Every day, members of our community’s young, elderly and disabled become victims of abuse and neglect. It is a tragedy, fueled by their vulnerability and inability to advocate for themselves. Fortunately, Missouri and Illinois laws protect our loved ones from the abuse and neglect of caretakers and hold those who fail to provide proper care, responsible.
Abuse takes many forms. Physical abuse and sexual abuse are more commonly known and easier to detect due to the physical evidence. However, it can also be emotional abuse, such as public humiliation or embarrassment; neglect, such as failing to properly supervise someone resulting in injury or death; or financial exploitation, such as theft, investment schemes and contractor fraud. The abuse can happen in the victim’s home, school or at a group facility, and the perpetrator frequently is a family member or trusted supervisor.
Common signs of abuse and neglect, include:
- Injuries, Bruises or Broken Bones
- Dehydration or Malnutrition
- Weight Loss or Weight Gain
- Unexplained Death
- Unsanitary Conditions
- Sudden Changes in Behavior
- Bloody Undergarments
- Wounds in Pressure Areas, such as the tailbone and heels of the feet
- Bed Sores or Pressure Ulcers
- Missing Belongings
- Unusual Bank Activity
- Elopement or Unauthorized Wandering
St. Louis abuse and neglect law firm Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum advocates for people who have been abused or neglected while in the care and custody of others. Our goal is to help victims and their guardians heal by recovering financial compensation for things such as medical bills and emotional trauma. Over the years we have successfully represented numerous nursing home residents, as well as children with special needs who have been neglected or abused at school.
Notable Abuse & Neglect Cases
Against the State of Missouri due to care givers at the state-run Northwest Habilitation Center who failed to provide the required supervision of a 24-year-old man with significant developmental disabilities and the eating disorder pica. The neglect led to the young man’s death. The settlement was the maximum allowed by law at the time.
For the family of a patient who died while under the care of a mental-health center.
For a Missouri woman who formed bed sores due to the neglect of a nursing home facility and its staff.
What should I do if I think a family member is being abused?
The first thing a person should do is remove the victim from the home or facility of the abuser. If it is a mere suspicion, a hidden video camera can be purchased and used to verify the behavior. Then, contact a responsible state agency or a hotline to report the suspected abuse, in addition to contacting a lawyer.
- Missouri Department of Social Services Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 392-3738
- Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: (800) 392-0210
- Illinois Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 252-2873
- Illinois Adult Protective Services: (866) 800-1409
- Illinois Department of Public Health Hotline: (800) 252-4343
It is also a good idea to start documenting anything that may be relevant if a claim or criminal charges are filed. Examples include, keeping a timeline of occurrences, photographing injuries, writing down statements made by the victim and the wrongdoer, listing the names of caregivers, and maintaining a log of communication with the caregiver or facility. Additionally, it is important to collect documentation from the care facilities, investigative agencies and medical providers who have provided treatment to the abuse victim.
Who can file a claim for abuse or neglect?
The person who is being abused or neglected can file a claim. If the person is a minor, a parent or guardian can file the claim on the child’s behalf after being appointed a “next friend” for the child. If the person who has been abused or neglected has a legal guardian, the legal guardian must file the claim on behalf of the person. In addition to bringing a claim on behalf of the victim, parents and guardians can also pursue a claim to recover economic losses they have suffered, such as lost wages.
What parties can be held liable?
The individual responsible for the abuse and neglect as well as his or her employer can be held liable for the damages and injuries. For example, a daycare employee and the daycare facility can be held liable to a child for injuries the child received due to abuse or neglect while at the facility. Other examples include:
- Nursing Homes
- Assisted Living Facilities
- Habilitation Centers
- Group Homes
- State-run and Private Facilities
- In-home Assistance and Supervision Services
- Daycare Centers or Babysitters
What is the difference between a criminal case and a civil case?
It is common for an incident involving abuse or neglect to initiate a criminal case and a civil case, and both can proceed simultaneously. When a case of abuse is reported, the appropriate regulatory agency will perform an investigation that can lead to criminal charges. A criminal case is pursued by the police and prosecuting attorneys on behalf of the state. During this time, an experienced abuse and neglect lawyer can also represent the family on a separate case in civil court. A civil case will seek financial damages for the victim’s injuries and losses and hold the caretaker and/or their employer accountable.
What happens if I file an abuse or neglect lawsuit and how long will it take?
Each case is unique, which is why it is important to speak with an attorney who knows elder abuse law and child abuse law to discuss the details of the situation. These types of cases often include complex medical issues, numerous witnesses and overlapping investigations by various agencies.
The first step is an investigation to determine what happened and who is responsible, and then file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. Next is the litigation process, which involves obtaining information through written discovery, as well as depositions of the parties involved, experts and independent witnesses. Then the case is placed on a trial docket. Depending on the venue and the nature of the case, the process from start to finish can take anywhere from a few months to years.
What events will the victim of an abuse or neglect case be required to attend?
The identity of a minor is always protected from any public disclosure. However, depending on the age of the child, he or she may still have to give a deposition to testify as to what happened. To protect the child from harassing questions from the defending parties, the court can limit the questioning through a protective order. The child does not need to attend pretrial conferences or mediations and does not have to be present in the courtroom for the trial. Victims over the age of 18, including persons with disabilities, might have to provide a deposition, attend pretrial conferences and mediations, and be present at trial.
What are the statutes of limitations for abuse and neglect cases in Missouri and Illinois?
Filing deadlines, or statute of limitations, for abuse and neglect cases can change due to many factors, including the nature of the incident, age of the victim, state in which the abuse or neglect took place, and more. Generally, Missouri statute of limitations for neglect is five years and abuse is two years from the date of the wrongful conduct. In Illinois, the statue of limitations is two years. However, because of the varying elements that effect deadlines, for example cases involving minors, always seek the advice of an attorney to better understand the available options.
How much does a neglect or abuse lawsuit cost?
Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum is a neglect and abuse law firm in St. Louis advocating for the young, elderly and special needs throughout Missouri and Illinois. We fight on the behalf of victims as if they were members of our own family, and we seek justice to hold all responsible parties accountable for their actions. Our experienced attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means clients do not pay us fees until or unless we recover compensation for their cases. If you suspect that a family member has been the victim of abuse or neglect, contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation.