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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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Don is a founding partner and one of the nation’s top-ranked personal injury litigators. He is a member of the Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum, which includes less than 1% of the nation’s trial lawyers, and awarded the highest ranking given by Martindale Hubbel and AVVO.
More importantly, Don understands representing personal injury victims is about more than recovering the best settlement: it’s about helping clients get back on their feet and supporting them in every aspect of their recovery.
In nearly all cases, our clients seek compensation from the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Before forming Wruck Paupore, Jason worked for a prominent law firm representing some of the world’s largest insurers. This experience gives Jason a deep understanding of the insurance industry and the strategies it uses to pay injury victims as little as possible.
Jason -- and our entire team -- put this inside knowledge to work to force insurance companies to pay what is actually owed. Often, we use the insurance company’s own tactics against them as we fight for the full compensation our client deserves.
For more than four decades, Keith has been fighting for injury victims. During that time, he’s watched the insurance industry change, with insurers now more interested in protecting their stock price than treating injury victims fairly.
Since the beginning, Keith has put people first. From his childhood in Gary, Indiana during the 1960’s and working his way through law school, Keith has risen to become one of the Midwest’s most respected trial lawyers. He has never forgotten that being a lawyer is about helping people -- and seeing injury victims through struggles in a way that could change their lives forever.
Over the decades, Keith, Don and Jason have fought relentlessly for clients, even when other lawyers have said the case was impossible to win.