ELDER ABUSE AND ABUSE OF VULNERABLE ADULTS
It Can Come in a Variety of Shades and Colors
Many people view the subject of elder abuse as a matter of physical abuse and a rare occurrence. The subject, however, is far broader and more common. Elder abuse can involve financial exploitation, emotional distress, or negligent care. For example, Mrs. M , a widow and aged, had a 2000 Cadillac with 26,311 miles and bought a brand new Volkswagen beetle for around town. She returned to the dealer and was convinced to trade-in her old Cadillac for a new one. She was provide a $500 trade-in allowance (Kelley Blue Book listed its value at $6,150) on a new Cadillac, for which she paid full price and bought all the options and extra warranties: the Car Care Elite Service Plan, the Road Hazard Tire Coverage Service Contract, the Premier Paint Protection II Plan, and the Secure Etch Silent Guard Security Systems Service Agreement. Mrs. M actually paid $3,750 over list price for the vehicle and lost $5, 650 as a result of the trade. Mrs. M has been financially exploited, and Florida law entitles her to damages. The Florida legislatures views this type of action as so serious, that treble (threefold) damages are available to an aggrieved party.
Elder abuse can also involve actions of others that cause emotional distress or are a result of negligent care. These are growing areas of concern in our society and a direct result of our aging population. As a result state legislatures are actively seeking to protect this class of persons. Elderly and the dying are entitled to various rights, including the right to comfort care and the right to be left alone and free of physically and emotionally invasive measures by others. Not only are compensatory damages available for those physically or emotionally injured, but Florida law extends punitive damages to aggrieved parties, as a forewarning to those who might seek to violate these rights of a growing population who deserve more respect than others.
It is important to recognize that the aged are not the only ones who are protected under some of these laws. Elder abuse laws generally extend to those over age 65. Financial exploitation laws will extend to any adult over age 18, who whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to a mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction, or brain damage, in addition to the infirmities of aging.