To find the right nursing home abuse lawyer for your case, you need someone who:
- has experience with nursing home cases, not just “personal injury”;
- has taken a nursing home case to trial, and won;
- understands the state and federal nursing home rules and regulations governing resident care in your state;
- is licensed in your state;
- won’t stick you with the bill if the case is not successful;
- believes in your case; and
- you like and trust.
The first thing you need to know is how much time you have in which to file a lawsuit, called the “statute of limitations.” I try not to take cases very close to the statute of limitations, because I can’t do a good investigation before filing. This leads to missing possible defendants or claims.
If you know the statute of limitations in your state for this type of claim (often considered a medical malpractice claim, but not always), you know whether you have time to interview multiple lawyers.
Below are some suggestions of how to make sure you meet the above suggested requirements for the right lawyer for you.
Finding the right lawyer can be a challenge, and is a personal choice. This article will not substitute for your own judgment. But hopefully it will inform you on some of the questions you can ask potential lawyers.
How do I know if a Lawyer has Experience with Nursing Home Cases, not just “Personal Injury”?
Almost any personal injury lawyer will claim to be a “nursing home lawyer” if you come to them with a wrongful death case. Why? Because they smell easy money.
But they might not have any idea how to maximize the value of the case–and get accountability from a nursing home.
Nursing home cases are not car crash cases. They’re not even “just” medical malpractice cases.
Nursing homes are governed by very specific federal regulations that do not apply to anyone else.
So you can look them up online, first, and see if they publish any substantive articles on their website. For instance, we wrote a book on nursing home case, write articles and give presentations to other lawyers on the regulations, and generally restrict our practice to these types of cases.
You can also look to see how many types of cases they claim to handle. Personally, I would not hire a lawyer for personal injury who also handles three or four other areas, like wills, trusts, workers compensation, and the like.
Even if all they handle is personal injury, do they list every type of personal injury case on their website? Do they handle car crash cases, trucking cases, slip and falls, lead poisoning, and everything else?
I would wonder how much they could focus on nursing home cases if they take every injury case that comes in the door.
How do I Know if a Lawyer Has Taken a Nursing Home Case to Trial, and Won?
This is an easy one: ask them “have you taken a nursing home case to trial, and won?”
Ask them about the case, what county it was in, what the case involved.
How do I Know if a Lawyer Understands the State and Federal Nursing Home Rules and Regulations Governing Resident Care in My State?
You can know a lawyer understands the state and federal nursing home rules and regulations governing resident care in your state if:
- They have written and / or lectured to other lawyers about it;
- They can speak with you in specifics–not generalities–about these rules when you ask;
- They are members of nursing-home-specific groups like the American Association fo Justice’s Nursing Home Litigation Group.
Here’s another instance where looking someone up and exploring their website and articles is another great place to start.
But also do not be afraid to ask them directly to give you some specifics on those rules.
If they can’t talk to you about them in detail, they don’t know them. Period.
How do I Know if a Lawyer is Licensed in My State?
Generally, look up their website, ask them, or even check on their license online (google something like “Attorney Registration Lookup”).
How do I Know a Lawyer Won’t Stick Me with the Bill if the Case is not Successful?
You know a lawyer won’t stick you with the expenses if the case is not successful if the contract says they can’t. So ask to see the contract and review it before you sign. Ask them to show you where it says you are not responsible for expenses if the case is not successful.
If the contract is confusing or seems to say something else, it probably was not written with your interests at heart.
I’ve seen terms I would never agree to, like owing the expenses in the case if there is not enough recovery.
In one contract a client brought me from another lawyer, it said the law firm would cover the expenses. Except–here’s the trick–you have to agree to settle when they tell you to settle, or you’ll owe the expenses. That’s some sneaky BS meant to put financial pressure on you to settle low. No lawyer, in my opinion, should have a contract like that if they’re working for their clients.
How do I Know if a Lawyer Believes in My Case?
This is a tough one. It takes some trust. But it can be hard to sort out the difference between a lawyer giving you tough–but honest–truths about case weaknesses, versus downplaying the case so they can settle out quick and easy.
How do I Know if I Should Like and Trust a Nursing Home Lawyer?
You will know if you should like and trust a nursing home lawyer if they shoot straight, answer your questions directly, and care about you.
Of course, that’s a judgment call, and it’s a personal one.
Have Some More Ideas?
Got some other ideas for folks? Leave a comment below!