Professor Matthew Andres recently spoke with U.S. News & World Report about financial elder abuse. Because the perpetrators of financial exploitation are most commonly family members, caregivers, or others who are known and trusted by the victim, the abuse often goes unreported.
Professor Andres spoke about how states address financial exploitation:
"Most states currently criminalize financial elder abuse, says Matthew Andres, director of University of Illinois College of Law’s Elder Financial Justice Clinic, which provides free legal services to victims of financial exploitation. That means in addition to laws already on the books to prosecute things like theft, there are “enhanced” penalties or additional charges that may be filed in financial exploitation cases involving seniors or vulnerable adults that could increase jail time for perpetrators.
"What’s more, Andres notes that a handful of states now have statutes in place allowing older or vulnerable adults – such as someone with cognitive or mental impairment – to sue specifically for elder financial exploitation; Andres says states with so-called elder financial exploitation civil causes of action include Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon, Minnesota, Utah, Illinois and Washington. (In general, in cases where victims are deemed to be unable to act on their own behalf, due, for instance, to cognitive impairment like severe dementia, another person acting under power of attorney or a public guardian may file suit on their behalf.)
"A key feature of elder financial exploitation civil causes of action is that they allow victims to sue for multiple times the amount lost – typically two or three times the amount – and also to recover attorneys’ fees for bringing the case, Andres says. 'It’s both to punish people more and act as a deterrent for this kind of behavior but also to encourage settlement of these cases,' he says. 'Because somebody is more likely to give back 100 percent of the money that is taken if they know that at the end of the case they may have to give back 300 percent of the money that was taken.' In addition, being able to recover attorneys’ fees can help in finding a lawyer to take an elder financial abuse case, which can be challenging to litigate. 'They’re complex cases and a lot of attorneys just don’t want to get involved in recovery – recovery may be difficult,' he says. 'So rewarding attorneys' fees is important to help people get representation.'"
Full article at usnews.com