This page details California’s laws protecting the elderly from nursing home abuse. Though this page is not a substitute for consulting with an experienced elder abuse lawyer, it will give you the foundation you need to make an informed decision in pursuing your claim. If your loved one was abused but it wasn’t in a nursing home, visit our elder abuse page.
This page covers:
- What counts as nursing home abuse?
- Examples of nursing home abuse
- Signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse
- Who is responsible in nursing home abuse claims?
- What can you recover in a nursing home abuse case?
- What to do if you or a loved one are victims of nursing home abuse
- The statute of limitations
- Consulting a nursing home abuse lawyer
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
California law defines the abuse of an elder or a dependent adult as:
(1) Physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering. (2) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. (3) Financial abuse…. California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.07
Obviously, this law makes it illegal to deprive a senior citizen of food, medicine, or any necessary care at a nursing facility. It is also unlawful to physically abuse or abandon, even temporarily, a senior citizen.
Financial abuse occurs when someone takes or obtains property from an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or the intent to defraud them. Anyone who assists in this is also considered to be abusing the elder or dependent adult. Even if someone does not take the property, but instead convinces the elder or dependent adult to give it to them it may be considered “undue influence” and constitute abuse.
Statistics on Nursing Home Abuse in California
Approximately 110,000 Californians live in an estimated 1,300 licensed nursing homes and around 150,000 live in about 7,500 licensed residential care facilities. In 2009, it was reported that 13% of all complaints to the California Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman involved abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.
What are Examples of Nursing Home Abuse?
Some generally accepted examples for the categories above provided by the Administration on Aging include are:
- Physical abuse – hitting, slapping, restraining, or shoving by physical or chemical means
- Sexual abuse – sexual contact of any kind or nature that is non-consensual.
- Neglect – failure to provide shelter, nutrition, health care, food, medicine, or protection for vulnerable individuals.
- Exploitation – the taking, misuse, or concealment of the property of a resident for someone else’s benefit.
- Emotional abuse – intentionally inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on a senior citizen or elderly resident.
- Abandonment – deserting a vulnerable elderly person that someone has assumed the responsibility to care for that senior.
What are Some of the Signs and Symptoms I Should Look Out for?
Some signs of elder abuse to look for include:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns
- Changes in behavior such as withdrawal from activities, alertness, and depression.
- Sudden changes in finances
- Bedsores, poor hygiene, and unexplainable weight loss.
- Insults, threats and other manipulation by spouses
- Tense relationships between the elder and their caregiver
Who is Liable for Nursing Home Abuse?
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, it may be a violation of law. Nursing homes have a duty to take care of the residents of their facility. If an employee of a facility abuses a resident, the company employing them is liable. Moreover, nursing home employees are “mandated reporters”; if they witness abuse they must tell the authorities.
When a nursing home fails to live up to this imposed duty, whether intentionally or not, they are said to be “negligent.” And when this negligence leads to the abuse in the nursing home, the nursing home may become a liable party.
Additionally, the California law makes the abuser civilly liable by saying that “[i]n order to preserve and protect a victim’s rights to justice and dur process, a victim shall be entitled . . . to restitution.” The law orders this restitution from the wrongdoer.
What Can Be Recovered in a Abuse Lawsuit?
If you win your lawsuit, you can recover for the pain and suffering caused by the abuse. Usually, these “emotional distress” damages include any anxiety, depression, and mental suffering. The law tries to restore the victim to the state they would be in had the abuse never occurred.
Another powerful component of nursing home abuse is that the victim may be awarded attorney’s fees. Many nursing home abuse claims have small economic damages due to the victim usually being retired, so California lawmakers incentivized lawyers to take on these cases by adding the attorney fee provision.
The jury may also want to make an example of the nursing home by awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to deter corporations from engaging in the same type of reprehensible behavior. These damages are rare and require your lawyer proving that the abuse came from a place of malice, fraud, or oppression.
What You Should do if a Loved One is a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse?
If a loved one is in immediate danger, you should contact the police immediately. If danger is not imminent, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how best to proceed to not only right this injustice of abuse, but also who to report the abuse to so that no one else suffers.
How Long Do I Have to Make My Claim?
CA’s Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 sets the statute of limitations at two years. But the statute of limitations is important for every lawsuit, and we highly recommend that you contact a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to get a definitive look at the time limit for your case.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer?
If you or a loved one are the victims of nursing home abuse, you should contact our office to have your case reviewed. We provide hope and relief for the unfortunate victims who have been subjected to this. Contact our experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer.
All consultations are free. You will not be charged for our abuse lawyer to review your case. If our lawyer decides to take on your case, he will be paid on a contingency basis. This means that he will not get paid unless he wins your case. The percentage he is paid will be agreed upon before you start working with him so there will be no surprises. Lastly, he will cover the costs of the case, which will be recovered from your verdict or settlement.
 Cal. Const. Art 1, § 28(b)(13)(B)