Elder Financial Abuse

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California Elder Abuse and Senior Fraud

Elderly people are at great risk of abuse and manipulation by relatives, neighbors, shysters, and anyone seeking to take advantage of them for financial gain, power, or simply because of a depraved mind. Many residents of both licensed and unlicensed facilities suffer from dementia and may be given dangerous antipsychotic drugs to sedate or restrain them improperly. Many residents lie in bed for hours and days in their own feces.  All too often, the patients are without relatives and no one to advocate for them.  

The elderly are also susceptible to financial fraud when family members or others are in a position of influence and take advantage of that position for their own financial gain, directly by stealing money, or indirectly by influencing investment decisions.   

 

California has some of the nation's best laws in place to protect our elders.  If you or someone you know is being physically or financially abused, you have options. 

California's Elder and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act

The California Legislature enacted the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (the "Elder Abuse Act"), set forth in Welfare & Institutions Code§§ 15600, et seq to protect elders by providing heightened remedies that encourage private enforcement of laws against abuse and neglect. A civil action may be brought for physical abuse, neglect, or financial fraud. 

The Elder Abuse Act protects elderly persons (65 years or older) and dependent adults from physical and financial abuse.  

Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult means:
  1. Physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering; or
  2. The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. (§ 15610.07)

Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity:

  1. Takes, secretes, appropriates, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult to a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
  2. Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult to a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

What is An Example of Elder Financial Abuse?

An example of senior fraud is when an heir of the senior, is appointed trustee of the elder's money and instead of investing the money for the benefit of the senior, does so for himself while allotting the senior just enough not to raise suspicion. Another example is a relative that convinces the senior to make loans that the relative never intends to repay. The danger of these cases is that many of the wrongdoers can get away with their abuse because the senior does not have anyone to help them watch over their finances, or the wrongdoer is a relative that is in a position of trust and influence leaving the senior unsuspecting.  

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Elder Financial Abuse?

Yes. 4 Years.  

The deadline to file a civil case is the called the "statute of limitations."  If you don't file the civil case by the deadline, the case is time-barred, meaning its too late, its over. The statute of limitations for financial elder abuse in California is 4 years from when the senior (or plaintiff in a lawsuit) discovered, or should have discovered, the abuse. If the financial abuse is ongoing, the clock on the statute of limitations doesn't start to run until the fraud stops.  

It is always best to discuss your case with a California elder abuse lawyer to determine the statute of limitations.  

What Damages Are Available for Elder Abuse or Senior Fraud?

Damages that can be recovered in elder abuse cases are fact dependent but can include:

  • Compensation or the actual economic damages.
  • Disgorgement or recovery of any profits made by the wrongdoer with the elder's capital.
  • Rescission is appropriate when a contract has been entered based on duress, fraud or mistake. Generally speaking, rescission is a remedy which restores the harmed person to the condition they were in prior to execution of the agreement.
  • Punitive damages where the conduct was done with malice. 
  • Mental and emotional distress damages.
  • Medical expenses.  
  • Attorney's fees. 
  • Courts costs and fees. 

The California Civil Code Section 3345 has increased remedies including treble damages, fines, and penalties for senior citizens and persons with disabilities in actions involve unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition.  Treble damages is a term that meaning the prevailing plaintiff may be awarded up to three times the actual or compensatory damages.

For additional resources and California laws protecting our elders, see the Office of the Attorney General of California.

A list of the laws can be found here.

You can also report elder abuse to Adult Protective Services.  They will do an investigation and file charges in appropriate.

Guide to Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents (https://www.caring.com/caregivers/power-of-attorney/)

If you or someone you love has been a victim of elder abuse, contact us. 

Baum Hedlund

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