Abuse / Neglect of the Disabled Lawyers
People with disabilities in our society deserve special care and protection, regardless of whether their disability is developmental, physical or mental. The lawyers at The Collins Law Firm are passionate advocates for disabled people who have been the victims of negligence or abuse in Illinois. Families come to us for help after their loved one has been injured or assaulted, some while in the care of a residential treatment facility that should have kept them safe. Sadly, these cases often involve injuries, trauma and sometimes even death. Our compassionate lawyers work with distraught families to get justice and protection for their disabled family member. We understand the deep emotional impact these cases can have on an individual and his or her family, so we do the fighting and let the family focus on healing.How Serious is the Problem of Violence Against the Disabled?
There is never any excuse for mistreatment of the disabled, and yet adults and children with disabilities are at much higher risk of violence than their non-disabled peers. A study by the World Health Organization confirmed the magnitude of the problem. Adults with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be the victim of violence than non-disabled peers, while those with mental health conditions have nearly 4 times the risk of experiencing violence. The statistics for children are worse. Children with any disability are almost 4 times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled youth, and for those with intellectual disabilities that number rises to 4 -10 times more likely to be the victims of crime. Other studies have concluded that children with mental or intellectual impairments, in particular, are especially vulnerable, with 4.6 times the risk of sexual violence.
The lesson from this is that adults and especially children with disabilities need extra protection.Why are the Disabled More Vulnerable?
There are many reasons why the disabled are more vulnerable. Some of them include:
- Society's view of people with disabilities as somehow less deserving of respect and decent treatment.
- Families may fear reporting abuse in a group home or residential facility for fear of being kicked out with no alternate, safe living arrangement available.
- Sometimes, the victims do not report abuse because they don't understand what acts are abusive. This may be especially true for teens and children who have experienced emotional trauma and abuse for much of their lives.
- Communication problems may also make it difficult for people with disabilities to verbalize episodes of abuse.
- Facilities have an incentive to cover up abuse of the disabled for fear of disciplinary action or losing funding or patients.
- Staff at residential or group homes may have little to no experience working with the disabled or may be emotionally unsuited to the stresses and challenges of working with emotionally or developmentally disabled individuals.
- Staff may be improperly vetted, overworked, underpaid or ill- equipped for the job.
- Facilities may be overwhelmed, underfunded and understaffed.
- Facilities may not have adequate security in place to protect the disabled from being preyed upon.
Oftentimes, a family must face the difficult choice of placing their family member in an institutional setting. These families look for the very best facility with the best programs to help their emotionally, physically or developmentally disabled loved one. After putting so much trust in a facility, it is devastating when that trust is broken. Sometimes it is a staff member who violates that trust; other times it is the facility's negligence that fails to keep the disabled person safe. When this happens, the attorneys at The Collins Law Firm can get compensation for the injuries suffered as a result. Neglect or abuse of the disabled may include:
- Physical and mental abuse
- Medical neglect
- Physical and mental neglect
- Sexual assault
- Financial abuse
- Visit your loved one at different times of the day and on different days to observe all the staff and their interactions with your relative.
- Visit without an appointment
- Educate your disabled relative about what constitutes abuse; how to avoid it if possible; and the importance of reporting abuse to a family member immediately.
- Ask the facility what security measures are in place to protect your loved one from staff, other patients and visitors.
- Look for any physical signs (bruising, cuts, and scratches) of abuse.
- Look for changes in your loved one's behavior.
- Listen and believe your loved one if they start talking about abuse that has occurred. Do not assume that, because they have a disability, they are not credible or are "making it up".
- If you believe there is imminent danger to your loved one, call 911.
- In Illinois, if your relative is a disabled adult, living in a setting funded, licensed or certified by DHS, call the OIG Hotline: 1-800-368-1463. (Other states have similar government agencies.)
- In Illinois, if your loved one is a child or adolescent under age 18, call the DCFS Hotline: 1-800-252-2873. (Other states have similar government agencies.)
- In Illinois, if your loved one lives in a nursing home funded, licensed or certified by DPH, call the DPH Nursing Home Hotline: 1-800- 252-2893. (Look up the corresponding government agency in your state.)
The consequences of abuse are not just physical (fractures, concussions, injuries to internal organs, etc.); they can also result in long term emotional trauma and behavioral problems. It is incumbent on all of us to be on the alert for abuse in order to prevent it from happening to these vulnerable individuals.
Recent Cases on Behalf of the Disabled at The Collins Law Firm
- A developmentally disabled teenage girl was seriously injured in a fall from a high ropes course at her high school, after the school failed to give her safety instructions in a way that was understandable to her. The Collins Law Firm recovered $2.1 million for this client.
- A developmentally disabled man was brutally beaten and killed by a caregiver in a residential group home. The caregiver in question had not been properly vetted by the facility. We represented his family in a wrongful death case and settled for the maximum limit of the facility's insurance policy.
- The Collins Law Firm represented a developmentally disabled child who was abused by her school bus driver.
- Our lawyers represented a teenage girl with developmental and emotional disabilities who was sexually assaulted after lax security measures at her residential facility failed to keep her from being taken off campus, where she was put in danger.
Our clients have included people who were abused and neglected at residential facilities and individuals with developmental disabilities who were injured or abused in a school setting. At The Collins Law Firm, we represent vulnerable people who have been treated as though they are not deserving of respect, dignity and protection simply because they are disabled.New Legislation Aimed at Combating the Abuse of the Disabled
The Collins Law Firm has also been active in pushing for laws that protect the disabled. On August 19, 2011, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed "Paul's Law", providing dramatically enhanced protections for the developmentally disabled who live in Illinois' group homes, and for their families. This law was borne out of a tragedy, when Paul McCann - for whom the law is named - died at his group home in Charleston, Illinois, after being beaten by the health care workers who were supposed to protect him. Our firm was instrumental in helping this legislation pass in Illinois.Contact The Collins Law Firm Today if You Believe Your Loved One is the Victim of Neglect or Abuse of the Disabled
If a disabled family member has been the victim of abuse or neglect at a residential facility or school in Illinois, contact us at The Collins Law Firm for a free evaluation of your case today. Call (630) 527-1595 for a FREE consultation, or click here to contact us by email. Let our experienced and compassionate lawyers help you and your loved one get the justice you deserve.Additional Resources