According to a New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence study, financial exploitation of the elderly is the most common form of elder abuse. Not only that, but for every one case reported, 44 cases go unreported.
One expert states, “I think that it’s been something people know is out there but they don’t really talk about it. I think elder abuse is where child abuse was 30 or 40 years ago.” Hutchinson reports that in most cases, elder abuse is financially motivated. Typically, elder abuse is not noticeable on the surface. She concludes, “They [victims] didn’t know what to do about it; they didn’t know where to report it; they didn’t really want to talk about it.”
Criminal Investigations of Elder Abuse
When suspected elder abuse points to criminal activity, county or state law enforcement officials will often begin a criminal investigation. According to police sources, abandonment, neglect and financial fraud are three common types of elder abuse investigations encountered. One officer stated, “I did have a neglect investigation earlier where a lady left her elderly mother behind and a person who lived a couple houses down was supposed to look in on her three to four times a day…Her cognitive reasoning and situational awareness was just not there. She needed 24-hour-a-day coverage…I recommended criminal charges…We’ll just see what happens when it gets to the (district attorney’s) office.”
In many cases, police officers recommend that a family member or caregiver face criminal charges, but prosecutors may be reluctant to pursue charges for lack of evidence or fear that the victim will refuse to testify against a loved one. In fact, the prosecution of many elder abuse cases are hampered by the victim’s refusal or inability to give information.
Can a Criminal Charge Affect a Personal Injury Suit?
Because personal injury suits are taken up in the civil court system, they will not be influenced or affected by a criminal case involving the same defendant. Because of this, it may be possible to recover damages even if the criminal prosecution is not successful.
If you suspect elder abuse and report it to authorities, there is a chance there will be a criminal investigation. You may also have grounds to file a personal injury suit. For example, if an elderly loved one was neglected in a nursing home, you may be able to sue the caregivers for damages including compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and more. To learn about your options, contact the personal injury and elder abuse attorneys at the Fitzgerald Law Firm in New York. We can help you not only protect your elderly loved one, but seek compensation for injuries caused by a negligent care giver.