Pennsylvania Passes Act 53 to Expand Prosecution Power in Elder and Nursing Home Abuse Cases
America’s growing elderly population has facilitated the expansion of a booming industry tasked with providing the support, care, and services they need. Unfortunately, the proliferation of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and companies offering daily care and living assistance services has also created growing concerns over the safety of our most vulnerable population, especially in terms of elder and nursing home abuse. Those concerns were a significant factor behind the recent passing of Act 53.
Act 53, which has been praised by victims’ advocates and State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, is a legislative act designed to combat elder and nursing home abuse. Though the legislation has been introduced by Pennsylvania lawmakers every session since 2007, it was only passed and signed into law earlier this year. Here are few important facts about the new law:
- Act 53 expands the authority of the state’s Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting matters involving the abuse and neglect of elderly individuals, including those who suffer harm as a result of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- Prior to Act 53, the Attorney General’s office was limited to bringing allegations against facilities and wrongdoers for cases involving neglect, but not abuse. Instead, abuse allegations against nursing homes and assisted living facilities were handled by local prosecutors.
- The new law removes a provision that previously required prosecutors handling neglect cases to prove that victims suffered actual physical injuries.
Act 53’s expansion of prosecutorial powers is significant for several reasons. First and foremost, it sends a clear message that Pennsylvania takes cases of elder abuse and neglect seriously, and that offenders can and will be held accountable for their wrongdoing and failures. In addition to expanding prosecution power and resources for these cases, the new law also expands the rights of victims and their families, many of whom often struggled under previous laws to bring at-fault parties to justice.
This difficulty in securing needed justice was an especially troublesome task for elderly victims who, though victimized by abuse and neglect, may not have suffered actual physical injuries required to prosecute offenders. The new law is seen as a sensible and much-anticipated recognition of the fact that nursing home abuse and neglect victims can suffer profoundly in ways other than physical injury. This includes cases where victims suffer less “tangible” harms as a result of neglect or verbal or emotional abuse, including grief, embarrassment, isolation, emotional pain and suffering, and behavioral changes, among others.
Protecting the Rights of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Victims
Our Philadelphia nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Shrager & Sachs applaud the new legislation and its focus on ensuring accountability in cases involving inexcusable failures and intentional wrongful acts, especially as statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health show that nursing home abuse more than tripled between 2012 and 2016. While the law is important to holding individuals and facilities accountable, it is important to remember that victims still need to assert their rights to pursue a civil lawsuit against the parties responsible for their neglect, abuse, and damages.
By bringing their claims against nursing homes and assisted living facilities, elderly victims and their families are provided the opportunity to make their voices heard and recover financial compensation for their losses, including the economic and non-economic damages they suffered as a result of abuse and / or neglect. Although the civil justice system exists precisely to allow injured and wronged victims to bring their claims and recover compensation, the reality is that many of the companies and insurance providers which handle such cases often fight aggressively to evade fault and liability, and ultimately pay victims as little as they possibly can.
Given the importance of these cases – not only for wronged victims but to others who may be victimized when wrongdoers are not held accountable – working with proven and experienced attorneys becomes crucial. Our award-winning personal injury lawyers at Shrager & Sachs have long advocated for elderly victims who suffered as a result of all types of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at the hands of other care providers, and are readily available to help you and your family explore available options, your rights, and how we can help you take the next steps.
To discuss a potential case and how our firm may be able to guide you through the legal process ahead, please do not hesitate to contact us for a FREE and confidential consultation. Shrager & Sachs proudly serves victims and families throughout Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania.