Nursing home neglect is unfortunately on the rise. When you have to make the tough decision to place a loved into a nursing home, neglect is one of your biggest fears. Most nursing homes are for-profit corporations that operate with the goal to earn as much money as possible for the corporation’s shareholders. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a profit. And the medical professionals that work in the nursing home are mostly good people doing the very best that they can with limited resources. Unfortunately, sometimes in the pursuit of profits, nursing homes understaff their units and fail to provide the resources necessary to keep their residents safe.  Most of the time, the heroes working as nurses and doctors area able to cover the gaps and make it work. Their efforts should be applauded.  But, sometimes, they are just stretched too thin and that is when neglect happens.

What rights do you have?

The first thing to understand is that your nursing home negligence claim may be classified as a medical malpractice claim and be subject to Wisconsin’s laws on medical malpractice. This includes participating in a mandatory mediation before commencing the civil litigation process. You have the right to file a lawsuit in circuit court.  Once you file that lawsuit, your attorney will be allowed to conduct discovery, which includes seeking the production of surveillance video footage, incident reports, other documents and take the depositions of witnesses from the nursing home.  

Who is allowed to bring a claim?

In Wisconsin, only the injured person is allowed to bring a claim for nursing home neglect.  The child or spouse cannot bring the claim on behalf of the injured loved one, absent extreme circumstances. If the injured person passes away, the neglect claim remains alive and can be brought by the personal representative of the estate on behalf of the estate. 

What if my loved one passes away?

If your loved one passes away because of the original neglect, then the surviving spouse has a claim for wrongful death. And the estate would have a claim for pre-death pain, suffering and medical expenses.  If the loved one passes away from unrelated causes, the surviving family members do not have a claim for wrongful death; however, the estate still will have a claim for the pre-death pain, suffering and medical expenses. 

Can I make a claim for nursing home wrongful death?

Yes, but again, only the surviving spouse can bring a claim for wrongful death in Wisconsin.  If there is no surviving spouse, then the other family members including the surviving children may be permitted to bring a wrongful death claim. Unfortunately, the children cannot claim all of the same damages that are available to a surviving spouse (See Wis. Stat § 893.54 https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/893/V/54).

How much is my nursing home neglect case worth?

Most nursing homes are insured by large general insurance companies like West Bend Mutual or AIG insurance. The claims adjuster will try to minimize your damages and tell you that your case is not worth much at all. They will argue that the life of an elderly person is just not that valuable. Fortunately, insurance adjusters do not have the final say on what your case is worth. Once you hit an attorney and file a lawsuit, we will begin preparing your case for trial with the goal of showing the insurance company and their attorneys that your case will be valued by a jury of your peers from our community.  The key to valuing your case is thinking what would 6 or 12 of your neighbors say your case is worth?

How long do I have to make a claim for nursing home neglect?

Like most injury and wrongful death claims, you normally have 3 years to file a lawsuit (See Wis. Stat § 893.54 and 893.55 https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/893/V/54). If you miss this deadline, you will forever lose your right to bring a lawsuit. One big exception to this rule is if you are making a claim against a governmental entity, then you only have 120 days to provide notice of your claim pursuant to Wis. Stat § 893.80.  Because of these deadlines and because evidence often is lost to history, it is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.