One of the most egregious forms of abuse takes place every day in thousands of facilities and homes throughout the country, affecting our elderly loved ones. Elder abuse occurs wherever elders are cared for, including:
- Retirement facilities
- Nursing homes
- Long-term care facilities
- Rehabilitation facilities
- In-home care providers
Elder abuse is the intentional or negligent mistreatment of elderly clients. The children and grandchildren of these beloved elders would never in a million years suspect that they placed them in harm’s way. Yet, there is an elder abuse epidemic in our country.
If you suspect that your elderly loved one or someone you know is being abused in a facility, immediately report it to the authorities. Facilities that are guilty of elder abuse may also be liable for damages for their negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct.
Ernst Law Group is a plaintiff’s rights law firm. Our attorney will aggressively and fearlessly fight for your loved one to obtain the compensation that is deserved. Ernst Law Group seeks to make the guilty party pay for their actions.
What to do if you suspect elder abuse has happened to your loved one
If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being abused, we urge you to take action as soon as possible and do the following.
1. Make detailed notes of possible abuse
Write down any details you may have observed regarding the abuse. Make sure to include the date, time, and location of the incident, as well as any witnesses present.
2. Gather evidence to support your suspicions
Evidence can include photographs of bruises or other injuries, medical records indicating a deterioration in the person’s health, or testimony from other witnesses.
3. Contact an ombudsman
4. Consult with a San Luis Obispo elder abuse attorney
A San Luis Obispo personal injury lawyer with experience representing elder abuse victims can help determine if your family has a strong legal claim. If you decide to pursue a case, they can provide the legal representation necessary to achieve an optimal outcome.
Reporting abuse in California
If you believe your elderly loved one is in imminent danger, always call 911. The police and medical personnel will respond quickly to an emergency call.
In cases where elder abuse is suspected but not an emergency, California offers several reporting options. One option is to contact Adult Protective Services (APS) by calling 1-833-401-0832. APS has 10 days to respond to your report after receiving it.
As mentioned above, you may also want to contact the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman. This option is more appropriate for reports of abuse involving long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
Types of elder abuse
The fact that elder abuse occurs is an absolute outrage. Wrongs of this nature must be repaired. If you suspect your elderly loved one is being subjected to elder abuse, it is up to you to take action to help them. You can seek damages for the following types of abuse.
Physical abuse involves intentional physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. Examples include hitting, shoving, slapping, and pushing.
Also known as psychological abuse, emotional abuse involves verbal or nonverbal acts designed to make an elderly person feel humiliated, afraid, threatened, harassed, or isolated. This type of abuse can include name-calling, belittling, threats, and humiliation.
According to a report by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California, neglect includes:
- Failure to assist in personal hygiene
- Failure to provide clothing and shelter
- Failure to provide medical care
- Failure to protect from health and safety hazards
- Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration
According to the same report, another form of elder abuse is known as financial abuse. “Financial abuse is the theft or embezzlement of money or any other property from an elder.
It can be as simple as taking money from a wallet and as complex as manipulating a victim into turning over property to an abuser.”
Warning signs include unusual bank account activities, including withdrawals from ATMs when the individual cannot get to the bank, signatures on checks and other documents that do not resemble the elder’s signature, or checks signed when the elder cannot write or understand what he or she is signing.
Any non-consensual sexual contact with an elderly person is considered sexual abuse. This includes rape, molestation, and any other type of forced or unwanted physical intimacy.
Inappropriate use of a physical or chemical restrain or psychotropic medication
Restraints — whether physical or chemical — should only be used as a last resort when no other methods are available to protect the elderly person from harm. The inappropriate use of such restraints is considered elder abuse.
In some cases, elder abuse can result in death. If you suspect that elder abuse caused or contributed to the death of your loved one, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties.
Common injuries to look out for
Elder abuse can take a severe physical and emotional toll on its victims, but the effects can often be subtle to outside observers. Common physical and psychological injuries that can result from elder abuse include:
- Bruises, lacerations, and broken bones
- Bed sores
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Sudden weight loss
- Unexplained changes in behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring joy
- Sleep disturbances
- Confusion or disorientation
- Distrust or fear of caretakers or family members
Elder abuse claims have filing deadlines. Make sure you file on time
Keep in mind that you have a limited amount of time to file a claim for compensation after a loved one has suffered abuse. Most cases of elder abuse fall under the category of personal injury, which has a two-year deadline, or statute of limitations, in California.
This deadline generally begins from the date of the incident or the date that the abuse was discovered. If you fail to speak with a San Luis Obispo elder abuse attorney about filing a claim within the two-year window, you may lose your right to compensation.
Who can file an elder abuse lawsuit in California
The victim of elder abuse has the right to file a lawsuit against the abuser or any other party who is legally responsible for the abuse. In cases where the elderly individual is not able to file a lawsuit, whether due to death or disability, certain loved ones may be eligible to do so on their behalf.
For instance, if a loved one has power of attorney or is the conservator of an elderly individual, they may have the right to file a lawsuit. In addition, spouses, adult children, and heirs of the victim’s estate may also have the legal standing to bring a lawsuit.
Potential damages to claim
If you or a loved one was a victim of elder abuse, Ernst Law Group will aggressively seek compensation for damages. These are the losses you or your loved one suffered as a result of the abuse. There are several different types of damages that can be pursued, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Any financial losses incurred due to the abuse may be eligible for compensation as economic damages. The most common example in elder abuse cases is medical expenses, but other types of economic damages may also come into play, especially in cases involving financial abuse.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate the victim for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. These types of damages can often be substantial in elder abuse cases due to the long-term psychological and physical effects often suffered by victims.
In cases involving particularly egregious conduct, a court may also award punitive damages. These are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
We’ll work to obtain maximum compensation for your loved one
Our elder abuse attorneys in San Luis Obispo don’t just strive to obtain justice for our clients — we also strive to secure maximum compensation. This means seeking a settlement or award that accounts for the full extent of the abuse’s impact on the victim and their family.
Whether we’re up against a nursing home’s insurance company or an individual abuser, we fight to recover the full extent of damages allowable under California law.
Multiple parties may be liable
Elder abuse is a complex phenomenon and often involves multiple parties. While the individual abuser is typically the most obvious party to sue, other individuals or entities may also be liable for the abuse.
Nurse or caregiver
Caregivers can include nurses, home health aides, and other professionals employed by a nursing home or care agency. They may also include family members who are providing care for the elderly person. Any of these people could be held responsible for elder abuse if they failed to provide appropriate care.
Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and other institutions that provide care to elderly individuals may also be held liable for elder abuse. Improper supervision of staff, inadequate training, negligent hiring, and other misconduct on the part of the facility can lead to elder abuse.
Third-party device manufacturer
Although devices can’t be entirely at fault for elder abuse, they can be a contributing factor. For instance, if a faulty security device is installed in a nursing home, it could create a situation in which an abuser is able to take advantage of an elderly person.
Third-party trespasser or contractor
The perpetrator of elder abuse is sometimes not involved with the victim’s care in any way but could still be held liable for damages. This could include a trespasser who unlawfully entered the premises and abused an elderly person or a contractor working on the premises who took advantage of their proximity to the victim.
Why hire Ernst Law Group
At Ernst Law Group, we’ve been representing injured Californians for four decades. As a Plaintiff Trial Lawyer firm, we are passionate about holding wrongdoers accountable and fighting for the rights of our state’s most vulnerable populations.
Our case results are a testament to this fact. In one case, we recovered $45 million for a class of senior citizens who had been harmed by deferred annuity sales fraud. We also recovered $89 million on behalf of another group of seniors who had been defrauded by a Fortune 500 company. We’ve achieved millions more in settlements and verdicts for a wide range of injured people, including victims of physical, emotional, and sexual elder abuse.
Our San Luis Obispo elder abuse attorneys are ready to help
Ernst Law Group has always protected the rights of the individual. Elder abuse is inexcusable, and we will fight on your behalf to make the guilty party pay for their actions. Contact Ernst Law Group online or call (805) 541-0300 to schedule your free consultation. There are no upfront fees; in a contingency fee arrangement, our money is earned when we win your case.
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