What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse or Exploitation.Posted December 23, 2017 in Florida Probate Litigation
Florida Probate and Trust Litigation Blog - What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse or Exploitation.
Because our firm handles litigation involving the financial exploitation of our vulnerable elderly population, it is suprising to learn that many people do not what to do when they suspect exploitation. Often, they wait too long before the money is long gone, the accounts are changed, deeds are transferred, and the exploiters have left.
It is important for citizens of Florida to know that there is an Elder Abuse Hotline established to report suspicious activity. In fact, Florida makes it MANDATORY to report a suspicion of exploitation or abuse. The public policy behind protecting our elderly is so strong, that Florida has mandatory reporting requirements for suspicion of exploitation: “Any person . . . who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a vulnerable adult has been or is being abused, neglected, or exploited shall immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the central abuse hotline.” § 415.1034, Fla. Stat. (emphasis added). If you would like to review the entire Adult Protective Services Act, it can be reviewed in its entirety at this link.
How to Report Elder Abuse:
There are two ways to report Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has an online reporting tool. The website is easy to use, and takes little time. As of the time of this post, the online formform can be found at https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/Adult/AdultForm.aspx
2. By phone
- First, if you suspect someone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, the phone number for the Florida Elder Abuse Hotline is 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). The number is always available.
2. By fax
- Although fax machines are becoming less common in homes, DCF does publish a form that can be faxed to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation. That form can be found here.
Recognizing the importance of public participation to report suspicions of exploitation, the Adult Protective Services Act grants statutory immunity to those participating in making a report or participating in a judicial proceeding resulting therefrom:
(1) Any person who participates in making a report under s. 415.1034 or participates in a judicial proceeding resulting therefrom is presumed to be acting in good faith and, unless lack of good faith is shown by clear and convincing evidence, is immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that otherwise might be incurred or imposed. ****
415.1036, Fla. Stat.
There are additional resources you considering reading. The Department of Children and Families publishes a lot of helpful information on their website. Their frequently asked questions are answered here.
Likewise, the Department of Elder Affairs provides useful information here.
PersanteZuroweste is a Clearwater, Florida law firm that handles elder abuse and exploitation lawsuits throughout Florida. If you believe that you may need legal assistance regarding a Florida fiduciary litigation matter, please contact us at (727) 796-7666.
PersanteZuroweste has established a reputation as prominent trial lawyers serving clients throughout Florida. Our office is conveniently located to the Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay communities.