Reckless Neglect: Stiffer Penalties for Elder Abuse

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependant Adult Civil Protection Act (Welfare & Institutions Code, sections 15600-15675) prohibits physical abuse, financial abuse, and neglect against elders and dependant adults. Penalties for elder abuse include criminal sanctions as well as civil liability – victims are allowed to sue their abusers for medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages. Where the abuser was an employee in a nursing home or other dependant care or long-term care facility, the nursing home may be civilly liable as well.

Section 15657 of the Act provides additional penalties when the abuse was committed with recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice. These additional penalties include attorney’s fees and costs, including the costs of a conservator if necessary to bring the claim. These enhanced penalties do more than just further punish the abuser; they also provide additional relief for the victim, who need not worry about having to pay for the costs of the litigation. Punitive damages may also be assessed against the abuser or the nursing home in certain circumstances.

What is the difference between negligence and recklessness? Negligence encompasses incompetence, unskillfulness, inadvertence, and the failure to take proper precautions. Recklessness shows a conscious choice of action with knowledge of the danger it poses, or acting with a deliberate disregard of the high probability that an injury will result from one’s actions.

Regardless of whether the conduct was reckless or simply negligent, our elders deserve to be treated with thoughtful, competent care by nursing homes and their employees. At the Law Offices of Steven L. Martin, we take these cases very seriously and seek to hold all of those responsible fully accountable for their wrongful conduct. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home elder abuse in Southern California, contact the Law Offices of Steven L. Martin for a free consultation.

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