Florida Statutes Protect Vulnerable Persons Who Are Victimized
March 22, 2019
According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 10% of the people age 60 or above have experienced some form of elder abuse. Even more disturbing is the fact that interpersonal violence occurs at a disproportionately higher rate among elders with disabilities. In fact, estimates suggest that nearly half of the older adults living in social isolation with mental impairments experience some type of abuse or neglect.
Common Types of Elder Abuse
Like most states, Florida Statutes specify penalties for individuals who victimize, abuse, exploit, or neglect "vulnerable persons", such as the elderly or disabled. Listed below are common types of elder abuse:
- Physical Abuse - Cuts and bruises (especially pressure marks); broken bones, burns, and abrasions are often warning signs of elder physical abuse where pain or injury was inflicted.
- Financial Abuse - Sudden changes in the financial situation of an older adult is a telltale sign of financial abuse, which is usually through misuse of funds or withholding an elder's resources.
- Passive Neglect - When a caregiver or responsible family member allows an older adult to live with unattended medical needs and with poor personal hygiene, it is passive neglect. Bedsores, soiled clothing, and missed medications are warning signs.
- Willful Deprivation - Depriving an elder of proper shelter, food, medicine, assistance or protection from physical, mental or emotional harm is willful deprivation, unless the competent older adult made the choice out of "free will".
- Undue Confinement - Any adult that has been restrained for any reason other than personal safety or medical needs is being confined or held against their will.
- Emotional Abuse - Emotional abuse is typically the verbal abuse of an elder through assaults, threats, harassment or intimidation by belittling the individual to gain control.
- Sexual Abuse - Any sexual activity including fondling, touching or intercourse with an unwilling older adult or an elder who is unable to understand "consent" is sexual abuse.
Older adults and persons with special needs that have been abused are at a much higher risk of death when compared to those who were not mistreated. Elder abuse and fraud is estimated to cost older adults as much as $35 billion annually.
The Investigative Role of DCF in Florida Abuse Cases
It is important to note that the responsible agency in Florida is the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which only investigates abuse claims where a caregiver role exists. For example, a vulnerable adult who was pushed to the ground in a parking lot by a stranger would not qualify for DCF services. However, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are much better trained today on investigating such events and bringing criminal charges against abusers. If you or someone you know who qualifies as a vulnerable person suffered abuse, contact a personal injury attorney at Schackow & Mercadante to the discuss the details of your civil case.