Initiating a Lawsuit for Negligent Care at a Nursing Home
Placing a loved one in a nursing home is not an easy decision for the family, but sometimes deteriorating health conditions make such a move necessary. Choosing the right nursing home is an important decision that should be undertaken with careful consideration, and if possible, in-person visits to several options before the selecting the facility. All of this careful planning and deliberation is in an effort to guard against the possibility of nursing home abuse, an unfortunate reality more prevalent in Florida given the large number elderly residents. A recent news report on Tampa’s NBC affiliate discusses a new state government website run by Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration that was created to educate consumers on how to choose an assisted living facility for elderly family members. While a nursing home offers a higher level of care than assisted living centers, many of the factors that are used to make a decision are the same for both. If, however, you do suspect the nursing home facility caring for a family member is providing negligent or abusive care, it is helpful to know what happens once you decide to file a lawsuit.
Pre-suit Notice and Investigation
Before a party can file a lawsuit, a notice and investigation process must first be completed that gives the nursing home facility an opportunity to look into the claim and decide how to respond. The first step of this initial process requires representatives for the injured party to send a notice to the nursing home facility notifying it about the negligence claim and a description of the injuries allegedly suffered by the patient. Once this notice is received, a clock starts during which the injured party is prevented from filing a lawsuit for 75 days. During this period, the nursing home facility or any insurers must conduct an assessment to determine if there is liability for the injuries and if any damages should be paid. Once this evaluation is complete, before or within 75 days, the nursing home is required to send the injured party a written response indicating whether it rejects the claim of negligent care or wishes to settle. If a written response is not received within 75 days, it is treated as if the nursing home rejected the claim. If a settlement offer is made, the injured party has 15 days from the day the offer is received to accept it, and if there is no response by the end of this time period, the settlement offer is considered rejected.
The final step before a lawsuit may be filed is mediation. Mediation is a less formal dispute resolution process that is cheaper and faster than a traditional lawsuit, but there are limits on the types of evidence the mediator will consider, and the mediator cannot issue a binding decision to the parties. Within 30 days of the injured party’s response to the nursing home’s evaluation of his/her claim, all parties must enter mediation to discuss potential liability and damages. If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute in this forum, after a good faith effort, the injured party will have at least 60 days to formally file a lawsuit.
Seek Legal Advice
Realizing a loved one is the victim of negligent care at a nursing home facility you entrusted with this person’s health and safety is a devastating moment. Receiving clear and informed legal advice on how you should proceed is essential to preserving your right to take legal action and recover for the pain and suffering your family member experienced. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado has seasoned lawyers well-versed in this area to represent your family. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.