If attempts to address a problem directly with the facility have been unsuccessful, or if you suspect a caregiver of abuse, consider consulting an attorney to see whether legal action may be appropriate.
Gather a List of Prospects
You will probably be best served by an attorney who focuses on long term care or elder abuse law. It’s usually best to get a list of names of lawyers from friends or associates who have had similar problems. People who provide health care services — such as discharge planners, geriatric care planners, patient representatives, and ombudsmen in nursing homes — may also be able to help you identify lawyers to consider.
The Internet is full of lawyer referral services, searchable by specialty and locale. But beware that nearly all have some commercial interest in the referrals — and none can truly assure the quality of the lawyers listed. Still, these sites may at least provide some targeted leads. One site focusing on elder law practitioners is the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) Lawyer Referral Service.
As in your search for an appropriate care facility, finding an experienced and suitable lawyer will likely require patience and comparison shopping. That may mean interviewing several lawyers to evaluate whether their:
- Experience meets the demands of your case
- Personal style is compatible or pleasing to you
- Costs quoted for legal fees and services seem reasonable and affordable
Most lawyers’ websites summarize their experience and focus. But be sure to talk with each lawyer on your list of potential hires for more specifics. Many will be willing to meet with you free for 30 minutes or so to evaluate your claims and allow you to make an informed decision on whether to proceed.
For help with structuring an interview with an attorney, see Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Attorney.
Make Sure the Lawyer Is a Good Fit
Pay particular attention to whether the lawyer answers your questions clearly. A good lawyer may also offer the valuable advice that you do not have a good legal case or suggest a resolution such as arbitration or mediation that avoids a lawsuit — most of which are expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally wrenching.
Be Clear About Billing
By far the most common disagreements between lawyers and clients involve misunderstandings about fees. Before hiring anyone, get a written explanation of costs and how they will be charged.