Murrieta Elder Abuse Lawyer
The elderly are a very vulnerable population, especially those who are dependent on full-time caretakers, family members, or nursing home staff. Although staff and carers in long-term care facilities are often professional and dedicated individuals, there are some who neglect the elderly under their care, manipulate them, or abuse them. These victims need the representation of Murrieta elder abuse attorneys.
Many family members love and care for their elderly relatives, but there are others who take advantage of their family members and financially, emotionally, or physically abuse them. Elder abuse is unfortunately not uncommon. In a community setting, in a 2017 study, approximately one in six elders experienced abuse in the prior year worldwide. A 2018 study found that abuse in institutional settings was also prevalent.
Psychological or emotional abuse is more common, followed by physical abuse. Elderly individuals must often rely on their caretakers for basic needs, including food, prescriptions, and movement. The elderly are also more susceptible to the influence of financial abuse or will fraud from facility staff and family members.
If you are a victim of elder abuse, or you believe a loved one is being subjected to abuse from a caretaker, it is important to take the necessary steps to secure their safety. It is also essential to speak with Murrieta elder abuse attorneys to determine if you can hold the at-fault individual or facility responsible for their failure to care for you or your loved one. An attorney can help you determine if you have a legal case and how to most effectively obtain damages for your losses.
Kampf, Schiavone & Associates: Murrieta Elder Abuse Attorneys
Unfortunately, elder abuse is unreported and under-prosecuted. Elder abuse is a prevalent and incredibly devastating issue that needs to be addressed. If you or a loved one has been a victim of any form of elder abuse, know that you can hold the at-fault parties accountable through civil and criminal means.
A criminal case can lead to criminal conviction in some cases, but it may not always result in clear benefits for you and your loved ones. A civil claim can claim monetary compensation for damages you suffered due to the abuse, including medical costs, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages.
An elder abuse claim can cover your financial and emotional damages. If you lost a loved one due to elder abuse, you can recover some compensation to keep you financially stable during this impossibly hard time.
At Kampf, Schiavone & Associates, we can help you protect your interests and fight for the civil compensation you deserve. We are highly experienced in personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims. We understand how frustrating it can be to be vulnerable to this awful treatment.
Loved ones of elders can also feel helpless, especially if the elder or dependent adult is unable to communicate the harm they are facing. A legal professional can help you determine your routes moving forward.
The attorneys with Kampf, Schiavone & Associates are committed to providing you with the legal care you need to obtain the compensation you deserve. We pride ourselves on legal care that is detail-oriented and tailored to what you need. We can help you file your personal injury claim, walk you through each step, negotiate the damages you deserve, and represent you in court.
Defining Elders and Dependent Adults Under Elder Abuse Laws
Elder abuse laws apply not only to elderly adults but also to adults and disabled adults who are dependent on others for basic needs and care. These laws protect all these individuals from many forms of abuse.
The legal state definition for an elder is any individual who is 65 years or older. A dependent adult includes an individual who:
- Is between the ages of 18 and 64, is a resident of California, and has a mental or physical limitation that prevents them from engaging in and carrying out typical daily activities or protecting their personal rights. This definition includes individuals whether or not they live independently. It may include individuals who have physical or developmental disabilities or individuals who lost physical and mental abilities as they aged.
- Is between the ages of 18 and 64 and is an admitted inpatient to a 24-hour care facility, such as those with developmental disabilities, a brain injury, or dementia. It may also include individuals who are admitted for psychiatric or rehabilitative care.
A developmental disability refers to a disability the individual has before the age of 18, which is assumed to be long-term and is a significant disability for them. This includes epilepsy, autism, and cerebral palsy.
What Constitutes Elder Abuse in California?
There are many ways that a caretaker or individual can abuse an elder or dependent adult. Under California law, those who abuse the elderly and dependent adults can face civil and criminal penalties.
State statute defines civil elder or dependent adult abuse under the following categories:
- Any treatment that causes physical harm, pain, or mental suffering, including physical abuse, neglect, isolation, abandonment, or abduction
- Deprivation of basic needs, such as goods or services needed to avoid harm or suffering, by an individual who is meant to be caring for those needs
- Financial abuse
Depending on the situation, a family member, caretaker, or other individual who commits abuse to these vulnerable populations may face criminal charges and civil claims.
Understanding the Different Types of Elder Abuse
It’s essential to understand the different types of abuse as they are defined in state law. Certain specific actions of abuse toward elders or dependent adults include:
- Abandonment: Occurs when an elder or dependent adult is willfully deserted by their caretaker, and the caretaker knows or should know that the individual cannot care for themself.
- Abduction: Occurs when an individual is removed from California, where they reside, against their will or is restrained outside the state.
- Isolation: Occurs when a caretaker and/or family member prevents an elder or dependent adult from communicating with or contacting others. The caretaker may prevent access to or withhold calls, mail, or even visitors.
- Psychological Abuse: Occurs when a caretaker engages in any treatment that causes mental suffering, such as psychological abuse, verbal abuse, confinement, or harassment.
Other forms of abuse include:
Physical abuse covers any actions that cause physical pain, harm, or suffering, including:
- Assault and battery
- Assault likely to result in great bodily injury
- Use of unnecessary physical restraints for control or punishment
- Use of unreasonable chemical restraints for punishment or for any reason not authorized by a healthcare provider
- Deprivation of basic needs
- Sexual assault
There is some overlap between abuse and neglect, although state law defines neglect as a separate act. Neglect happens when a caretaker or individual responsible for the care of a dependent adult or elder does not act with the degree of reasonable care expected from a reasonable person in the same situation. Neglect includes behaviors such as:
- Failing to assist the elder or dependent adult with personal hygiene matters
- Failing to provide the individual with food, clothing, or shelter
- Failing to provide for medical care and needs, physical and mental
- Failing to protect the individual from health or safety hazards
- Failing to avoid and prevent malnutrition or dehydration
Neglect can also occur when an elder or dependent adult fails to provide for their own self-care needs because of a substance abuse disorder, chronic health failure, or cognitive decline.
Financial abuse occurs when an elder or dependent adult suffers financially due to illegal exploitation of their assets or property. A caregiver or other individual is engaging in financial abuse if they:
- Take, obtain, appropriate, or retain any real or personal property for illegal or immoral use and/or with intent to defraud the individual
- Assist with obtaining real or personal property for the same reasons
This can occur through coercion, deception, or extortion. It can also occur through undue influence, where the individual persuades the elderly person or dependent adult to act or not act a certain way to ensure they receive the asset or property. Will and trust fraud and financial investment fraud are types of financial abuse.
What Is the Cause of Action for Elder Abuse in California?
The cause of action to file for elder abuse depends on the type of abuse, whether it is neglect, physical abuse, financial abuse, or another form of abuse. Typically, the following must be alleged to begin a claim:
- The individual accused must have engaged in willful neglect or abuse or engaged in criminally negligent behavior.
- The individual’s actions could have caused bodily injury, harmed the elder or dependent adult’s life or health, or did cause actual harm.
- The individual knew or should have known that the elder was 65 years or older or was a dependent adult, or the individual was responsible for the elder or dependent adult and knew their actions would harm the person whose care they were charged with.
Warning Signs of Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse
When you have a loved one who needs constant care, you put a lot of trust in the people taking care of them. It can be hard or upsetting to consider that family members or healthcare staff may not be treating your loved one with the care and respect they deserve.
It’s important to keep an eye out for what may be warning signs of potential abuse so that you can react accordingly to protect your loved one. Not all injuries are a sign of neglect or physical abuse, as many injuries do happen. It is important to pay attention to the frequency and type of injuries sustained, as well as how staff treat the injury. It’s also important to note if additional steps are taken to prevent further injury.
Many elders or dependent adults feel ashamed or powerless and do not want to tell others about the abuse occurring. It is even more important to look for signs if your loved one has difficulty communicating their needs or experiences.
Physical abuse may be one of the more obvious forms of abuse, but it can still be very hard to spot and confirm. Signs of physical abuse may include:
- Broken bones, bruises, or other unexplained injuries
- Frequent injuries from falls
- Injuries that do not line up with explanations
- Weight loss
- Marks from restraints
- Limited mental capacity
- Burns, blisters, and scratches
- Unexplained distress
- Tooth and hair loss
Sexual abuse in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is incredibly under-reported. This may be due to victims being unable to communicate, being unaware of what is happening to them, or being ashamed. Signs of sexual abuse may include:
- Torn clothes and underclothes
- Bruises or other injuries to the chest or genital area
- New sexually transmitted diseases
- Emotionally and socially isolation
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
At long-term care facilities in Murrieta, CA, staff must take care to provide for resident’s needs. Failure to be present, check in regularly, or respond to calls for help can result in injuries or illness. Signs of neglect may include:
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Bed sores
- Unchanged bed sheets and uncleaned living area
- Lack of basic sanitation or hygiene
- Elopement, or wandering around or from the facility
- Frequent injuries from falls due to lack of supervision
- Untreated health conditions
An elder who relies on a family member or caretaker for all their basic needs is highly susceptible to financial abuse and manipulation. Signs of financial abuse may include:
- Sudden changes to wills or trusts
- Loss of real estate
- Stolen property or money
- Bad investment advice
- Any form of financial fraud
- Change to trustee or executor
Emotional or psychological abuse is one of the most difficult forms of abuse to recognize. There may be very few physical signs for many months, and acts of emotional abuse rarely happen when others are present. Emotional abuse may manifest physically due to stress, or it can be noticed in other ways. Signs of emotional abuse may include:
- Isolation from peers or visitors
- Fear or reservations around a specific caretaker or family member
- Hair loss or sudden weight loss
- PTSD or panic attacks
- Increased heart rate
- Headaches or dizziness
If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, it’s important to call emergency services. You can also use the facility’s official complaint process if you are not worried about immediate harm. It’s important to document the signs of suspected abuse and bring them to an experienced elder abuse attorney. They can help you determine how to proceed with a civil or criminal claim.
What Damages Are Available in a Civil Elder Abuse Claim in Murrieta?
Individuals who abuse the elderly face criminal prosecution as well as civil claims from those who were victims of abuse. Sometimes, the at-fault party is not a single facility staff member or family member but the negligence and failure of a facility. The conduct of employees in a long-term care, nursing home, or healthcare facility is typically the responsibility of the employer and facility.
When you or a loved one was abused, you can file a claim against the at-fault party and hold them accountable for the actions while obtaining financial damages to cover you and your family’s losses.
- Medical bills. These include any outstanding and current bills for surgeries, prescriptions, or other healthcare expenses. They also include any future costs for medical treatment, such as rehabilitative care. They can also cover predicted future medical complications from specific injuries and illnesses.
- Financial losses. Any other financial losses directly associated with the abuse can be covered by an elder abuse civil claim. These may include lost or damaged property or any lost past or future wages due to injuries.
- Attorney fees and court costs. If physical abuse or neglect occurred due to reckless or malicious behavior, victims may be entitled to reasonable attorney and legal fees and costs.
- Pain and suffering. This includes damages such as loss of quality of life, physical pain, and emotional distress. In cases against healthcare providers, these damages are capped at $250,000.
In order to obtain these damages, the individual filing the claim must provide clear evidence of abuse and clear evidence of the economic and noneconomic damages suffered.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Elder Abuse in California?
The statute of limitations for elder physical or similar abuse is typically two years because it is classified as a personal injury claim. This two-year countdown begins from the date the abuse occurred. If an elder or dependent adult died from their injuries from abuse or neglect, a wrongful death claim can be filed within two years of the date they died. If an elder was abused financially, the statute of limitations to file a claim is four years from the date the abuse occurred.
It’s important to file civil claims as soon as possible. Although two years may seem like a significant time, it may not be. Waiting to file a claim may mean you lose significant evidence to support your claim. There may be fewer witnesses, or physical evidence may vanish. Additionally, you want to provide your attorney ample time to investigate the incident of abuse and build a strong and effective claim.
Work With an Experienced Murrieta Elder Abuse Attorney
The most effective way to maximize the damages you obtain in an elder abuse or dependent adult abuse civil claim is to work with a qualified personal injury attorney. Contact the professionals at Kampf, Schiavone & Associates today to see how we can help.