The Beacon Bulletin

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Beacon Network Investigations, LLC  (BNI)

For the law and legal communities

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Assisted Living Facility Injuries Caused By Neglect 

January 05, 2020

Collectively, we are living longer.  That’s the good news.  When it comes to living arrangements, however, with increased age,  often comes the need for more formal medical care.  There many be health concerns that prohibit our elderly family members from continuing to live at home or with family.  As potential caregivers, we wish to make parents and grandparents as comfortable as possible but if there are medical or housing issues, our desires are secondary to necessary daily healthcare and well-being management.   Often, families and seniors look to assisted living facilities (ALF) for elder residential and medical care.  The hope is to find a caring and attentive senior living facility but that is all too often not the case. Generally through negligence rather than malevolence, elderly people in these type of institutions are getting hurt- too often, from preventable injuries such as hip fractures.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that there are around 300,000 people in this age group who suffer from a broken hip each year. Of those, 20 to 30% will be dead within 12 months of the injury, and many others show a significant decrease in their functional abilities.

Main Causes of Broken Hips in the Elderly

The primary cause of broken hips in the elderly are slip and fall incidents. In an ALF, these type of falls are fairly common.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the average 100-bed ALF reports 100 to 200 falls each year and that around 1,800 patients who fall die from their injuries.

There are many reasons that seniors in these facilities may fall. Their muscles are weaker, their balance may be off, vertigo, poor eyesight and the physical limitations of moving from one place to another.  However, these problems are often exacerbated by negligence within the facility.

Of the reported falls each year, approximately 27% are due to environmental hazards. Some of the most common hazards include:

Wet floors
Inadequate lighting
Wheelchairs and beds that are not properly equipped for the patient (i.e., chairs are not locked into place or the beds do not have high rails or restraints to prevent falling)
Improper monitoring and lack of physical assistance

Each of these hazards is preventable, and may be considered negligent acts by the facility when a patient is injured.

A thorough ALF injury investigation should include a comprehensive review of the resident’s medical records, daily activity reports, maintenance records, incident reports, personnel files, prior litigation involving the facility, visitor logs, surveillance camera footage and any and all other records maintained by the ALF. Canvassing for witnesses should also be conducted.

Broken hips in the elderly are serious, and when they occur in an assisted living facility, one should consider whether the injury (or worse) was due to institution’s abuse or negligence,

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.



Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part II: The Empath
November 29, 2019 


Last week, we stated: “An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview.”

In our multiple-part series, this week we focus on interviewing an empathic witness.

Definition of an Empathic Personality: (The Mind Unleashed.org):

Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own

Sensitive to violence, cruelty or tragedy

Creative

Addictive personality

Loves to daydream

Description of a Empathic Personality: (from Psychology Today):

“Empaths are highly sensitive and supportive. They are finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions and tend to feel everything, sometimes to an extreme.”

“Empaths unwillingly, unwittingly absorb, intuit and feel other people’s emotions — from joy to misery.”

Armed with the above knowledge, below are effective approaches that can be taken by an investigator attempting to elicit a strong, accurate and credible statement from an empathic witness.

The empath, prone to daydreaming, needs to be kept on track by sticking to the facts as points of reference. Empathic witnesses may keenly recall many details at once, flooding their sensitive natures.  Albeit more time-consuming, let the empath tell the story their way but guide them to stay on point with facts.  I.e., keep them on a timeline track.  “The accident occurred at 12:30 p.m.  How long after the accident  did the police arrive?”  rather than “At what time did police show up at the accident scene?”  The latter is too abstract for an empath who is reliving, moment by moment, the witnessed event.  We’ve all experienced startling incidents which seem to either have occurred much more rapidly or stretched out impossibly longer than the reality. Guide (not lead) the empath through a factual timeline.


Don’t lead (you can direct) an empath as, they tend towards creativity.  “In which hand was the defendant driver holding her cell phone?” is very different from the correct “Was the def. driver on her cell phone before or during the accident?”  The former may generate a very wrong interpretation of the facts.  If asked the first way, conceivably, what the empath witness meant and can potentially state during a deposition or trial, might be, “In her right hand.  After she pulled it out of her purse to call 911 after the accident.” Lawyers do not like to be surprised during negotiations or at trial.


Recognize the memory-clouding emotional process that an empathic witness may experience.  An empath’s sensitivity is heightened.  She may process the pain and shock through the eyes of the actual victim during recall. Do not rush the interview.  While keeping the witness on track by time and position reference points, an investigator may be surprised by the voluminous recall by empaths.   Again, an empath is able to place herself in the victim’s state of mind and emotions at time/place of occurrence and observe the event through that prism.  Follow the facts through the emotions; conduct soft fact checks, though, such as asking the empathic witness if she’d been involved in a similar accident/incident.  If the recall timeline doesn’t make sense, the empath may be emotionally overwhelmed, thereby relaying events with huge sequential gaps.  Ensure that the facts make rational and logistical sense.  E.g., the witness may say, “I was in the same train car as the man who got hurt. The train was stopped at the Chambers Street station.  He slipped and fell on to the tracks where he was then run over.”  (This scenario is graphic but also true, and representative of the need to take accurate statements.) There are follow up questions then that an investigator must ask to correctly interpret that statement: 1. What was the position of the witness relative to the victim? Clear line of sight?  2. Had the witness observed the victim before the incident?  If so, what were the victim’s actions? Did he appear sick, injured or under the influence? 3. If the victim was in the car, how did he fall onto the tracks?  Was he between cars? 4. Obviously, the train must have bolted forward (brake test?) or begun traveling for the victim to have been struck. How long had the train been stopped at this station?  (The list goes on but the point has been made – the investigator must ensure the logical sequence of events.)

Continuing with this series, in the next Bulletin, we will cover, “The A-Type”: techniques for interviewing an alpha personality witness.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.


Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part I: The Narcissist.
November 14, 2019 


An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a relatively normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.

In our multiple-part series, we begin this week with tips for interviewing a subject with a narcissistic personality. Because of their compulsive, detail-oriented personality bent, narcissists can actually make very good witnesses – if you know how to handle them.

Definition of a Narcissistic Personality:

Most experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions and personalities.

DSM-5 criteria for a narcissistic personality include these features:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Exaggerating your achievements and talents
Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
Requiring constant admiration
Having a sense of entitlement
Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
Taking advantage of others to get what you want
Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Description of a Narcissist (from Psychology Today):

Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self.

Having the above knowledge, a field investigator should be able to quickly assess the subject’s personality during the pre-interview casual conversation we engage in with witnesses to determine where they are “coming from”.

If the investigator has ascertained that she is dealing with a narcissist, the three best basic approaches are:

Provide positive feedback throughout the interview without being disingenuous and overly solicitous.  A narcissist needs to be constantly recognized but, is also suspicious of people who are being nice.
Base the account from the narcissist’s perspective.  As with most people, but more so with a narcissist, people recall best when mentally positioned (though guided imagery) to recall an event from where they were at the moment of occurrence.
Let the subject talk.  At some point, with mild encouragement, the narcissist, because of the compulsive component of this specific personality, will give you the information necessary to complete a thorough statement.  By his very narcissistic nature, he is exacting with details.  Also, we’ve found that engaging a narcissist in minor physical tasks (such as drawing a diagram of the location of accident or arranging site photos) during interviews, helps defuse excess energy and OCD-like behavior.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The Empath” – Does she give a true account of the incident or is she wrapped in the emotion of the moment, clouding her recall?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.



New Venmo Scam Targets App Payments, Often By Smishing
November 08, 2019

A new nationwide scam involving Venmo is making the rounds, one that could impact on your finances and credit score.

While electronic bank account and credit card scams have been around for a long time, peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo are a relatively new invention.

Law enforcement and Venmo have both issued warnings to the public about this new Venmo scam- including phishing attempts via text messages, known as Smishing- a portmanteau of “SMS” (short message services, better known as texting, and “phishing.”).

How the Venmo scam works:

A scammer, while sounding like a legitimate company, reaches out to the unsuspecting victim and convinces them that something is wrong with their account.
The fraudster tricks the victim into giving up their account credentials, sending money or some other type of harmful activity.

Many people choose to use Venmo as the app oallows you to make retail or restaurant purchases and to also pay another individual simply by having an account. You might split the cost of dinner with a friend or pay someone back for buying your Broadway ticket when they purchased theirs. The concept is that it is more convenient than cash and incurs a much lesser fee than do many online payment methods.

How to avoid being scammed (or minimize potential financial damage):

Avoid auto login.
Use multi-factor authentication.
Use a credit card.

Should you receive an account issue notification, take the time to ensure you are actually dealing with Venmo.

If you believe you have been scammed in this manner and cannot achieve resolution through Venmo or your banking institution, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Compaint Center (IC3). 

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.