Many of us, my family included, are faced with decisions involving the placement of a parent or loved one in long-term residential care. Some of these providers and nursing facilities are better than others. Nursing home residents, their families and guardians should be aware that when lack of care results in illness or injury, legal actions, claims and remedies are available to them under Illinois law.
Nursing home negligence claims in Illinois are typically subject to the provisions of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (210 ILCS 45/1). Claims of abuse or neglect, battery or sexual assault among others are subject to the terms and provisions of the act. Nursing home residents, their families, friends or guardians should consult with qualified lawyers regarding the applicability of the Nursing Home Care Act to a given situation. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act delineates the legal rights of nursing home residents. Under the act, employees of nursing homes are required to report violations to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Under this law, nursing home residents cannot be forced to give up their right to a jury trial prior to the filing of a lawsuit, or the initiation of litigation.
Persons bringing claims under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act are not required by law to file expert witness reports as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit. This differs from medical malpractice claims in Illinois; in those cases, the report of an expert witness (physician or other relevant health care professional) must be filed (at least at some point in time) as a prerequisite to a lawsuit. These matters are somewhat complicated and are best discussed with an attorney experienced in these areas of the law.
Many nursing home residents are also recipients of Public Aid, that is, Medicaid. Under the terms of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, “the amount of damages recovered by a resident (under the act) shall be exempt for purposes of determining initial or continuing eligibility for medical assistance under the (Illinois Public Aid Code) . . . and shall neither be taken into consideration nor required to be applied toward the payment or partial payment of the cost of medical care or services available under the Illinois Public Aid Code.” With that in mind, nursing home residents who are also Public Aid recipients should not allow their status as Public Aid recipients to influence their decision to pursue claims arising out of nursing home negligence or abuse. Again, such decisions should be made after being fully informed by way of consultation with qualified legal counsel.
Nursing home residents and their families or guardians should seek immediate legal advice when abuse or neglect is suspected. In that way, the resident’s potential legal claim can be protected.