ORANGE COUNTY ELDER ABUSE ATTORNEY
Elderly people deserve to be treated with respect and care. Their loved ones put many elders into nursing homes to receive proper care and attention. Unfortunately, in many cases, we have seen elders not given proper treatment or attention and subjected to neglect or abuse. In such cases, it is wise to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Orange County.
Elder abuse occurs with alarming regularity. This evil raises its ugly head in many settings, including at the family home and in nursing- and assisted living facilities. Perpetrators can be family members, in-home caregivers, healthcare facility staffers, nurses, and doctors. Authorities receive over 500,000 reports of elderly abuse annually, and countless other cases go unreported.
Senior citizens become vulnerable as aging reduces their physical and mental capabilities. Because they have grown frail, they can less defend themselves against a physical attack. When their mental acuity has declined, they are less able to stand up to verbal abuse and harassment. As a result, they may be dependent on others financially and in terms of their daily living tasks, leaving them susceptible to exploitation.
If you or a loved one have been victimized by elder abuse, you have the right to report these offenses and receive compensation. Contact Nordean Law for a free consultation with an elder abuse attorney in Orange County.
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What Is Considered Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse describes a broad range of abusive, neglectful, and sometimes criminal behavior towards vulnerable older people. It often manifests in the victim’s physical, emotional, sexual, or financial harm.
The American Psychological Association defines elder abuse as one or a combination of the following:
Violent individuals may see older adults as easy targets. While a younger person is likely to resist physical abuse and complain if assaulted, the elderly often lack the strength to fend off an attack and may have difficulty remembering or understanding what happened. As a result, it may become more severe and frequent when an abuser realizes they can assault an older person with impunity.
For instance, an in-home caregiver may be responsible for a frail grandmother with dementia. When no witnesses are around, the caregiver might strike the older adult repeatedly as a way of venting frustrations. However, because the victim is physically vulnerable and cannot accurately recall and report the abuse, the perpetrator may feel emboldened and continue the assaults.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse
Emotional and psychological abuse may leave no visible wounds, but they damage victims by robbing them of dignity, self-esteem, and peace of mind. Emotional and psychological abuse consists of behavior that inflicts fear, shame, and degradation on the target. People who engage in this conduct often seek to control their victims by undermining their worth as human beings.
In terms of elder abuse, this often forms belittling, degrading, and shaming the victim because of the effects of aging and the symptoms of medical conditions. For example, older people may have trouble remembering things, use incorrect words, drool frequently, and experience shakiness due to aging and diseases like dementia. An emotional abuser may make fun of these symptoms and humiliate the elder by cracking mean jokes about drooling, laughing at them for being at a loss for a word, or imitating their shaking hands through exaggerated gestures.
It’s an old saying that some people will do anything for money, and this type of villain has no qualms about stealing from the elderly.
Financial abuse may occur in a healthcare setting or be commissioned by a family member. Often, older adults become the victims of crimes of opportunity. For example, a thief sees that the person struggles to remember things and may feel they can get away with stealing because the victim will forget.
For example, a nursing home resident may have a valuable watch on their dresser. A staffer may notice and steal the watch while the patient is asleep. Since the patient has dementia, they may overlook the theft or only become aware of it long after the fact. This makes it difficult for anyone to identify the thief, and many think the patient imagines things.
In another case, a family member may take advantage of an elder’s difficulty with memory and managing finances to access their bank-, investment-, or credit accounts and pilfer assets or run up large credit balances.
Sexual predators often see older adults as exploitable. They are physically disadvantaged and may be unable to comprehend or remember a sexual assault. For instance, a predator may work in a nursing home and molest patients with advanced Alzheimer’s or who are comatose.
Often, older adults with physical and mental handicaps are left in the care of a relative or professional caregiver. Abandonment occurs when a person forgets their responsibility and leaves the person alone to deteriorate and sometimes die. For instance, a relative could leave an elderly person with dementia locked in their room for days.
Many elderly people cannot manage daily living tasks, such as washing, using the toilet, or changing clothes. When a family member or healthcare professional decides not to help, the elderly person may be stuck wearing dirty garments and unable to shower and soil themselves. No person should be left in these conditions, but it happens terribly.
In the most egregious cases, neglected elderly people are denied access to food and water, resulting in deaths from malnutrition and dehydration.
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Do I Need a Lawyer for an Elder Abuse Claim?
Recovering damages in California civil court requires the expertise of an elder abuse attorney. The courts require specific proof of the abuse, and a lawyer helps obtain the necessary evidence. In addition, the defense may offer an alternative explanation, and your attorney will disprove these claims.
What Are Some Signs of Elder Abuse?
Part of the reason elder abuse remains prevalent is that senior citizens with certain disabilities may be unable to defend themselves or communicate what’s wrong to others. As a result, abusers often continue the mistreatment believing they will never face exposure.
Because of this, it’s essential to know the signs of elder abuse, so you can intervene if your loved one becomes a victim.
Signs of Physical Abuse
Many instances of assault, including hitting, misuse of restraints, and application of physical pressure, leave telltale signs. Take it seriously if your loved one has bruises, welts, burns, new scars, broken bones, sprains, or other injuries. How did they happen?
In addition, destroyed property, such as broken eyeglasses, provide another clue. Strange abrasions, such as rope marks on the wrists, may be signs of abuse with restraints.
Also, pay attention to suspicious behavior by caregivers. For instance, if a nurse refuses to allow you to see an older adult without them present, it could be because of fear the victim will complain.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse can have direct or indirect indicators. Direct indicators include harmful behavior towards the elder you may observe, such as verbal abuse, threats, harassment, humiliation, and intimidation. While some emotional abusers hide their behavior, others may feel they are justified in belittling, demeaning, or insulting the elderly person in front of others. You do not have to tolerate this behavior and have the right to intervene.
When the abuse is hidden, you may still see signs of its effect on the victim’s behavior. For instance, signs of persistent agitation, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling, may be indicators. Also, negative symptoms, including an elder becoming uncharacteristically withdrawn, anxious, or depressed, can occur because of emotional abuse.
Some of these signs can be confounded with dementia symptoms. For example, if you spot these behaviors in a loved one, listen to your instincts, investigate, and ensure the person is not harmed.
Like physical abuse, financial violations leave markings. When theft or fraud occurs, perpetrators leave a trail of evidence. If you suspect your loved one is being financially exploited, never hesitate to report your suspicions. Signs of financial abuse include the following:
- Sudden changes in the elder’s financial circumstances
- Unusual spending or withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
- Withdrawals made despite penalties, such as early redemption of CDs
- Suspicious authorized users on bank accounts, credit- or debit cards
- Missing valuables or cash
- Unwarranted changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and insurance policies
- Unpaid bills
- Lack of medical care
- Withdrawals the elder cannot complete alone, such as ATM withdrawals from the account of a bedridden person
- Shut off utilities
- A suspicious new “best friend” or “sweetheart.”
Sexual abuse may leave signs on the victim. Loved ones should be concerned if they notice the following in their elder:
- Bruises around breasts or genitals
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
- Torn, stained, or bloody underwear
Many elderly people rely on a caregiver to survive, requiring help to obtain necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, medication, medical care, and physical assistance.
Neglect leaves them unable to manage, resulting in dangerous and deadly conditions. The following are signs of neglect:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unattended medical needs
- Untreated physical conditions, such as bed sores
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Poor hygiene
- Inappropriate clothing for the weather
- Unsafe living conditions
- Deserted in a public place
Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is far from immune to fraud. Unscrupulous and greedy people engage in schemes to rob elderly people or bilk insurance companies. Healthcare fraud may occur through the falsification of patient records or by simply not providing the care. Signs of healthcare fraud include the following:
- Inadequate care
- Billing for services not provided
- Duplicate billings
- Misrepresentation of services provided
- Charging for a more complex or expensive service than needed or provided
What To Do After Elder Abuse In Orange County?
If you suspect elder abuse, talk to the possible victim to learn as much as possible. However, the senior may not remember, be confused, or be in denial. Instead, report the matter to Adult Protective Services. They will conduct an investigation.
The harm caused to your loved one may be eligible for damages in civil court. For instance, a civil fraud case can collect missing money, lawyer’s fees, and punitive damages.
How Much Is My Elder Abuse Case Worth / Compensation for Victims?
Elder abuse cases often result in substantial damages in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. For instance, a case of physical abuse in a nursing home could be worth up to $250,000 and $1 million if the management knew of the abuse and failed to intervene. Damages can include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage or loss
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Contact a Top-Rated Orange County Elder Abuse Lawyer Today
Our lawyer at Orange County understands how to identify elder abuse and prove it in court. If you suspect a loved one is suffering from mistreatment or fraud, contact Nordean Law’s elder law attorney’s in Orange County.
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Orange County Elder Abuse Lawyer
ELDER ABUSE LAWYER NEAR ORANGE COUNTY, CA
Hiring the right Elder Abuse Attorney will make a huge positive difference in this unfortunate and difficult part of your life. You can spend countless hours at the Orange County Courthouse trying to piece together what you need to do next on your own. By not hiring an attorney, you are throwing countless hours out the window, you will also get on average 40% less when the settlement finally comes around, which will happen much faster with professional help.
It’s free to talk with us, please reach out if you have any questions or would like an estimate of what you could be owed. In California, you have up to two years to file a claim and sue for compensation. If you wish to take this court journey alone, Orange County Courthouse is located at 700 W Civic Center Dr, Santa Ana, CA 92701.
If you want to take professional help, our Elder Abuse Lawyer in Orange County will be more than happy to help you.
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ORANGE COUNTY ELDER ABUSE FAQS
Elderly people deserve to be treated with respect and care. Unfortunately, in many cases, we have seen elders not given proper treatment or attention and subjected to neglect or abuse. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about elder abuse as a quick reference.
What Should I Do Immediately Following an Abuse?
Talk to the senior about what may happen if you see signs of elder abuse. This could shed light on the situation; however, it’s possible that the senior won’t recall due to memory issues, may be confused, or is in denial.
You do not need evidence proving elder abuse to report it to Adult Protective Services. Investigating the case is their job. When you contact Adult Protective Services, you need to let them know why you suspect abuse, and they will take it from there. If additional abuse occurs after your first complaint, follow up with additional reports.
What Do You Have to Prove in Elder Abuse Cases?
Proving elder abuse in California civil courts requires demonstrating three elements:
- The abuse occurred.
- The victim was over 65 or legally dependent.
- The abuser knew or should have known that their actions harmed the victim.
Civil courts use the standard of a preponderance of the evidence in deciding cases, a bar substantially lower than reasonable doubt. A preponderance of the evidence means it is more likely than not. As such, if you prove it is more likely than not that the abuse occurred and the abuser knew or should have known they caused harm, you are likely to win an elder abuse case in California courts.
Some elder abuse is criminal. For instance, beating an older person is assault and draining their bank accounts is fraud. To determine if a criminal case exists, you need to speak to the local police or the district attorney’s office. However, a criminal conviction is not necessary to win an elder abuse claim in civil court.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Elder Abuse in California?
You must file a civil suit within two years of the last act of elder abuse or when you became aware of it. For instance, if you discovered that your elderly parent was defrauded three years ago, the two-year “clock” starts when you uncovered the abuse, not when it occurred.
Avoid assuming that the statute of limitations has run if more than two years have passed since the abuse occurred. The clock may start at a different date in your case, so consult an elder law attorney in Orange County, CA, before deciding against pursuing legal action.
How Much Does an Orange County Elder Abuse Attorney Cost?
Many elder abuse cases qualify for contingency fee arrangements. A contingency fee agreement means that you pay only if you collect monetary damages, and the fee comes directly from those proceeds. Nordean Law elder law attorneys in Orange County, California, offer free consultations for contingency fee elder abuse cases.