Elder Abuse Advocacy: How Lawyers Can Make a Difference
Seniors are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Due to their vulnerability, they often require the assistance of others to look out for their interests, with the most common caregivers being friends and family members. However, even with the strongest support networks, too many seniors become the victims of elder abuse. In those cases, seniors and their families should call on elder law attorneys to enforce their legal rights through the court system. If you or someone you care for has experienced elder abuse, a California elder abuse attorney can help you seek justice.
How Elder Law Attorneys Advocate for Their Clients
Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal issues, but it generally focuses on issues that are relevant to older adults, including physical elder abuse, psychological elder abuse, nursing home abuse, financial elder abuse, and estate planning. Many of these issues involve both legal counseling (e.g., drafting wills) and litigation (e.g., suing nursing homes). Skilled elder law attorneys know how to use both forms of legal advocacy to protect their clients’ interests.
Estate planning is one of the most important concerns for most seniors. Failure to implement a comprehensive and ironclad estate plan can result in one’s assets being distributed in a manner contrary to one’s wishes and can increase the likelihood of exploitation, misappropriation, and probate fraud. Elder law attorneys often assist with estate planning by executing wills, trusts, powers of attorney and handling probate litigation, if necessary. Elder law attorneys also investigate and pursue legal remedies for elder abuse that involve estate planning and probate issues, including undue influence, breach of fiduciary duty by trustees, and power of attorney fraud.
Long-Term Care Planning
There is a dizzying array of options for senior living, from aging in place to assisted living communities to skilled nursing facilities, which can make deciding on one of the many options difficult. Perhaps even more difficult is figuring out how to pay for such care. One of the most popular options for financing long-term care is long-term care insurance, which can cover a variety of different living scenarios. However, insurance is not foolproof — many insurance companies have a history of committing insurance fraud, such as failing to disclose charges, charging unconscionably high premiums, or improperly denying claims. A California elder abuse attorney can pursue legal claims against insurance companies that engage in bad faith or fraudulent practices, which often include annuity fraud.
Detecting Potential Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is not always obvious. While some forms of elder abuse can leave behind physical evidence (e.g., physical elder abuse often results in bruises), other forms, like financial elder abuse, may be more difficult to detect. One of the most important services elder law attorneys provide is educating friends, family members, and caregivers on red flags that can indicate that elder abuse is occurring. These include:
- Bed sores
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Atypical mood swings or changes in demeanor
- Sums of money missing without explanation
- Fear of a particular person or place
- Poor hygiene or unsanitary living conditions
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Unpaid bills or collection notices
While not all of these red flags necessarily indicate that elder abuse is occurring (for example, weight loss and strange moods are not unusual for seniors of advanced age), they serve as a warning sign that it might be time to discuss any concerns with a California elder abuse attorney.
Fighting Back Against Fraud and Financial Exploitation
Not all elder abuse is physical; in fact, one of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial abuse. Seniors are unfortunately prime targets for fraud and financial exploitation due to diminished capacity and unfamiliarity with the methods of many scammers. Fraud and financial exploitation of seniors can have devastating effects on them, as it can often compromise their ability to enjoy the standard of living they deserve. Financial elder abuse takes many forms, including:
- Theft, including embezzlement
- Reverse mortgage fraud
- Real estate fraud
- Caregiver fraud
- Senior seminar scams
- Investment scams
As more and more of our lives have moved online, seniors are also common targets for internet-based financial elder abuse. Scammers often prey upon seniors’ presumed ignorance of the finer points of how the internet works, such as how to recognize the red flags that an email is a phishing scam or that a website is not as legitimate as it looks.
Pursuing Legal Claims on Behalf of Elder Abuse Victims and Their Families
While some generally applicable laws may be used to protect the rights of seniors (such as laws prohibiting theft or assault), elder law attorneys have a deeper knowledge of laws written specifically for the protection of seniors and know how to wield them for their clients’ benefit. This includes knowledge of:
- The types of behavior each law covers
- The pleading requirements for each cause of action
- The statute of limitations for each legal claim
- Where to look for evidence of elder abuse and how to present it
- The proper parties to pursue legal action against
- How to calculate and argue for damages
- How to take depositions and draft interrogatories
In California, elder law attorneys frequently pursue claims under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, Business & Professions Code Sections 17200 and 17500, and Civil Code Section 3345.
Get Help With Your Elder Law Issue From a California Elder Abuse Attorney
In short, elder law attorneys make a difference for their clients by fiercely advocating for their interests, whether the issue is as simple as drafting a trust or as serious as pursuing a civil claim against a nursing home for abuse. If you or someone you care for are experiencing elder abuse of any kind, you should consider speaking to an attorney to advocate on your behalf. For more information, please contact a California elder abuse attorney at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).