Los Angeles Elder Abuse Lawyer
Elder abuse affects millions of people in the United States every year, the vast majority of whom are seniors over the age of 65. Federal and state laws require basic levels of safety, nutrition and health care in nursing homes, but too often these standards are violated. In California, more than 80% of nursing homes are operated by for-profit companies. The profit motive can trump residents’ health and well-being, leading to horrific mistreatment.
Have you or a loved one suffered from elder abuse? Contact Ellis Law
The Los Angeles medical malpractice attorneys at Ellis Law Firm have more than two decades of experience representing injured LA County and California residents, including those who have suffered elder abuse or nursing home neglect. Our trained investigators and medical experts work closely with elders and their families to discover the cause of injuries and document their impact.
Our lawyers work tirelessly to obtain compensation for those who have been harmed. If you or a loved one has suffered because of nursing home abuse, our personal injury attorneys will fight to recover the maximum compensation you are entitled to, and make sure no one else suffers the same abuse in future at the hands of responsible parties.
What constitutes nursing home abuse?
Under California law, elder abuse includes physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation or other treatment that causes physical or mental suffering. It also includes a nursing home’s failure to provide services needed to prevent physical or mental harm.
Examples of nursing home abuse include:
- Physical abuse – infliction of physical pain or injury; sexual assault or molestation; use of physical or chemical restraints as punishment
- Neglect – failure to help with personal hygiene, provide food, clothing or shelter, protect against health and safety hazards or prevent malnutrition
- Abandonment – desertion of an elder by a caregiver
- Isolation – intentionally blocking an elder from receipt of visitors, telephone calls or mail
- Mental suffering – threatening, harassing, or otherwise intimidating an elder in order to inflict fear, agitation and/or confusion
Financial exploitation is a violation of California law that often accompanies other types of elder abuse. Unfortunately, elders in nursing homes frequently suffer physical or mental abuse in order to facilitate or conceal the theft or misuse of money, property, or other assets.
According to the federal Administration on Aging, in 2010 reported nursing home abuses could be broken down into six categories:
- Physical abuse was 29% of reports
- Resident-to-resident abuse made up 22%
- Psychological abuse constituted 21% of reported violations
- Gross neglect was 14% of reported deficiencies
- Sexual abuse comprised 7% of reported violations
- Financial exploitation was 7%
Nursing home neglect and elder abuse in CA
Thousands of nursing homes are scattered throughout Los Angeles and southern California. Many staff care deeply for elders and treat them with the respect and attention they deserve. But others – some of whom are over-worked, poorly-trained or under-paid — neglect or even abuse the patients in their care. For-profit nursing home chains’ focus on the bottom line can force even the best caregivers into unsafe and abusive practices.
In November 2013, a Los Angeles area nursing-home operator agreed to pay the government $48 million to settle allegations that he billed Medicare for therapy sessions that never took place. Repayments and penalties can help deter unscrupulous nursing homes from future fraud. But they do nothing to help residents who may have been injured by mistreatment at such nursing homes.
In cases like this, Los Angeles medical malpractice attorneys with Ellis Law can help victims and their families recover financial losses and secure proper treatment in the future.
How common is nursing home abuse?
Precise numbers of elder abuse and neglect are virtually impossible to obtain. The Inspector General of the federal Department of Health and Human Services described state studies of nursing home mistreatment as “deeply flawed.” According to experts, “a vast reservoir of undetected and unreported elder mistreatment in nursing homes may exist.”
What is known is that nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect. In one study of 2,000 nursing home residents, 44% reported that they had been abused, while 95% said they had been neglected themselves or witnessed neglect of another resident.
Another researcher reported that over half of nursing home staff admitted mistreating elderly residents within the prior year, including physical violence, mental abuse and neglect.
Nursing homes regularly violate minimum standards of care
Both federal and state laws set minimum standards for nursing homes, but the problem is huge: in 2010, nursing homes nationwide received over 146,000 citations for violating federal regulations. Nearly one-fourth of all nursing homes were cited for violations that caused or threatened harm to residents. Over three-fifths failed to provide adequate infection control; nearly that many violated food sanitation regulations.
Twenty percent of nursing homes were cited for failing to prevent pressure sores (bed sores). Almost all pressure sores can be prevented with adequate nursing care, but average nurse staffing levels remain lower than experts recommend.
Even when violations come to light, penalties are often minimal. In June 2013, the California Department of Public Health found that three residents died as a result of nursing homes’ failure to meet minimum standards of care. The Department issued citations and fined the nursing homes a total of $200,000.
Penalties for senior abuse and neglect
When penalties for abuse are so low, nursing home facilities know they can focus on profits without fear of punishment. Concerned families must take special care to monitor the health and well-being of relatives in nursing homes, to ensure that abuse and neglect cannot take place.
Although elder abuse is a crime under California law, state prosecutions are few – and their numbers are dropping. Statistics show that criminal elder-abuse complaints filed by California’s attorney general dropped from 112 in fiscal 2002-03 to 60 in 2011-12.
The lack of government action to deter nursing home abuse makes it all the more important for families to take prompt action if they believe a resident is abused.
Los Angeles families and nursing home residents should contact personal injury lawyers with expertise in the field of nursing home abuse. Attorneys at Ellis Injury law will investigate conditions at the nursing home, interview staff and residents, review medical and staffing records, and obtain expert medical and financial guidance to determine whether the nursing home has abused or neglected a resident.
Legal recourse for nursing home abuse victims
If we find that staff has engaged in mistreatment we will seek compensation for the elder’s pain and suffering and future medical care. Many times nursing homes offer our clients compensation quickly once we get involved, saving elders and their families from having to go to court to seek recovery for their damages. But if your medical malpractice lawsuit goes to trial, we have the legal, medical, financial and investigatory expertise to pursue the maximum compensation on your behalf.
Additionally, we will we do everything in our power to ensure that abusive nursing homes stop mistreating and neglecting elders in the future.
Our elders – parents, grandparents, older siblings – deserve dignity and care. Nursing home abuse betrays the trust that we put in others to care for our families when we cannot. Ellis Law represents those who have suffered mental, physical or financial abuse by a nursing home and/or its employees.
You can trust us to discuss your legal options carefully, confidentially and without charge. Call us today at 1-800-INJURED. Residents of the greater Los Angeles area may call 310-641-3335 to set up a free consultation.
- National Center on Elder Abuse, Statistics/Data, http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.aspx
- National Center on Elder Abuse, 2012, Abuse of Residents of Long-Term Facilities, http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/NCEA_LTCF_ResearchBrief_2013.pdf
- USCF Center for Personal Assistance Services, “Nursing Home Trends,” http://pascenter.org/nursing_homes/nursing_trends_2010.php
- California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, “Recognizing and Reporting Elder Abuse,” http://www.canhr.org/factsheets/abuse_fs/html/fs_elderabuse.htm
- Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Aging, “A Profile of Older Americans 2012,” http://aoa.gov/AoARoot/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2012/8.aspx
- Los Angeles Times, Nursing-home firm to pay $48 million to settle Medicare fraud case, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/19/local/la-me-ln-oc-nursing-home-operator-48-million-fraud-settlement-20131119#axzz2lBZoyA3J
- San Francisco Chronicle, “Patients allowed to sue nursing-home owner”, http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Patients-allowed-to-sue-nursing-home-owner-4038478.php
- Sacramento Bee,“California attorney general's office to ramp up elder-abuse investigations”, http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/03/4959807/california-attorney-generals-office.html
- California Dept. of Public Health, “CDPH Fines Three Facilities in Deaths of Residents”, http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR13-023.aspx