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How to File a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana

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How to File a Nursing Hom…

There are over 500 nursing homes across the State of Indiana alone. Unfortunately, many of these nursing homes skirt regulations and reasonable standards when caring for residents. If a nursing home’s wrongful actions resulted in the death of a resident, their loved ones can pursue legal action, either through a wrongful death lawsuit or arbitration.

For adult wrongful death claims in Indiana, the executor of the decedent’s estate must be the one to pursue a legal recovery. Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within the two-year window after the decedent’s passing and may be filed concurrently with any criminal charges stemming from the same situation.

However, there may be much shorter deadlines that need to be complied with if the nursing home was operated by a governmental entity. Also, some nursing homes also require residents to sign arbitration agreements when they become residents of the home, which may have deadline or reporting requirements that the nursing home may try to enforce (there are often legal questions about the enforceability of these agreements).

To learn whether you have a case and what is required to file it, it’s very important that you get sound legal advice. Wruck Paupore’s lawyers have almost 90 years of total experience handling these cases. Contact our Indiana wrongful death attorneys so we can provide you with a free case assessment when you call our offices at (219) 322-1166.

Who Can File a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?

As noted, these types of cases may involve contractual arbitration provisions that will impact whether a lawsuit can be filed. Assuming this is not an issue and a lawsuit is permitted, there are some important things to know about wrongful death recovery.

Indiana law makes distinctions about wrongful death lawsuits based on whether the deceased was a child or an adult. For a nursing home wrongful death claims, where the decedent is nearly always an adult at the time of death, laws for filing the suit require that very specific procedures are followed to preserve your rights.

The State of Indiana only allows the decedent’s personal representative to file the wrongful death claim. The personal representative is usually the executor of the deceased’s estate. Typically, a court will appoint an executor if the individual is not specified in the decedent’s will or if the decedent died intestate (without a will). If you are the personal representative for a decedent’s estate, you have responsibilities on behalf of the estate and should always obtain legal help if the estate has any potential legal claims. The experienced Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys at Wruck Paupore can help you assess your case and make sure that the legal right to recover is preserved.

This does not mean that the personal representative is the only one that will share in the recovery damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. When a wrongful death lawsuit succeeds, damages are awarded through the estate and all those who have rights under a will or under the laws of succession may potentially share in the distribution of recovery.

What is a "Wrongful Death" in Indiana Nursing Homes?

Any death caused by another person or entity’s “wrongful act or omission” can give rise to a cause of action for a wrongful death lawsuit in Indiana. But many potential plaintiffs have questions about what might be considered a wrongful act or omission. There are several types of wrongful acts or omissions that nursing homes or their staff may commit that could create a wrongful death action.

Intentional Acts

Any intentional act to inflict harm on a resident would be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit if that act resulted in death. These include crimes such as assault and battery.

Negligence

However, you do not need to prove that a wrongful act or omission was intentional to win a wrongful death claim. Negligence is also a viable reason to file a lawsuit. A nursing home will be deemed negligent if its staff fails to use reasonable care in providing for and safekeeping its residents, resulting in wrongful death. To prove negligence, you will typically be required to show that a reasonably prudent nursing home would have behaved differently under the same circumstances and thus either prevented or avoided causing the death.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice may also be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Nursing homes are obligated to have capable medical care providers either on the property or on call. If these medical professionals deviate from the standards of their field when caring for a resident, and the resident dies as a result, you could have a claim against the provider or the nursing home that employs them. Medical malpractice may be difficult to identify without the seasoned eye of a South Bend wrongful death attorney.

Many nursing homes are covered by Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, and in these situations, additional procedures must be followed under this Act to preserve your recovery. It’s critical that you receive appropriate legal advice in this area to determine the applicability of the Act and how it impacts the Indiana Adult Wrongful Death statute and any arbitration requirements that could be applicable to your situation.

How Long Do You Have to File a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?

Indiana has laws, known as statutes of limitations, that dictate how long a plaintiff has to file their civil suit before they lose their opportunity to recover damages. For wrongful death lawsuits stemming from the death of an adult nursing home resident, state law requires that the initial filing must be submitted no more than two years from the date of death.

While some states have exceptions that may pause the clock, Indiana is very strict regarding the statute of limitations. Therefore, if you miss your deadline in a wrongful death case, the court is very likely to dismiss your case.

Preparing and filing a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit is very technical. You should always have the case handled by a qualified attorney, which may be required by the Probate court to administer the estate of your loved one in any event. Contact our Hammond, IN wrongful death attorneys as soon as possible to start on the road to justice and hold the nursing home accountable for the loss of your loved one.

Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana if There is Already a Criminal Case?

A wrongful death lawsuit is very different from criminal prosecution for charges like murder or manslaughter. The latter is a case brought by the government that may result in fines or jail time and will not directly benefit the decedent’s estate or loved ones. Indiana, therefore, allows plaintiffs to file wrongful death lawsuits even while a criminal case is ongoing. Criminal cases do not affect the statute of limitations, so you still face the same two-year deadline to file your case.

You should not be dissuaded if the criminal case for your wrongful death is unsuccessful. The burden of proof for the prosecution in these cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Meeting this threshold is substantially harder than proving your case “by a preponderance of the evidence,” the threshold for a civil wrongful death claim.

A criminal acquittal is usually not allowed as evidence in your case against the nursing home. On the other hand, a criminal conviction of those involved is usually allowed as evidence of abuse.

Wruck Paupore Can Help You Get Justice for a Wrongful Death in Indiana

To get seasoned advice and dedicated legal help with your wrongful death lawsuit, call the Fort Wayne wrongful death attorneys at Wruck Paupore today at (219) 322-1166.

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