Tougher Elder Abuse Penalties Considered by Georgia Congress

Last month the Georgia House panel approved a bill that raises the penalties for people who operate an unlicensed personal care home.  The bill is currently being considered by the Senate.  HB 899 would make the penalty for the first violation a felony rather than a misdemeanor, for a sentence of one to five years.  The second penalty would be punishable for one to ten years.

wheelchairThe bill was inspired by testimony from the Marietta Police Chief who described two cases in Cobb County where one woman was kept in a hot garage without food or medicine, and another  house where patients lived in squalid conditions.  In September of last year, a news station reported an unlicensed care home in Marietta that housed twelve residents in a basement with rooms made up of plywood walls, no doors, and no bathing facilities.  Officers also found in a refrigerator in the home with rotting food and overrun by insects.

When a loved one is hurt by terrible conditions, regardless of whether the facility is licensed or unlicensed, the owner or operator of the nursing home may be held responsible for elder abuse of any kind.  Elder abuse is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be a public health problem and defines the group to consist of adults over the age of 60.  This population is at high risk of being subjected to physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial abuse due to the combination of physical and mental limitations that occur with age, causing increased vulnerability.  The CDC further describes each of these types of abuse and encourages consistent definition of elder abuse, noting that the inconsistency creates gaps in intervention and prevention.  

The Atlanta Personal Injury attorneys of Angell Law Firm, are here to help those who have suffered from a fall, accident, assault, or neglect.  Whether licensed or unlicensed, those who subject the elderly to neglect or abuse of any kind are still accountable under criminal and civil law.  While criminal action may hold the at-fault parties responsible for their actions, prosecution may not provide the monetary relief that is needed to return the injured to health, or provide the funds necessary for an untimely death.  Available civil remedies include suits for premises liability, assault and battery, or wrongful death.

Owners and operators of a licensed nursing home facility have taken on the duty to provide medical care to their patients in a safe environment.  Poor maintenance of a care facility, particularly for patients who often have physical restrictions, is unacceptable.  Property owners of any property must avoid exposing others to unreasonable risk of harm of dangerous or hazardous conditions that can cause a slip and fall accident.  To avoid accidents, property owners must inspect the premises for conditions that are not safe, repair them, or at least warn others of the hazard.

Care workers may threaten harm or intentionally injure patients, which can create liability for assault and battery under civil law.  Civil assault occurs when a worker threatens a patient and causes that patient to have reasonable apprehension of imminent and harmful contact.  Battery is intentional or offensive contact, like slapping a patient in the care home.  Threats of violence or physical abuse can lead to staggering medical bills, and a civil suit may provide the financial relief needed.

Much of the abuse defined by the CDC can lead to wrongful death. Wrongful death can occur if the injured resident of a personal care home died because the owner, operator, or employee failed in their duty to provide a safe environment to the patient through neglect, abandonment, or abuse.  Damages for wrongful death may include the loss of love, companionship, comfort, and affection of the deceased, and are available to surviving relatives defined by statute.

Our experienced attorneys are here to help you if you or your loved one has suffered from mistreatment, poorly maintained premises, or neglected care in a personal care home.  Contact our office today for a free, confidential consultation.

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