October 10, 2010

Standing Up For Seniors Report: Forced Arbitration

by Levin & Perconti

The American Association for Justice released a comprehensive new report entitled, “Standing Up For Seniors: How the Civil Justice System Protects Elderly Americans.” Today we will consider one of the ways in which nursing home conglomerates attempt to legally handcuff the residents in their care—forced arbitration clauses.

Most nursing home residents and their families are unaware of what it means to sign a forced arbitration clause. As part of the process to move into a facility, seniors sign many different documents. Typically, one of those documents includes a few lines that are buried in the fine print that bind the resident to “forced arbitration.” While it may not seem too important at the time, this clause often has a big impact on the rights of those injured while at a nursing home.

Nursing home administrators attempt to get residents to sign these clauses so that the nursing home will be in a superior legal position if there is ever a problem with resident care.

Arbitration is essentially an alternative process to resolve conflicts between the facility and the resident that is outside of the regular legal system of courtroom, jury, and judge. Instead, at an arbitration hearing a third party known as the “arbitrator” decides the legal consequences of any dispute. A big problem, however, is that the arbitrator is usually hand-picked by the nursing home company itself.

In this way, nursing home victims are never able to share their story with a judge or jury and receive justice based on their decision. Instead, victims must meet with one arbitrator—picked by the very company that abused them—and abide by whatever decision that arbitrator makes. All of this often occurs simply because the unknowing senior had no choice but to sign the stack of documents at admission.

Unfortunately, state and federal law does not yet prohibit these forced arbitration agreements from being signed. A bill was introduced in the US Congress last year—the bipartisan Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009—that would invalidate all of these troubling provisions, but it is yet to pass.

However, advocates for senior rights like our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti continue to rally against this unfair practice that takes advantage of of seniors. There are more and more examples of nursing home lawyers who have been able to circumvent the unfair clause and seek real justice for injured victims.

Our attorneys strongly recommend that all nursing home residents refuse to sign these forced arbitration agreements and contact a nursing home lawyer for help dealing with these matters..

Tomorrow we will continue our look at the new AAJ Report and examine the problem of insurance denials that severely harm many vulnerable seniors.

Please Click Here to view the full copy of this report.