If elder abuse and neglect strikes you or someone you love, it is important to ensure there is full, legal accountability. But how is that done? The accountability can take different forms, both under the civil law and criminal law.
If the misconduct is intentional or particularly abhorrent, then criminal charges may be filed against those involved. Prosecutors make the determination as to whether the situation involves the breaking of a law in the state criminal code. Potential penalties in these cases may include jail time, probation, fines, or various other punishments.
Alternatively, those individuals directly harmed by the mistreatment (or their families) decide to pursue accountability under the civil law. In civil lawsuits alleging elder neglect, the potential outcome is usually not a “punishment” for the wrongdoer but instead compensation to help the one harmed.
Within the civil justice system, there are various legal arguments or avenues that can be pursued to have one’s rights vindicated. On one hand there are general “common law” negligence claims. This refers to general rules built up over the centuries that allow all those harmed by misconduct in different situations--from car accidents to elder neglect--to recover from those responsible.
Increasingly, however, Illinois residents affected by elder abuse take advantage of statutory laws that protect residents and provide a “cause of action” for those hurt to pursue remedies under the civil law. These elder law statutes were specifically debated and passed by legislators in Springfield, signaling the importance placed on the issue
Of course, deciphering all of this is the work of nursing home neglect attorneys. But it is important for all residents to know that Illinois has particularly robust statutory laws in place protecting seniors. The State of Illinois Department on Aging published a helpful brochure online that discusses our Elder Abuse and Neglect Act in addition to other laws that affect the rights of seniors. It is worth browsing the statute to get a feel for the issues involved.
A New Trend?
Unfortunately, not every state takes elder abuse and neglect as seriously as Illinois. Across the country there are different rules regarding how nursing homes must act, what rights residents have, and many other senior-related manner. However, likely spurred by demographic trends which suggest a “graying” of America, many more states are passing laws like those in Illinois to explicitly protect the elderly community.
For example, policymakers in our neighboring state of Iowa are working this spring to change laws to better protect seniors. A Globe Gazette story notes that while Iowa is one of the “oldest” states on average, they do not have many statutes on the books protecting elderly residents. In an effort to correct the imbalance, many senior-care advocates are working to pass laws there that protect more individuals, particularly seniors who are at risk but not necessary fully dependent on others. For instance, this may include changing state laws related to powers of attorney affecting older residents and other efforts to prevent the financial exploitation of seniors.
Hopefully these measures pass in Iowa and elsewhere to better protect seniors in all living situations.
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