As more cases of elder abuse continue to be reported, pressure is being placed on the legal system to respond more effectively to cases of abuse, whether it’s physical or mental abuse or financial fraud.
Many cases of elder abuse involve perpetrators who have a trusted relationship with the victim, including partners, adult children, other family members, and caregivers. Certain perpetrators exploit their legal decision-making authority to control the victim’s finances, compounded with their close relationship with the victim that allows them to avoid being caught.
Types of Restitution
Restitution comes in a number of forms, whether it is financial restitution for the victim, or community service intended on correcting the behavior of the perpetrator. Restitution is typically ordered as part of probation or parole.
Types of restitution include:
Perpetrators of the crime are required to pay money to the victims. In cases where banks have reimbursed the victims of fraud, the banks may then be considered the victims entitled to restitution.
Offenders are required to perform a service for the victims. For example, restoring a victim’s damaged personal property.
The offender must perform community service as a condition of their probation.
Crime perpetrators are required to pay money to entities other than the victim, such as community welfare programs.
Unfortunately, there are still not adequate frameworks in place to ensure that all restitution orders are properly enforced. Many courts fail to properly order restitution, and even when they do, there are many cases of courts failing to uphold that restitution. As a result, victims may feel that it may not be worth pursuing legal restitution.
What is Financial Restitution?
Restitution is the financial compensation that you can receive from a perpetrator who wrongfully stole your financial assets or personal property, or from someone who made you the target of physical or verbal abuse.
All states have some form of restitution regulations in place, and the federal government also typically requires perpetrators of federal crimes to pay restitution.
When a restitution order is issued by the court, the perpetrator owes a debt to the victim. When a restitution order is delivered by the court, they do not and cannot take the perpetrator’s inability to pay the restitution into account.
Financial restitution can be ordered by the justice system to pay back a wide variety of expenses or lost property, including:
- Repayment of the value of stolen or damaged property
- Reimbursement for medical and/or dental expenses incurred as a result of the perpetrator’s actions
- Reimbursements for mental health expenses, such as therapy or psychiatry assessments
- Payments for lost wages, or payments for interest on lost investments or profits
- Relocation or transportation expenses that result from the crime
- Repayment of the victim’s legal fees
- Physical rehabilitation expenses
Financial restitution is available to either the victim of physical, psychological, or financial harm as the result of a crime, or, if the victim has already passed away, the victim’s family members may also be eligible to receive restitution payments.
Grounds for Financial Compensation
The types of elder abuse that can result in financial compensation are wide ranging.
First is the case of negligence. As is the case for victims of other careless actions such as car crashes, medical malpractice, or injuries in the workplace, victims of elder abuse are also able to sue for negligence. In nursing homes, negligence is a common form of abuse. Insufficient attention to hygiene from the caretaker, lack of attention resulting in bedsores, misadministration of medication, understaffing, and other matters of improper care can be grounds for financial restitution.
More serious cases of intentional abuse are also grounds for financial restitution or compensation. Rather than careless oversights, other acts of abuse are anything but accidents. These cases will often involve restitution that goes beyond compensating the victim, but also acts to punish the perpetrator with especially harsh financial penalties.
Types of intentional elder abuse subject to financial compensation include:
Physical Abuse including any bodily harm that results in impairment or physical pain
Sexual Abuse including any unwanted sexual contact or advances resulting in physical or mental damages
Emotional or Psychological Abuse
Emotional or Psychological Abuse including verbal assault or even complete social neglect
Financial Abuse including financial exploitation, fraud, changes to legal documents, or the disappearance of the elder’s finances
How to Take the Steps Necessary for Financial Restitution
There are several avenues through which one can go in order to seek out financial restitution after having suffered elderly abuse in a nursing home.
First, you should locate a victim advocate group, or your local victim/witness resource center. These victim advocate groups will assist you in applying for compensation, help you file a temporary restraining order against the perpetrator, and assist you with any court hearings that result from the charges. The involvement of these advocacy groups will depend on the state in which you reside.
You should also file official complaints with the licensing authority that regulates nursing homes in your state. The nursing home will be investigated by the appropriate licensing authority. Not only will this result in the necessary steps to receive financial compensation, but it will also alert these licensing agencies that one of their licensees is not providing adequate care, and may prevent future cases of abuse.
Be sure to acquire proper legal defense that specializes in the area of Elder Law. This lawyer will represent you in either a criminal court case or help you sue in a civil court case. The amount of restitution will be determined based on the degree of damages you have faced. Victims are required to provide evidence of the damages they have suffered. Restitution cannot be collected until a specific dollar amount is set, so be sure to keep copies of bills, receipts, and any expenses you may have incurred as the result of an act of abuse.