How to Report Elder Abuse in Oregon
An overview of the laws meant to protect you, and how a lawyer can help enforce themBy S.M. Oliva | Last updated on January 19, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:Wesley D. Fitzwater, an elder abuse and estate planning attorney with Fitzwater Law in Portland. “But the other thing would be to get that person who has been victimized to an attorney.” Here’s why.
What Is Considered “Elder Abuse” in Oregon?Oregon’s Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act is the principal state law governing claims of elder abuse. The law is targeted to protect “any person 65 years of age or older” who is not living in a long-term care facility. The Act itself defines abuse broadly to cover any of the following acts:
- Inflicting physical abuse on the older person
- Neglect, such as intentionally withholding services necessary to maintain the older adult’s “health and well-being”
- Abandoning or willfully deserting the person
- Using “derogatory or inappropriate” language to the person, including but not limited to “profanity, ridicule, harassment, coercion, threats, cursing, intimidation or inappropriate sexual comments”
- Financial abuse, including “[w]rongfully taking or appropriating” the person’s money or other property, either directly or through coercion or intimidation
- Sexual abuse, including any sexual contact with “an elderly person or person with a disability considered incapable of consenting to a sexual act” as defined by Oregon law
When Should You Speak with a Lawyer?If you’re successful in your lawsuit, Fitzwater notes, not only do you stand to receive compensation for what was taken plus more for damages, “but the statutes provide attorneys’ fees, court fees, conservatorship costs—it’s very, very broad. I don’t know that I’ve seen a statute that’s as broad about recovery. It’s good, protective law.” There is, however, a caveat that can make some cases difficult. “We probably turn down half of the cases that come into our office, not because they’re bad cases or someone wasn’t wronged, but because their money has been spent already,” Fitzwater says. “The bad guy took the money, blew it all, and has no other penny to their name, so suing them isn’t going to do any practical good. However, there is an extra provision that allows you to bring an added suit against a third party who knew or should have known that abuse was occurring and failed to do anything about it.” If you are an abused person or the family member of someone you suspect is being abused, it is in your best interest to speak with a qualified Oregon elder law attorney as soon as possible. Keep in mind, however, that while legal ethics rules protect attorney-client confidentiality, Oregon also considers attorneys mandatory reporters under elder abuse laws. This means that when a licensed attorney has “reasonable cause” to believe someone they “come in contact” with has suffered elder abuse, that attorney may be required to notify the DHS. For more information on this area, see our overview of elder law and nursing home laws.
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