Home Page Potential Lawsuit Elder Abuse
By Jane Mundy
Elder Abuse and neglect is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by someone who stands in a trust relationship to the elder. That someone could be a relative at home or a caregiver in a nursing home. Seniors are often victims of elder financial abuse, nursing home abuse, and increasingly, elder scams. Fortunately, every state has financial elder abuse attorneys, many of whom focus solely on elder abuse cases and elderly law.
The elderly comprised 13 percent of the US population in 2010. By 2050 there will be 19 million people aged 85 or older. Because people are living longer, elder exploitation is on the rise and defrauding the elderly is a multi-billion-dollar problem in the US.
Elder Abuse Overview
About ten percent of seniors have been abused, according to an article in the report in New England Journal of Medicine (November 12, 2015). In particular, abuse of older long-term care residents by other residents is more common than physical abuse by staff.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 90 percent of abusers are family members. Elder abuse cases are often under reported, mainly for fear of retaliation, but Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies show an increasing trend in the reporting of elder abuse. Still, a vast amount of elder abuse and exploitation go undetected and untreated. For instance, The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study (2011) found that for every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.
Every state has at least one toll-free number—either an elder abuse hotline or helpline—that people can call to report elder abuse. For example, California abuse law has civil and civil-private elder abuse laws, which provides remedies for elders who have been financially abused.
The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 reported that the elderly who suffer physical abuse have a 300 percent higher risk of death compared to those who have not been abused. A study conducted on abuse in nursing homes and other long term care facilities reported a staggering 44 percent of nursing home residents had been abused and 95 percent said they had been neglected or had seen another resident neglected.
Care Center Abuse and Nursing Home Abuse
Care Center Abuse includes senior living community negligence, group home negligence, nursing home negligence, foster care negligence, or even rehabilitation facility negligence. Negligence happens when care givers fail to provide adequate or required care to residents. In some cases, care givers have stolen or scammed elderly patients. They may know, or be involved in, a crime committed against a resident. The Care Center and the perpetrator could be found negligent if they fail to take appropriate action or fail to notify the authorities or the victim's family.
Nursing home residents often require constant attention. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse comes in a variety of forms, but federal and state laws are designed to protect nursing home residents. The Nursing Home Act applies to all nursing homes that receive funds under Medicaid or Medicare programs.
Financial elder abuse occurs when people cheat senior citizens out of their money or their property. Seniors are vulnerable to crime because they may be dependant on other people for their care or because they are not capable of fully understanding their financial situation. Unfortunately, financial elder abuse may be committed by people the senior loves and trusts, such as children, or by strangers looking to profit from another person's vulnerability.
Financial Elder Abuse
As well, financial abuse can lead to medically significant harm: Victims may not have enough money to buy medication or get enough to eat, which can exacerbate other health problems.
A 2011 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in collaboration with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech, indicates elder financial abuse is on the rise. Across the US, victims of elder financial abuse lost an estimated $2.9 billion, up from $2.6 billion in 2008. It calls elder financial abuse the "Crime of the 21st Century."
Senior citizens may be victimized by their children, grandchildren, spouses, siblings or caregivers. Such activities may involve unauthorized use of the senior's funds or properties, including stealing cash, income checks or household items, forging the senior's signature, identity theft, convincing the senior the sign over property or money, or threatening not to care for the senior unless he signs over property or money.
Financial Elder Abuse by Family Members or Caregivers
Financial elder abuse can also be perpetrated by people the senior does not know. This includes identity theft, investment fraud, phoney charities or convincing the senior to buy something he cannot or will not use, such as a lifetime membership to a gym. Door-to-door salesmen may target the elderly (see Financial Elder Lawsuits below).
Financial Elder Abuse by Strangers
Although most instances of financial elder abuse involve someone known to the victim, some financial abuse occurs in the form of scams. Seniors may be victimized by email or telephone scams, sweetheart scams, investment scams, home repair scams, or other types of scams designed to steal the senior's money.
Elder Financial Scams
Some common scams include strangers contacting the senior by telephone or email and requesting money being paid up front as taxes on lottery winnings or a deposit on helping someone escape from a corrupt country. The senior pays money up front with the expectation of receiving more money in the future, but the money is never sent. If a check is sent to the senior, it may be deposited into the account but the check later bounces and the senior is liable for the insufficient funds.
A similar scam that is done in person is known as a pigeon drop, in which the scammer approaches the senior and flashes money in front of him, claiming not to know what to do with the money. The scammer asks the senior to hold onto the money after the senior gives the scammer some money in good faith. The scammer takes off with the good faith money and the senior is left with worthless paper.
Seniors may also be victims to a variety of investment or loan scams, including Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes and real estate scams. Frequently, these investments come with the promise of massive interest and a 100 percent guarantee on return of the investment. Investments can involve anything from real estate to foreign currency to personal loans to gold mines. These investment schemes may be perpetrated by a trusted friend or an investment consultant.
Seniors may be victimized by a sweetheart swindle, in which the perpetrator agrees to marry or befriend the senior. The scammer will claim to be coming into money, but needs a loan to pay for a family emergency, promising to pay it back once the money appears. The senior may give the money—or sometimes the title to their house—and the scammer takes off.
Perpetrators of elder abuse may disguise themselves as employees of a utility company and use that to gain entry to the senior's home. Once inside, they may steal from the senior or distract the senior so someone else can gain entry to the home and take the senior's belongings.
Other scams targeting seniors include funeral and cemetery fraud, in which funeral homes add unnecessary charges and fees to a funeral; fraudulent anti-aging products, in which bogus products are sold to seniors to prevent aging; and reverse mortgage scams, in which scammers steal equity from a senior or use the senior to steal equity from another property.
The National Center of Elder Abuse notes that approximately 1 in 25 financial elder abuse victims ever report the abuse, suggesting that there may be at least five million financial abuse victims every year. The senior may be embarrassed at having been victimized or may be conflicted if the perpetrator is a family member or close friend. The senior may also fear retaliation or believe that if he reports the abuse, no one will take care of him. Usually, it falls to family members who become suspicious that their loved one has been cheated or a friend who notices unusual behavior to contact authorities.
Signs of Financial Elder Abuse
Following are some signs that financial elder abuse may be occurring:
Victims of financial elder exploitation can file lawsuits to recover their lost money and property. Anyone who is in a position of trust, control or authority and uses that position to profit from the senior's dependence or vulnerability may be guilty of financial elder abuse and a complaint can be filed against them.
Financial Elder Abuse Lawsuits
For seniors who have fallen victim to financial elder abuse, a lawsuit can provide several remedies. First, the victim can recover money that was taken or can recover property itself, such as when a valuable item is taken. Second, victims can recover attorney's fees because the statute protecting elderly citizens provides for attorney's fees in a lawsuit. Third, although rare, victims may be able to recover punitive damages.
It is uncommon for an elderly victim to expose the abuse or approach a lawyer for help. Usually, that falls to family members who become suspicious that their loved one has been cheated or a friend who notices unusual behavior.
Elder Abuse Attorneys employ a number of strategies to recover assets for victims of elder fraud. In on case, the defendant (scammer) and their relatives were sued because the scammer kept the property in the relatives' names.
November 2013: Charges were filed in a California elder abuse complaint. A former insurance agent forged his aunt' signature to withdraw money from her $100,000 life insurance policy sold to her in 2005.
November 2015: The State of Florida uncovered a vacuum cleaner scam that targeted the elderly. A door-to-door salesman with Dynamic Air Distributors told senior Ann Wood that he would vaccum her carpet for $13. He left with a signed sales contract and Wood has a Rainbow vacuum financed for 2 years at a 21.96% annual percentage rate. She bought the vacuum for $3,009. Although it is a felony in Florida to knowingly exploit an elderly or disabled person, the law generally applies to family and other trusted caregivers rather than salespeople. But the complaint has been filed with Florida's Attorney General.
A nursing home lawsuit can be filed by the resident (if that individual is judged to be mentally sound and capable of testifying), but most nursing home lawsuits are filed on behalf of the resident by a family member or other loved one.
Care Center Abuse Lawsuits and Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
November 2015: The family of a woman who died under care in a nursing home filed a negligence lawsuit in Cook County, The lawsuit states that Manorcare in Arlington Heights, IL , failed to provide reasonable and adequate care. As a result, the patient suffered lowered weight because of inadequate nutrition, and a bedsore that became infected. The woman died in December 2013. In separate cases filed against Manorcare, it was required to pay $90 million in a verdict involving widespread care problems. In another case, the family of a woman was awarded more than $11 million because neglect led to her death in the nursing home.
Also in November, a male nursing aide who raped an 83-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer' disease was sentenced in Hennepin County District Court to eight years in prison.
October 2015 The family of an 85-year-old woman sued Vale Healthcare Center in San Pablo, claiming the care center engaged in a pattern of elder abuse, neglect and fraud that is putting other patients at risk. According to the Contra Costa Times, health care staff didn't tell the woman's family immediately after she had fallen and broken her hip, did not assess her injuries and only transferred her to a hospital a day after the incident. She died a month later.
April 2015 After an elder abuse lawsuit was filed against The Breakers of Long Beach, CA the residential care facility closed. The lawsuit alleges elder abuse, negligence, negligent hiring and supervision, fraud and wrongful death in the circumstances surrounding the death of a resident.
In 2009 a Ventura County jury awarded $7.75 million to the family of a 71-year-old stroke victim who filed an elder abuse lawsuit against the Fillmore Convalescent Center.
Elder Care Abuse Settlements
The family of a 96-year-old woman who developed a bedsore on her lower back was awarded $161,264 in a negligence lawsuit filed against her caregivers.
Elder care law and nursing home lawsuits can be complicated and are best handled by attorneys familiar with nursing home laws and regulations. If you know someone who has been abused in a nursing home or other facility, you should report abuse immediately and consider a nursing home lawsuit.
Elder Abuse Legal HelpIf you or a loved one has suffered elder abuse in any way, be it financial or physical abuse, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to an experienced elder abuse lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
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Nursing home abuse is a special kind of heinous. It's hard to believe an individual, less a full institution, is capable of these gross abuse of power and responsibilities.
Ohio is among the worst! It's not wonder folks seek attorneys. Do the research and go the extra mile to try your best to avoid the bad facilities.
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