San Diego Elder Abuse Attorney

Elder abuse and neglect represent a hidden epidemic affecting millions of seniors in California and the rest of the country. About 10% of older adults experience some form of abuse every year, but just one in 14 elder abuse cases are reported.

Older adults who should be enjoying their golden years may be abused by relatives or care providers who fail to give them the assistance they need or exploit them. Many seniors in long-term care facilities are at an increased risk of neglect or abuse. Vulnerable elderly residents may be unable to even report mistreatment.

California was one of the first states to pass comprehensive protection for dependent adults and the elderly with enhanced penalties and avenues to recover compensation. If you or an elderly loved one has suffered serious injuries due to abuse or negligence, a San Diego elder abuse attorney can help.

Berman & Riedel, LLP is an elder abuse law firm in San Diego. We have one of the state’s most successful track records for handling elder abuse cases involving the California Elder Abuse Act. Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can help you seek justice and the compensation you need to preserve your loved one’s quality of life.

Caregiver mistreating a senior - Elder Abuse

How a San Diego Elder Abuse Attorney at Berman & Riedel, LLP Can Help You

Federal and California laws give victims of elder abuse many avenues to recover compensation. However, proving an elder abuse case under California's Elder Abuse Act is extremely challenging for the average personal injury attorney.

It's crucial to retain a San Diego elderly abuse lawyer with extensive knowledge of elder abuse and neglect laws and experience litigating these cases. At Berman & Riedel, LLP, our San Diego elder abuse attorneys meet both of these criteria. Our knowledgeable and experienced team of legal professionals works tirelessly to build elder abuse/neglect cases by:

  • Providing legal advice and guidance to elders and their family members
  • Conducting an independent investigation into the circumstances of an elder's injuries
  • Hiring medical experts to determine how a client's injuries happened and how a facility or care provided failed in their obligations
  • Gathering evidence to prove negligence or intentional abuse
  • Investigating past complaints against a facility or caregiver
  • Identifying all parties who can be held accountable
  • Pursuing a claim against the facility, caregiver, employer, health care providers, and other liable parties
  • Negotiating a fair settlement agreement for an abused adult
  • Taking the case to court if necessary to pursue maximum compensation

At Berman & Riedel, LLP, we pride ourselves on being diligent advocates for elderly victims and their families. If you or a loved one has suffered harm through abuse or negligence, contact our San Diego elder abuse attorneys today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your legal rights and options.

Depressed and abused elderly person

What Is Elder Abuse in California?

Under California law, elder abuse refers to physical, psychological, emotional, or financial harm to a victim aged 65 or older. It also includes abandonment and neglect. Below are six types of elder abuse and neglect.

Physical Abuse

Elder physical abuse accounts for 16% of abuse in the community and 65% of abuse in nursing homes. It can include striking, shoving, punching, burning, unnecessary physical restraint, and other forms of physical harm.

Sexual Abuse

Elder sexual abuse is, sadly, an underreported form of abuse and it's believed to be rampant in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Sexual abuse of seniors can involve sexual harassment, forced nudity, molestation, and rape or sexual assault.

In facilities, most sexual abuse involves resident-on-resident assault. However, about 25% of reported cases involved staff members such as CNAs.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse that causes mental suffering or anguish is considered a form of elderly abuse under California law. This includes insulting, threatening, harassing, bullying, or coercing an older adult. It can also involve isolating a senior from family members, friends, and activities.

Financial Abuse

Financial elder abuse is a common problem both in the community and long-term care facilities. Financial abuse and financial exploitation are both serious but slightly different crimes:

  • Fraud may involve a scam or fraudulent actions that steal a senior’s identity, credit, or money or convince them to give up their assets
  • Financial exploitation refers to taking advantage of a position of care or trust to steal an elderly person’s property, misuse assets, or withhold money

Exploitation and financial elder abuse is estimated to cost seniors $2.9 billion each year.

Abandonment

Abandonment of an elderly person is a form of abuse. It happens when someone who is responsible for caring for the adult deserts, abandons, or willfully forsakes them. It may involve leaving a dependent adult with family who did not agree to act as a caregiver, leaving a senior alone in their house, or leaving them at a hospital or care facility without a formal agreement to provide care.

Neglect

Neglect occurs when the services or goods an elderly person needs to avoid mental anguish, physical harm or injury, or death is not provided or withheld. This may involve failure to provide:

  • Medical care
  • Shelter
  • Assistance with personal hygiene
  • Clean clothing and bedding
  • Safety
  • Social interaction
  • Adequate water and food
Elder person wiht black eye and cut across nose

Consequences of Abuse and Neglect for Elderly Victims

Older adults aren’t just at an increased risk for abuse and neglect; the impact on vulnerable seniors is also heightened. Abused elders may face many adverse effects of poor treatment, including:

  • Serious physical injuries
  • Long-term psychological harm
  • Depression
  • Worsening of pre-existing health problems
  • Premature death
  • Cognitive decline
  • Loss of independence and placement in a nursing home
  • Financial devastation, including the loss of a home and the ability to pay for care

For most older adults, the consequences of abusive or neglectful treatment are particularly serious. Many are unable to recover their health or quality of life.

California Elder Abuse Law & Legal Rights of an Elder or Dependent Adult

In 1983, California passed the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA), also known as the California Elder Care Act. This powerful statute recognizes that dependent and elderly adults are vulnerable to mistreatment with increased protection and enhanced penalties for neglect and abuse.

The EADACPA covers:

  • Definitions of abuse and neglect covered by the statute
  • Mandatory reporting requirements
  • Enhanced remedies for victims, including punitive damages and attorneys’ fees

The EADACPA defines elderly individuals based on age: adults 60 and older are covered by the Elder Abuse Act. Dependent adults are 18 to 59 with a physical or mental limitation restricting their ability to perform normal activities or protect their own rights.

Criminal Penalties for Elderly and Dependent Adult Abuse in San Diego

California has enhanced penalties for people who commit abuse or neglect of an elderly person. California Penal Code 368 PC makes physical abuse or neglect of an elder or dependent adult a crime. Someone is considered to have committed this offense if:

  • The victim was 65 years old or older,
  • The defendant knew or should have known the victim was at least 65,
  • The defendant willfully caused unjustified pain or mental suffering or allowed someone else to do so, and
  • These actions were committed in circumstances that could have endangered the elder’s life or health.

In California, elder abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison.

Man wearing handcuffs behind his back

Compensation for Victims of Elderly Abuse & Neglect

A victim of elder abuse or neglect has the right to pursue compensation from the perpetrator and/or the facility or employer. The money recovered from a civil action can be used to ensure the victim receives the medical care they need and preserve their quality of life.

Compensation available may include:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Related out-of-pocket financial costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Reduced quality of life 

The California Elder Abuse Act not only prohibits neglect and abuse; it also allows victims to recover past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering damages, and attorney’s fees. Dependent or elderly individuals injured in violation of the statute can also be awarded enhanced damages against the facility, caregiver, or health care provider.

Under EADACPA, a plaintiff can recover the following with clear, convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in neglect or abuse and their behavior was reckless, oppressive, malicious, or fraudulent:

  • Attorneys’ fees and legal costs
  • Pain and suffering damages in an action brought by a deceased victim’s personal representative 

In elder abuse cases involving fraud, malice, or oppression, victims may be entitled to punitive damages as well.

In cases of financial abuse, victims can be awarded treble (or triple) damages when the abuse involved deceptive or unfair practices or unfair competition under California Civil Code § 3345.

At Berman & Riedel, LLP, we will tirelessly pursue the fair compensation your loved one deserves for the harm they have suffered. We will negotiate for a fair settlement offer, but we are not afraid to litigate your case in court to hold the responsible parties accountable.

Oppression, Malice, and Fraud in California Injury Lawsuits

  • Enhanced penalties are available for neglect or abuse cases involving oppression, malice, or fraud, but what does that actually mean?
  • Oppression: despicable behavior that subjects someone to cruel, unjust hardship in conscious disregard for the victim’s rights.
  • Malice: behavior intended to cause injury or despicable conduct with a willful, conscious disregard for the safety and rights of another.
  • Fraud: intentional misrepresentation, concealment of an important fact, or deceit with the intention of depriving someone of their legal rights or causing injury.

Malice does not require showing an evil motive, simply clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intended the consequences that were most likely to occur from their behavior. It isn’t even necessary to prove the defendant was aware of the likely harm they would cause to any particular victim, only that they knew their behavior would likely hurt someone.

Unlike malice, oppression does not require any willful behavior.

An example of fraud is misrepresenting an elderly patient’s condition and failing to inform a family member so they can seek medical care. Another example is lying to an elderly patient or resident about their rights to prevent neglect or abuse from being discovered.

Why You Need a California Elder Abuse Law Firm With Extensive Experience with EADACPA

The California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA), better known as the California Elder Abuse Act, is a powerful tool when used correctly. The statute is complex and can only be utilized under the correct factual circumstances.

An elder abuse attorney in California handling a claim under the statute can greatly increase their clients' chances of recovery when used properly and even bring accountability and justice to abuse victims. 

When violations of the Elder Abuse Act are proven, attorneys can recover attorneys' fees and costs from the defendant. This makes the net recovery for their clients more significant. This is a rare exception to California law. It was set out by the Legislature to encourage attorneys to take on cases for elder or dependent adult victims. 

What many attorneys who do not routinely handle cases in California involving nursing home abuse and neglect realize is that the statute also provides for these enhanced remedies against all types of care facilities that provide care for our elderly adults. This includes:

  • Nursing homes
  • Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs)
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Long-term acute care facilities (LTACs)
  • In-home healthcare providers
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers
  • Facilities for mentally challenged adults
  • Hospitals

The Elder Abuse Act has even been successfully utilized against physicians.

The statute can be used when care has failed to be rendered versus when the provision of care rendered is simply poor or leads to one suffering injury. A California lawyer for senior citizens can pursue an additional basis for recovery against medical providers under the statute. Under certain circumstances, the injured party is not subject to the California medical malpractice cap on non-economic damages. Otherwise, medical malpractice cases have non-economic damages capped at $390,000 or $550,000 for wrongful death, effective January 1, 2024.

For elder abuse lawyers who understand the nuances of the statute, California's Elder Abuse Act can greatly assist their clients in obtaining the greatest compensation possible under the law.

Our Elder Abuse and Neglect Case Results

Berman & Riedel, LLP is an elder abuse and elder neglect law firm that has handled more cases involving California’s Elder Abuse Act than most California attorneys who litigate cases involving abuse and neglect. As a prominent figure in advocating for the most vulnerable citizens, we have earned a reputation as one of the largest and most successful elder abuse law firms in California.

In just his second year of practice, attorney William M. Berman, founding and managing partner, obtained a $2.2 million settlement on behalf of a client. It was one of the largest settlements against a residential care facility for the elderly in California history.

Below are other dependent adult or elder abuse settlements and case results our law office has achieved. View our elder abuse and neglect case results page to see additional firm results.

  • $5 million – Neglect of a dependent adult with bipolar disorder who suffered severe brain damage after overdosing on prescription medication recklessly made available.
  • $4.25 million – Elder neglect that caused serious bodily injury to a client purposefully ignored by staff who knew her need for care due to claims of understaffing and the disinterest of senior management.
  • $2.2 million – A Southern California residential care facility failed to provide care, which led to the wrongful death of an elderly resident.
  • $1.956 million – Failure to monitor and care for an elderly patient after surgery led to pressure ulcers, leg amputation, and death.
  • $1.6 million – A geriatric hospital failed to provide proper care and overmedicated a patient, causing respiratory and cardiac arrest and long-term consequences.
  • $1.2 million – An elderly client in a residential care facility died after several falls known to staff members who knowingly left the seriously injured client unattended.
  • $1 million – Unlicensed home care nurses withheld care, slept on the job, and committed lewd acts in front of the elderly client.
  • $1 million – A rehabilitation facility failed to provide medical and custodial care to a client who suffered serious injury.
  • $953,000 – An injured elderly person’s caregivers failed to seek medical care for a hip fracture.
  • $950,000 – A dependent adult was subjected to repeated abuse and neglect that led to death.
  • $675,000 – Severe neglect of a quadriplegic patient in a skilled nursing facility led to a dangerous pressure sore that required hospitalization and surgery.
  • $600,000 – A post-operative and rehabilitative therapy facility failed to provide proper care, which caused a fatal blood clot.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our San Diego Elder Abuse Attorneys

Do you suspect an elderly loved one has suffered abuse or neglect? Whether the perpetrator is a hired caregiver, family, care facility, or health care provider, a California attorney specializing in elder law can help you.

Berman & Riedel, LLP specializes in cases of elder abuse throughout California. Our law firm will help you seek justice and hold the responsible parties accountable.

Contact our office today for a free consultation with a San Diego elder abuse attorney. We will help you understand your legal options and fight to make sure the responsible party does not harm another vulnerable person.

Our San Diego Elder Abuse Law Firm Accepts Cases Throughout California

Berman & Riedel, LLP has a San Diego law office, but we accept elder abuse and neglect cases throughout California. Below are areas where we have handled an elder abuse case.

Counties
Alameda County | Los Angeles County | Monterey County | Orange County |Riverside County | Sacramento County | San Bernardino County | San Diego County | Santa Barbara County | Santa Clara County

Cities
Carlsbad |Chula Vista | Escondido | Oceanside | Poway | San Diego

San Diego Elder Abuse and Neglect FAQs

Who Commits Elder Abuse?

Abuse can happen in a senior’s home or the community, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Abuse or neglect may be committed by:

  • Family members. Sadly, about 90% of elder abuse and neglect happens at the hands of a family member. A spouse or children are responsible for 60% of reported abuse, but neighbors, friends, and extended family can also be abusive or neglectful.
  • In-home caregivers. Sometimes abuse is committed by workers hired to care for vulnerable clients or patients in their home.
  • Long-term care facility workers. A WHO study found two-thirds of long-term care facility staff in many countries report committing some form of abuse in the past year.
  • Other residents in a nursing home or assisted living. Resident-to-resident aggression or sexual assault is common yet not well studied. In 2013, there were 2,140 complaints of resident-to-resident physical or sexual abuse, according to National Ombudsman Reporting (NORS).
Depressed elderly woman with head in her hand

What Are the Signs of Senior Abuse?

There are many signs of elder abuse to watch for in older adults. Specific signs vary depending on the type of mistreatment but generally include:

  • Unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Sudden, unexpected weight loss
  • Bedsores or pressure sores
  • Recurring infection
  • Sudden mental deterioration
  • Sudden changes in behavior, such as fearfulness
  • The senior seems afraid to be left with a certain person or to speak around staff
  • A caregiver or staff do not allow you to be alone with the patient or resident
  • Social or emotional withdrawal
  • Poor hygiene and/or soiled clothing or bedding

Be aware that the signs of abuse in seniors with dementia can be hard to recognize.

How Do I Report Elder Abuse in California?

If you suspect the health or safety of the person is at imminent risk, call 911. First responders and law enforcement will be able to provide medical care and assess the situation.

Otherwise, suspicions of abuse or neglect can be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency and/or state department. You can cross-report your suspicions to government agencies, law enforcement, and licensing boards.

Note that where the person lives determines the correct agency or department to investigate the claim. If you are not sure, check our guide to the types of care facilities in California.

Type of abuse or where it occurredWhere to reportComplaints
Private home, hotel, apartment, acute or inpatient hospitalAdult Protective Services (APS)APS Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-833-401-0832
Nursing home, adult residential facility, day health center, or adult day programLong-Term Care OmbudsmanCRISISline: 1-800-231-4024
Nursing home, residential care facility, hospital, or provider that accepts Medi-CalBureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse1-800-722-0432 or file an online complaint
Licensed facilities that provide non-medical care, such as residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) or assisted living and adult day programsDepartment of Social Services (CDSS) - Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD)CCLD complaints
Licensed facilities that provide medical care and supervision, such as: skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) or nursing homes, intermediate care facilities, adult day health centers, rehabilitation centers, and acute care hospitalsDepartment of Public Health (CDPH)CDPH complaints
Financial abuse by an in-home care providerDepartment of Health Care Services (DHCS) - In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS)IHSS fraud hotline: 1-800-822-622

Learn more with our in-depth guide covering how to report elder abuse in California and what to expect.

Is Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home Neglect Considered Elder Abuse?

Abuse or neglect in a nursing home or other facility for elderly adults is considered a type of elder abuse. Nursing homes can be held responsible for negligence that causes harm to residents and for abuse by staff members.Berman & Riedel, LLP has extensive experience handling nursing home abuse cases and holding negligent facilities accountable.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to common questions people have about personal injury cases and working with a lawyer. During your initial consultation, we will be happy to answer questions that are particular to your case.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?

The attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP, accept cases on a contingency-fee basis. This type of agreement means you do not pay any attorneys’ fees out-of-pocket for legal representation. Attorneys’ fees are also contingent on the outcome of your case.

You benefit from legal representation in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of a settlement or jury award. We will only recover a fee if you recover compensation.

Can You Tell Me How Much My Case Is Worth?

There is no way to determine the exact value of a personal injury case, especially early in your case. However, an experienced attorney can give you an estimated range based on their experience with similar cases.

There are many factors that may influence the value of your case, such as:

  • Your total financial or economic damages
  • The severity of your injuries
  • The impact of your injuries on your daily life
  • The strength of your case
  • Whether you share fault for your accident
  • Insurance policy limits 

Some damages are easy to calculate, such as lost wages and medical bills. Calculating the value of diminished earnings for the rest of your life or future medical needs; however, may require the help of experts. Non-economic damages like pain and suffering have no intrinsic financial value. These damages are challenging to calculate. 

If your case goes before a jury, you may potentially be able to recover more than you could through a settlement. However, this introduces a new element of risk: the jury. The circumstances of your accident and even how sympathetic you or the defendant are can influence the outcome.

During your consultation, and throughout your case, we will help you understand how these factors influence your case. We will also work tirelessly to document the value of all your damages and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.

Will My Case Go to Trial?

The vast majority of cases are resolved by reaching a settlement agreement outside of court. Very few personal injury cases actually go to trial, but it is more likely if the facts in your case are in dispute, a legal issue is being contested, or you have a high-value case.

An experienced lawyer will build your case as if it will go to trial from the beginning. The stronger your case and evidence, the more likely a fair settlement will be reached.

How Do I Know If I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If your case involves mostly property damage or minor injuries, you likely do not need a lawyer to handle a claim with the insurance company. The more serious your injuries, or the more complex your case, the more important it becomes to seek experienced legal counsel.

Remember that the insurance company is not on your side, even if the insurance adjuster seems sympathetic and you receive a settlement offer. If you are being blamed for your accident or sustained serious injury, a lawyer will help you protect your rights and build the strongest case possible. This includes calculating the full value of your current and future losses.

Legal representation is also vital if your case involves a complex area of law such as elder abuse or neglect, premises liability, commercial vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, or serious work-related accidents. Determining liability, navigating decades of legal precedence, and interpreting specific statutes in these cases is best done with years of relevant legal experience.

Do You Accept Cases Outside of San Diego?

While our law office is located in San Diego, Berman & Riedel, LLP, accepts cases throughout the state of California.

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