After suffering pressure sores in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, or another long-term care setting, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit to cover the cost of your injuries. Many people, however, find themselves wondering just how long it will take to receive that compensation, particularly as medical bills continue to mount.
How long does it take to file a lawsuit for a pressure sore? How long will it take for you to receive a settlement? While we cannot predict how long your case will take, we can provide you with some useful information to help you understand the factors that determine the length of a lawsuit involving pressure sores.
For more precise advice about your case, contact an experienced bedsore attorney.
Step One: Choose a Lawyer
An attorney can help you understand your legal rights, including your right to compensation after your injuries. You need an attorney with experience dealing with nursing home neglect or medical malpractice claims, depending on who failed to provide the standard of care to you or your loved one.
As you look for a lawyer, ask:
- What experience does the attorney have? You want an attorney who has experience with your local court system and who has handled claims like pressure ulcers in the past. An experienced attorney will offer practical advice and assistance as you manage your bedsore claim.
- How does the attorney prefer to communicate? Communication often proves key in a bedsore claim. You want an attorney who will communicate in the way you feel most comfortable. Does your attorney prefer to check in by phone, text, or email? Will your attorney communicate with you even when nothing moves forward with your claim? Make sure you choose an attorney with a communication style that fits your needs.
- What kind of caseload does the law firm have? Does the law firm currently have the resources to dedicate to your claim? When you work with the law firm, who will actually handle most of the aspects of your claim—a partner, an associate, or a paralegal? Keep in mind that a busy firm may not pay as much attention to your claim.
Once you select an attorney, you can begin the process of filing a bedsore claim.
Step Two: Investigation
Your attorney will investigate the circumstances that led to your bedsores. It can take time to investigate. In developing your case, your attorney may consider:
Your Medical Records
The investigation into your bedsores will start with your medical records, including information provided by your doctor and by the facility.
Your attorney may ask several critical questions about your medical history, such as:
- Did you have common risk factors associated with developing pressure sores? If a patient has known risk factors, the nursing staff should exercise additional care and caution when handling that patient, including moving the patient regularly providing appropriate nutrition and hydration. If you have a history of pressure sores, the nursing staff should regularly check you for pressure sores. For example, people with diabetes often suffer challenges related to skin breakdown and increased risk of pressure ulcers.
- Did you notify nursing staff about a problem? If you suffered a spinal cord injury that left you confined to bed, you may have a higher risk of pressure sores due to your inability to move. Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries and nerve damage can also cause you to miss signs of a pressure sore until it develops into something more serious, so staff bear the responsibility of monitoring you for symptoms. Other patients, however, may start to feel pain in the affected area of the body, but cannot move away from that area or reposition themselves. If you notified nursing staff about pain or identified swelling or redness, but the nursing staff failed to address that problem, the facility could bear a high level of liability for ignoring your complaints.
- How severe was the pressure sore? In the early stages of a pressure sore, you may have only swelling, redness, and pain around the injury site. With more severe pressure sores, on the other hand, the skin may break, leaving you with drainage and pus. The wound may deepen the longer staff fails to treat it. Prompt treatment, on the other hand, can often reduce the symptoms of pressure sores and help them heal faster. A severe pressure sore, especially one that went untreated for a long time, could indicate significant negligence by the nursing staff.
Your Evidence and Report
Your attorney will also ask you for a statement about the treatment you received. Your medical records will provide part of the story. Personal testimony, however, can offer additional information about the situation and help you better explain what negligence you may have suffered during your care. Your attorney will ask about the care you received both before and after identifying the pressure sore, including any instances that may have suggested that you suffered neglect.
If you suffered a pressure ulcer in a skilled nursing facility, including a nursing home, your attorney may investigate the facility to get a better idea of the treatment that you received and whether negligence occurs commonly in that facility.
Your attorney may need to look into the facility’s history to answer three key questions:
- Have others filed negligence-related lawsuits against that facility? Often, multiple lawsuits suggest that people have suffered considerably at the hands of a specific hospital, nursing home, or skilled nursing facility. If your attorney uncovers past lawsuits, it could show a history of negligence.
- How do others describe the facility? Does the facility have overall good reviews, or do people who spent time there recommend that others steer away from it? Does the facility have a great reputation?
- What does the facility look like? Your attorney may want to tour the facility to look at its overall cleanliness, observe response time in nurses and aides, or evaluate basic aspects of patient care.
Your Nursing Staff
Sometimes, staff at a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or nursing home may not come from the facility itself, but from a staffing contractor. In some cases, nursing staff members may have a known history of neglect. They may not have a permanent job at a hospital or skilled nursing facility because they neglected other patients in the past. The staffing agency may not conduct a full investigation into that nurse’s background before sending them to the facility, which may result in further negligence of the patients there.
Your attorney’s investigation can take time. Your attorney will need to investigate every element of your medical experience, including your nursing staff and your facility, to determine who you need to file a claim against and how that facility’s past actions may affect your right to compensation. A full investigation may also uncover further evidence of negligence in other areas of care, which your attorney may need to investigate further or report to the authorities.
Step 3: Heal
Before you file a bedsore claim, your attorney may advise waiting until you have time to heal from your injuries. Pressure sores may respond to proper treatment, especially if you catch them in their early stages. Some pressure sores, however, do not fully heal, especially in patients with underlying conditions. The degree to which doctors expect you to recover will have an impact on the compensation you seek.
How your recovery progresses will have an immense impact on your pressure sore lawsuit. It may make a difference in:
Your Medical Expenses Related to Recovery
The longer it takes you to recover, the more your medical costs will grow after sustaining a pressure sore. You may need to spend a longer time in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home while waiting for a pressure sore to heal, which may substantially increase your overall costs. You may also need additional treatments, especially if you suffer Stage 3 or Stage 4 pressure sores with severe complications.
Your Need to Move to Another Facility
If you suffer numerous pressure sores during your recovery, or if staff neglects you while spending time in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, you may need to move to another place to receive the care you need.
Your Long-Term Limitations
Untreated pressure sores can cause long-term complications and limitations. For example, a pressure sore that prevents you from sitting comfortably in a wheelchair could confine you to bed for an extended period. Severe pressure sores can further extend the time you suffer those limitations.
Step 4: Negotiation
Once you’ve healed and your attorney has fully investigated your claim, your attorney will put together a demand package that shows the suffering you faced because of the facility’s lack of care. It will include your demand for compensation based on the damages you incurred from your injuries. Most often, that demand package will go to the facility’s insurance provider. If the facility does not have insurance, the facility may choose to retain its own lawyer to help handle the claim.
The insurance company or facility will look over your demand package and then respond. Often, the company will issue a lower offer in response to your initial demand. That offer may not reflect the true value of your case, so you may discuss the offer with your attorney, then come back with another offer of your own. It may take several rounds of negotiation before you and the insurance company arrive at a settlement agreement that works for both parties. The longer you must negotiate, the longer it may take to resolve your pressure sore lawsuit—but the more money you may recover.
Step 5: Court, if Necessary
Most of the time, pressure sore claims resolve out of court. In some cases, however, you may need to go to court to recover the true cost of your injuries. You may, for example, need to go to court because the facility or the nursing staff that took care of you alleges that you suffered pressure sores due to underlying conditions, rather than any negligence on behalf of the staff. You may also need to go to court if the liable party refuses to pay fair compensation.
Litigation will likely extend the time needed to resolve your case. You will need to wait for a court date, present your case to the court, and wait for the judge or jury to determine how much compensation to award you, if any—but again, it could increase the compensation you obtain.
Most of the time, the court verdict will represent the final decision in your claim. In rare cases, either you or the liable party may choose to appeal the decision, which could further extend the time needed for you to receive a settlement or court award.
Working with an attorney can give you a better idea of how long your claim may last, help you navigate the obstacles to a positive conclusion far more efficiently, and increase your compensation so you have enough money to pay for the treatment of your pressure sores. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible for a free consultation.