Business and Administrative Steps to take before a Nursing Home Trial
Nursing home cases are complex and tedious. If you are organized, your case could crumble before your eyes. Administratively and legally, you need to format your lawsuit for success. Here is a list of all the things you need to do or to get in your nursing home case so it gets off on the right track. There is also information regarding insurance companies and filing your lawsuit.
Client Intake Meeting:
The client intake meeting is a formative event in the life of an attorney-client relationship. It is the first time that you will see the client face-to-face and the first time that you will hear his or her story in person. More than anything else, it is crucial during this meeting to build a connection with clients so they know that you are on their side and capable of bringing their case to trial or successful settlement. However, there are also more practical things to accomplish. You need to ask questions specific enough to gain a sense of the circumstances of the nursing home accident, the type of negligence or other misconduct involved, the damages and injuries as well as other factors. Hopefully, after this conversation, you can convince the client to sign a contingency fee agreement granting you the right to represent him or her. For sample questions to be used in a client intake meeting for a nursing home case, see our form below but feel free to customize to the client’s particular circumstances:
Contingency Fee Agreement
In most instances, you will not be working for free. For all the times that you are not, you need to get a contingency fee agreement signed by the client so that you have the authority to represent him or her and collect fees for doing so. Yet, victims of nursing home negligence often do not have the financial ability to pay large hourly rates. Therefore, many plaintiffs’ lawyers operate on contingency, only collecting money for fees and expenses if they are successful at trial or in settlement. To read more about the proper structure and contents of an Illinois contingency agreement see Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct §1.5 and the Illinois Supreme Court case Dowling v. Chicago Options Assoc., Inc., 875 N.E.2d 1012 (Ill. 2007). Here is a sample to start with in your nursing home case but feel free to tailor it to your needs:
HIPAA Consent Form
The building blocks for your nursing home case will often be in doctor’s notes, surgical processes, medications provided, and other healthcare transactions. However, Congress put a wall in between you and this information in the 1990s when it passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This requires you to obtain your client’s permission before receiving any of his or her medical information from a third party. It is a fairly straightforward document (it outlines the nature of your need for the information, the patient’s identity and signature, etc,) but it is needed every time you seek access. Also, failing to ask the client for this permission then having to come back and seek it will make you look incompetent. Here is a sample HIPAA form to be used in Illinois nursing home cases but remember to attach a signed copy of the client’s contingency agreement with the executed HIPAA form to verify your legal representative capacity:
Lost Wages Form
While not completely relevant to a nursing home case, because residents are typically retired, you still want to do some background and see if your client was working or had any investments that were impaired, lost, or reduced in value because of the nursing home’s misconduct. If so, this could factor in significantly into the recovery sought later at trial because this is a huge economic component of damages. Therefore, you need to send a lost wages form to potential employers or others who can verify outstanding investments at the time of the accident. Here is a sample lost wages form for Illinois nursing home cases.
Records Collection List
What you need to gather in your nursing home case should define what you are doing at any given moment in the case as well as how strong your case is at any given moment. Having a comprehensive records collection list will give you an indication of where your case is going, where its holes are, and where its strengths are. Here is a sample records collection list to be drafted and followed from the get-go in a nursing home case but feel free to add anything that might be relevant for your particular circumstances:
KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Before any lawsuit or settlement, it is important to understand the insurance company implicated in the incident, if relevant. This company might be the one that you seek reimbursement from after seeking a judgment from the party at fault because that party was insured or has no money to offer.
HOW TO FILE A LAWSUIT
In Cook County, you have to fill out and file a Complaint and Summons form. These documents can be downloaded at their website (http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/) or picked up at their office at Room 601 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60602. You must also serve the defendant either through the Sheriff’s Office or through certified mail (if the claim is below $10,000). After filing these documents, the county will give you a return date for when you are supposed to come back for your trial. For more information and for all relevant forms needed to file a lawsuit, please visit the Cook County website. Also, to see the costs of a filing you lawsuit, visit this page: http://188.8.131.52/Forms/pdf_files/CCG0603.pdf
The process to start a lawsuit is quite similar in other counties, to find the necessary information see below:
Office of the Circuit Court Clerk
505 County Farm Road
P.O. Box 707
Wheaton, Illinois 60187-0707
Keith Brin, Clerk of the Circuit Court
18 N. County St.
Waukegan, IL 60085
Will County Court House
The Office of the Circuit Clerk
14 W. Jefferson Street
Joliet, IL 60432
Clerk of the Circuit Court
540 S. Randall Rd.
St. Charles, IL 60174
Address: McHenry County Government Center
2200 North Seminary Ave.
Woodstock IL 60098
Clerk of the Court
157 North Main Street,
Edwardsville, IL. 62025