Who Can File a Nursing Home Claim?
Nursing home claims are unlike personal injury claims, even though they often may involve someone suffering physical or emotional harm. While personal injury claims often are based on some person’s negligence causing injuries or damages to another person or people, it’s possible that a nursing home claim may not involve traditional types of injuries at all.
Instead of negligence, nursing home claims are based on the idea that nursing home residents have certain rights, and that when a nursing home violates the rights of a resident, the resident is entitled to compensation of any losses he or she suffers. The rights of nursing home residents are laid out in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, 210 ILCS 45, and include recognition of rights such as:
- The right to be free from abuse and neglect
- The right to manage your own finances
- The right to unimpeded private visits and communication
- The right to your own physician and to participate in your medical care
There are numerous other rights recognized under Illinois law, and when a nursing home violates one of those rights, the law says that the owner or licensee of a nursing home may be held liable through a civil lawsuit.
Proper Parties in Nursing Home Lawsuits
Anyone who files a lawsuit has to have standing to do so. Standing is the idea that the person, group, or organization that files a lawsuit has some connection to the subject of the suit. The legal principle of standing is what prevents any random person from suing someone else. That connection has to exist. For example, in a personal injury case the plaintiff who files a lawsuit has to prove that he or she has suffered some harm that was caused by the person who is being sued.
Again, nursing home cases work a little differently than a personal injury case, and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act addresses who can file a suit, and who can be sued. Under the statute, the plaintiff in a nursing home case can only be:
- The nursing home resident whose rights were violated, or
- An authorized representative of the nursing home resident
These are the only people who have standing to file a lawsuit alleging that a resident’s rights have been violated. That’s simple when the resident is competent to act on his or her own behalf and hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit. But the situation can be more complicated when a resident is a senior with dementia, or a person with developmental disabilities, and doesn’t have the mental capacity to make a claim.
When the resident can’t act for himself or herself, then an authorized representative can be the one to initiate the lawsuit. Typically an authorized representative would be someone designated as a legal guardian, or who has power of attorney to act on the resident’s behalf. That person may be a family member, or a friend, a social worker, or someone appointed by a court. The key is that the person must be legally recognized as the resident’s representative. So even a family member who witnesses an act of abuse or neglect cannot sue on behalf of the resident unless that family member is an authorized representative.
The statute also limits who can be held liable in a civil lawsuit regarding a violation of a nursing home resident’s rights. Let’s say the claim alleges that a nursing home resident was physically abused by a staff member or another resident. Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, the resident or the authorized resident doesn’t sue the staff member or the other resident for civil damages, although depending on the circumstances the perpetrator of the abuse may be charged criminally.
The statute specifically allows lawsuits only against the owner or licensee of the facility. The idea is that the owner or licensee should be responsible for what happens on the premises, and should be adequately supervising staff members or other residents to prevent acts of abuse or neglect.
How a Lawyer Can Help
The legal issues involving nursing home claims and identifying the proper parties to either file the lawsuit or to be named as defendants can be complex. When the owner or licensee is a corporation, the organization may be in another state, or there may be layers of corporate owners to sift through to find the appropriate entity to sue. An Illinois lawyer experienced with nursing home claims will know how to track down the owner or licensee and make sure that the right person or company is held liable for violation of the resident’s rights — and that the resident is fairly compensated for any injuries or damages that occurred.
Contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 for a free legal consultation about your nursing home claim today.