What is the Process of Suing a Nursing Home?

The process of suing a nursing home for abuse

Most people have never considered filing a lawsuit against a nursing home. For many people, the first time the idea of filing a lawsuit enters their mind is after suffering a family tragedy. 

In this guide, we’ll lead you through the process of suing a nursing home from beginning to end, breaking down the stages, and offering practical advice along the way. You’ll encounter legal terms and procedures that might seem overwhelming, but our goal is to simplify them. We aim to empower you with knowledge so you can make informed choices at every turn.

While not all law firms are the same, they usually function similarly. We have our firm’s processes as a guide when providing this information. 

Step 1: Contacting A Lawyer

The first step is contacting a lawyer or law firm and providing whatever information you have about your potential case. Typically, this will involve the name of the nursing home or assisted living facility where the neglect or abuse occurred, background information about the victim including age and any medical conditions, a description of what occurred, and when the bad care happened. It is helpful to gather and provide any supporting documentation you may have, such as medical records, photographs or videos of injuries, witness statements, and any correspondence with the facility.

Your first interaction with the legal team may not be with a lawyer. It may be with a paralegal or other member of the intake team. This is similar to when you go to the hospital and initially speak with triage and nursing staff before seeing the doctor. 

During this initial consultation, the team will listen to your concerns, and ask clarifying questions to understand the situation better. You will also discuss the legal process, and potential outcomes, and ideally the firm will answer any questions you have.

The legal team will likely explain the fee structure, including any contingency fee arrangements, and discuss the timeline of the case, so you know what to expect moving forward. One of the first questions that potential clients have in nursing home abuse cases is how do I pay for my lawyer? Almost all lawyers practicing in this area work on what is called a contingency fee. That means any legal fee is contingent upon the lawyers getting you a positive result. That means that unless you are successful in the case, you are not obligated to pay anything. 

Step 2: Reviewing a Case and Acceptance

Accepting a case is typically a collaborative effort amongst the legal team. The legal team will thoroughly examine the details of each situation and review all the information provided. If they decide to take on a case, they assign the most suitable team members to ensure the best possible representation.

After a team has been assigned, they begin formulating a customized strategy to effectively advance the case. They keep the client updated on their progress and outline the next steps, ensuring the client remains actively involved throughout the process. They may contact the client for any further information that could be critical to the case.

Step 3: The Investigation of Nursing Home Abuse

The investigation begins following the acceptance of a case. The team starts by gathering medical records, interviewing witnesses, and thoroughly examining the events related to the case. They will also look into whether the nursing home has a history of misconduct. This is unfortunately very common in nursing homes. 

It is crucial to have as much information as possible. This may include the names of nursing home employees or contacts of friends and family members of other residents who can confirm stories of understaffing and neglect. 

To continue to build a strong case, the team will interview the loved ones of the victim. By interviewing friends and family, additional information from the abuse may be gathered. Interviewing witnesses also allows the legal team to understand the victim’s character on a more personal level. Every life holds significance, and each person is unique. The legal team’s goal is to convey the significance of your loved one and the loss to you and the community. Even if someone doesn’t have particular details about the nursing home, they can still provide meaningful insights into the victim’s life and character.

Step 4:  Expert Collaboration: Strengthening Nursing Home Abuse Cases

After collecting witness statements and medical records, the team collaborates with experts to strengthen the case. These experts help connect the different aspects of the case. Common experts in nursing home cases often include:

  • Geriatricians: Physicians specializing in the medical care of elderly individuals provide expert insights into how neglect or abuse has affected the health and overall well-being of the resident.
  • Nursing home medical directors and administrators: These experts provide important insights into how nursing homes operate and whether they follow the rules set by regulations. Their input helps spot larger issues affecting the system.
  • Medical specialists: These specialists, who focus on treating specific conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, or Parkinson’s disease, provide expertise in determining how inadequate care may have aggravated these conditions.
  • Forensic pathologists: Medical professionals trained in investigating the causes of death. They offer crucial assessments in situations where neglect or abuse could have played a role in the resident’s passing.
  • Nurses specializing in nursing home care: These experts possess a comprehensive understanding of the norms and methodologies in nursing home care. They offer thorough evaluations of care quality, including specialized areas like wound treatment or dementia management.

In addition to these experts, attorneys may also consult financial analysts to uncover any financial misconduct or fraud by the nursing home. These professionals can trace financial transactions and practices that may indicate attempts to hide assets or minimize liability.

Step 5: Strategic Preparation: Harnessing Focus Groups and Mock Trials for Legal Readiness

The team frequently employs focus groups or mock trials as part of their preparation process. A focus group involves assembling a diverse range of individuals from various backgrounds to examine a specific topic or issue.

Operating akin to a jury, focus group participants contribute their everyday experiences but do not have much understanding regarding the legal world. By utilizing focus groups, the team is able to receive feedback from the jurors that enables them to refine arguments and formulate strategies for the future.

In addition to focus groups, the team may also conduct mock trials. In these simulated court proceedings, attorneys present their case to a mock jury.

Through focus groups and mock trials, invaluable feedback is gathered to strengthen the case. This thorough preparation ensures readiness for the actual trial, with strategies tested and refined in a realistic setting.

Step 6: Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

The initial legal document that begins a lawsuit is called a “complaint” or “petition.” This is a brief statement of the allegations of the case. This is not evidence. It is simply a document that begins the formal legal process. 

After the complaint is filed, a judge is assigned to the case, and the defendants are officially informed about the lawsuit. This happens through a process called “service of process.” It involves delivering copies of the complaint and other important documents to the defendants, letting them know about the accusations and legal actions against them.

Once they’re served, the defendants have a certain time, usually about 60 days, to respond to the claims made in the complaint. This response, called an “answer,” lets defendants say if they admit or deny the allegations and can also include any defenses they want to raise. 

Step 7: Understanding Discovery: Unveiling Crucial Details in the Legal Process

“Discovery” is the step after a lawsuit has been filed. During discovery, both parties have the chance to request documents and written responses to questions, with the goal of uncovering crucial details about the case. It represents a significant stage where each side gains formal access to documents and information that may have been unavailable before the lawsuit began.

Throughout this period, clients typically have a limited role, often restricted to providing answers to a few inquiries. This is mainly because most documents are usually held by the nursing home. These documents may include medical records, personnel files, staffing data, time cards, internal emails, and much more. 

Step 8: Depositions: Obtaining Sworn Testimony  

Depositions are an important part of the legal process where a witness provides sworn testimony that may be used at trial. A court reporter records all questions and answers. Throughout the process, the witness’s attorney accompanies them to prevent inappropriate questioning by the opposing counsel.

Though the prospect of a deposition may seem daunting, clients receive comprehensive preparation from the legal team. A significant amount of time is devoted to ensuring clients feel comfortable and prepared in court.

In preparation for the deposition, potential questions are thoroughly reviewed, effective answering strategies are discussed, and any client concerns are addressed. The objective is to foster a supportive environment where clients feel empowered to truthfully and accurately share their experiences.

The presence of the client’s attorney during the deposition safeguards their interests and maintains fairness during questioning. 

Step 9: Mediation: A Path to Resolution in Legal Proceedings

There may be times in legal proceedings where a mediation is arranged. Mediation is essentially a meeting where the involved parties aim to resolve the case. Usually, the clients and their legal representatives are separated from the nursing home and its representatives. 

A mediator, a neutral third party, shuttles between the rooms, presenting different settlement offers and facilitating communication between the parties. It’s important to note that the decision to settle the case is completely up to the client. You should not feel pressured to make a decision that you are not comfortable with.

During mediation, both sides have the opportunity to present their perspectives and explore potential resolutions. The mediator assists in clarifying misunderstandings, identifying common ground, and guiding the parties toward a mutually acceptable agreement.

While mediation can be a constructive way to resolve disputes outside of court, it’s essential to approach it with a clear understanding of the clients and objectives. The legal team will provide guidance and support throughout the mediation process, helping clients make informed decisions that align with their best interests.

Ultimately, mediation offers a chance to reach a resolution that satisfies all parties involved, avoiding the uncertainties and expenses associated with a trial. However, if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached through mediation, the case may proceed to trial for resolution by the court.

Step 10: From Evidence to Verdict: Navigating the Trial Process with Your Legal Team

The trial marks the conclusion of the legal proceedings. It’s the phase where all the gathered evidence is presented to the jury. This includes all the evidence collected during the case, such as the testimony provided during depositions. Witnesses, including expert witnesses, share their accounts in front of the jury.

During the trial, both sides present their arguments and evidence to support their respective positions. The legal team meticulously presents the case, emphasizing key points and addressing any counterarguments raised by the opposing counsel.

After all evidence has been submitted, the jury retreats to a separate room for deliberations. They carefully consider the evidence presented and weigh the arguments made by both parties. Once they reach a decision, they render a verdict in favor of one side or the other.

Trials typically span between 5 to 8 days, although the duration can vary depending on the complexity of the case and other factors. Throughout the trial, the legal team remains by the client’s side, providing guidance, support, and advocacy to ensure your rights are protected and your case is presented effectively.

While trials can be intense and emotionally taxing, they offer an opportunity to seek justice and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. Your legal team will work tirelessly to present your case persuasively and strive for a favorable outcome on your behalf.


Navigating the legal process of suing a nursing home may initially seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and guidance, it becomes manageable. Each step, from the initial consultation to the final resolution, is crucial in seeking justice for your loved one. By understanding the process, familiarizing yourself with legal procedures, and seeking support from experienced professionals, you can confidently advocate for accountability and uphold the rights and dignity of your loved one.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Legal experts are here to provide guidance and support every step of the way. Whether your case leads to trial or settlement, know that your efforts are meaningful in holding nursing homes accountable for their actions. Your pursuit of justice not only seeks compensation for the harm caused but also helps ensure the safety and well-being of residents in nursing homes across the country.

As you move forward, stay informed, stay empowered, and stay resilient. With determination and perseverance, you can navigate the legal system effectively and achieve the justice your loved one deserves.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as providing legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. Laws are updated frequently and change from state to state. If you desire legal advice, you can contact Michael Hill Trial Law at www.protectseniors.com, send an email to info@protectseniors.com, call (800) 659-2712 to begin an investigation, or contact another attorney.