A recent article in The Washington Post discusses the issues involving arbitration agreements, which nursing homes require residents or their families to sign at the time of admission. The implications of such an agreement are definitely far-reaching. For instance, signing an arbitration agreement with a nursing home means that even in the case of a resident suffering an injury due to negligence on the part of its staff members, he or she agrees to bring the dispute before a professional arbitrator rather than file a lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death.
While, accepting the terms of the agreement is often stated to be mandatory for admission to the facility, many nursing homes apparently have adopted the practice of placing the arbitration agreement documents quietly inside the admissions package, without drawing much attention to it. As a result, many seniors or family members who place their loved ones into nursing homes don’t even know about the existence of such a document until they are faced with a situation and find out the hard way.
To Sign or Not to Sign
Having to agree to such conditions is not usually in the best interests of residents and their families. Consumer advocates say arbitration can be a costly route for residents and their families. They not only need to hire a lawyer, but they also must pay their share of the arbitrator’s fee, which could run into hundreds of dollars per hour. When you file a lawsuit, all you pay is a court filing fee. There is not need to pay a judge or jury. Taxpayer dollars cover those costs.
Also, court proceedings are conducted in a courtroom, which is open to public. The proceedings are recorded and are available for public review. Arbitration hearings on the other hand are conducted behind closed doors and any records related to those hearings are protected by confidentiality rules.
Protecting Victims’ Rights
These arbitration agreements often benefit the nursing home and leave the consumer high and dry in the event of nursing home neglect or abuse. Patients and their families would be well advised not to sign these agreements. They are not a condition of admission to the facility although the nursing home may try to make it seem “mandatory.” Even after you sign this agreement, there is a 30-day opt-out provision that allows you to change your mind and retain your right to file a lawsuit.
By signing an arbitration agreement with a nursing home, you would be signing your rights away. If your loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home, please contact an experienced California nursing home abuse lawyer, who will fight for the victim’s rights and hold the negligent nursing home accountable. Nursing home residents have legal rights and an arbitration agreement is a method used by the care facilities to undermine those rights.