A reader wrote in with this question: “My mother passed away within 24 hours of moving into a nursing home. They dropped her while moving her from the bed, injuring her so severely that she died shortly afterwards. How long do I have to find a lawyer and file a wrongful death nursing home lawsuit?”
First, reader, our sincere condolences on the death of your mother. Dealing with the intricacies of legal issues while grieving can be overwhelming and confusing. However, there are attorneys who specialize in the exact type of case you wish to file. They are called nursing home lawyers, and they might be able to help you file a wrongful death suit on your deceased mother’s behalf.
What Is A Nursing Home Lawyer?
A nursing home lawyer is a personal injury lawyer who specializes in representing elder abuse cases. However, not all elder abuse cases end in death. Often, those cases come to light when families file malpractice suits. In 2020, 11.2% of settled nursing malpractice cases involved aging-care (also called nursing home) facilities.
What Is Elder Abuse?
The CDC defines elder abuse as “an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.” A person is considered an “older adult” once they turn 60 years old. Some of the most common forms of elder abuse include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Emotional abuse
While it will likely bring little comfort, it’s important to know that elder abuse is common. The current statistics show seniors who live at home have a 1 in 10 chance of suffering from elder abuse. Men tend to experience more non-fatal assaults and homicides, but that rate is rapidly increasing. Keep in mind that these statistics are likely under-reported. In fact, one study stated that only 1 of every 24 cases of elder abuse is reported to authorities.
How Soon Should I File a Nursing Home Lawsuit?
One of the most important considerations when considering a nursing home lawsuit is your state’s statute of limitations.
Nationwide, the statute of limitations for filing a nursing home lawsuit varies anywhere from 1-4 years. That said, most states require you to file either within 2 or 3 years of the alleged incident date.
Related: Can I Sue Nursing Home Staff if a Loved One Got Covid?
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the law that prevents people from filing legal cases once a certain amount of time passes. It’s a deadline of sorts: If you haven’t filed your case by the time the statute of limitations expires, your case is automatically invalid. That means if you try to file after your state’s deadline, then legally, no court of law can help you.
So the answer to our reader’s original question depends on which state has jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means that a court has the power to both adjudicate a case and deliver orders. Think of it as you would your local library: You can’t use your Ohio library card to check out materials at a library in Oklahoma. Similarly, you cannot file a case in Pennsylvania for an incident that happened in Wyoming.
When Is My State’s Filing Deadline for a Nursing Home Lawsuit?
States That Require Filing a Nursing Home Lawsuit Within 1 Year:
States Where You Have 2 Years to File Your Nursing Home Lawsuit:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
These States Have a 3-Year Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Lawsuits:
- District of Columbia (i.e., Washington, D.C.)
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
States That Allow 4-6 Years to File Your Claim:
The remaining states have a statute of limitations ranging anywhere from 4-6 years, including:
- North Dakota
Important Things to Remember About Nursing Home Lawsuits
A statute of limitations means that you must file your case before that time limit expires. But this does not mean that you should wait that long to file. In fact, it’s smart to file as soon as possible. This is because the legal system can move slowly at times. So, filing as early as possible will give you the ability to navigate the process with less stress. There are sometimes unknowns that can happen in any lawsuit which may potentially affect your claim. For example: Your state’s laws might change before you finish gathering your paperwork. On the other hand, you might battle an unexpected illness or other personal setback, etc. Filing early can help alleviate those stressors as well as give you more time to file a strong, complete suit.
Another thing to remember is that jurisdiction can be tricky. If you live in a different state than your loved one did, jurisdiction issues might be confusing. There might also be other considerations that require the experience of a nursing home lawyer to understand.
Should I Talk to a Nursing Home Lawyer?
Nursing home lawsuits and elder care cases can be both complicated and confusing to navigate on your own. That’s especially likely when you’re also dealing with the grief of a loved one’s death. Talking to an attorney can help you better understand whether you have a strong nursing home lawsuit claim. That attorney can also ensure that you meet the statute of limitations and other requirements necessary to file a successful claim. Until you consult a nursing home lawyer, remember that everything you read online (including the information above) is a guideline. So, it might not apply to your case.
Want to see if you might qualify for a free phone call from a dedicated nursing home lawsuit attorney to discuss your potential claim? Complete your free online personal injury case evaluation now!
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.