attorney, loved ones can petition the court to grant a guardianship order, authorizing someone to make decisions on behalf of the individual in the nursing home 

Because the legal process can be complicated, it’s wise to speak with a lawyer immediately if you plan to take action.  

But how much does it cost to get a lawyer? And how do you find a good lawyer in the first place? This article will address those questions. 

What Is a Nursing Home Lawyer and What Do They Do? 

Elder law is a broad area of law. It covers issues from obtaining public benefits for disabilities to long-term care and residence.  

“Some elder law attorneys practice litigation–for example, against nursing homes or on behalf of individuals who have been hurt in regard to care issues,” says Virginia elder law attorney Ann McGee Green

A nursing home lawyer generally helps individuals who have experienced nursing home negligence or abuse get compensation for their injuries or other losses. 

Like any lawyer representing a client, nursing home attorneys deal with all aspects of a case. In the context of nursing home abuse lawsuits, a lawyer will handle any of the following issues: 

  • Filing legal documents with the court 
  • Dealing with insurance companies  
  • Obtaining medical records 
  • Interviewing witnesses  
  • Getting expert testimony from doctors and other professionals 
  • Representing the client in negotiations or court 

With a good lawyer taking care of the legal issues, the individual who has suffered abuse can focus on recovery. In other words, having a lawyer takes a lot of stress off the victims of nursing home abuse. 

If you suspect you have a case, it’s essential to seek out a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you don’t miss your state’s statute of limitations. If you miss this deadline, you cannot bring legal action. 

One piece of advice that Green gives is to look for lawyers who are Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA). “If you’re trying to decide whether to go to this attorney or that attorney, a CELA designation is something to look for. It means the attorney has a certain amount of experience and that they have gone through testing and are familiar with all the areas of elder law,” Green says. 

To get started looking for an experienced lawyer in your area, visit the Super Lawyers directory

Factors That Go Into Lawyer’s Fees 

“It’s hard to say anything general about how lawyers charge fees since every lawyer will approach fees differently,” says Green. 

For example, some attorneys almost always charge flat fees and rarely use hourly billing. But, “sometimes lawyers have to charge hourly,” says Green. “For example, if I’m appointed as guardian ad litem and have to be in court, I’ll charge hourly. But typically, I do things on a flat fee basis. It ultimately depends on how much time I think it will take me to perform the legal service. In general, experienced attorneys have practiced long enough to know what makes sense as a fee.” 

Most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis when it comes to nursing home abuse cases and other types of personal injury cases. A contingency fee means that there are no upfront legal fees. Instead, the lawyer is only paid if they win your case. The lawyer’s fees are a percentage taken out of what you win in the case. 

The benefit of a contingency fee is obvious. It allows you, as a client, to get the legal help you need without initial costs.  

As Green says, every lawyer is different in how they charge fees. It depends on their area of expertise, the types of cases they handle, their experience level, the size of the firm they work at, and other factors.  

When looking for a lawyer, ask questions about costs upfront. Figuring out costs is part of picking the right lawyer for you. 

How Can I Prove That Nursing Home Abuse Is Happening? 

In addition to reporting abuse with a state or federal agency, nursing home abuse victims can seek compensation through a lawsuit. 

In general, compensation: 

  • Covers economic losses such as medical bills and other expenses resulting from the mistreatment 
  • Helps support victims with emotional distress they have suffered as a result of the mistreatment 

Types of compensation vary from state to state. Some states, for example, include punitive damages to punish the nursing home and deter future neglect and abuse. 

Some of the leading types of nursing home neglect and abuse include: 

  • Physical abuse resulting in personal injury 
  • Emotional abuse 
  • Sexual abuse 
  • Failure to provide needed medical care 
  • Medication errors 

Common warning signs of neglect or abuse include: 

  • Drastic weight loss  
  • Bedsores 
  • Malnutrition 
  • Broken bones  
  • Depression and anxiety 

Some factors that increase the risk of nursing home abuse include: 

  • The nursing home resident has a cognitive impairment or dementia 
  • Nursing home understaffing 
  • Inadequate training of caregivers and other nursing home staff members 

There are several legal theories that you can sue under. Some of the most common types of nursing home abuse cases include: 

  • Nursing home negligence. In a negligence case, there are four basic elements you have to prove:  
    • The nursing home owed you a duty of care 
    • The nursing home breached that duty  
    • The breach of duty caused your injuries  
    • You suffered harm as a result of the breach and are entitled to compensation 
  • Medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases are a type of negligence case that focus on proving that a nursing home or medical facility failed to meet the appropriate level of care in providing medical treatment. 
  • Wrongful death. If mistreatment resulted in the death of the nursing home resident, surviving family members can bring a lawsuit for wrongful death to seek compensation for their loss. 

A lawyer with experience in elder abuse and nursing home cases will be able to assess your case and bring the strongest claims possible on your behalf.  

Questions for an Elder Law Attorney 

Many elder law and nursing home abuse attorneys provide free case reviews for potential clients. Alternatively, consultation fees may be counted toward future legal services.  

You can ask about free case evaluations and other legal fees upfront. Often, lawyers have contact forms on their website you can fill out to request more information. Websites will also list the law office’s phone number if you prefer to call and speak directly with someone. 

These consultations allow you to get legal advice and consider if you need legal help in addressing nursing home abuse.  

To get the most out of a consultation, ask informed questions such as: 

  • What are your attorney’s fees and billing options? 
  • Do you use a contingency fee for nursing home cases? 
  • What is your experience handling elder abuse and nursing home lawsuits? 
  • What is the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit? 
  • What sort of compensation can I get in a case? 
  • How likely is settlement? 
  • What is the typical process of a nursing home abuse lawsuit?  

Once you have met with a lawyer and had your questions answered, you can begin an attorney-client relationship. 

Look for an elder law attorney in the Super Lawyers directory for legal help with elder abuse issues. You can also search for nursing home abuse lawyers specifically.

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