Stories continue to pour in of families denied fair access to that justice system after unknowingly signing “mandatory arbitration” agreements when enrolling a loved one into a nursing home. For example, a Washington Post story shared information about one man’s trouble. When signing up a friend for nursing home care (he was legal guardian) the man was given a stack of admission papers. As most would do under the circumstances, the man signed whenever the director of admissions told him to sign.
The nursing home admissions was spurred by a need for support following a stroke. The senior received a tracheotomy and needed to live in a facility that offered specialized help. Unfortunately, the man did not know that his friend would fall victim to negligence while at the facility. Only a few weeks into his stay the man was dropped by caregivers using an electric lift. An ambulance was called, then cancelled as the caregivers thought he wasn’t injured. They were wrong. That night he was found unresponsive Medical doctors discovered that he suffered serious internal bleeding from the fall–he died shortly thereafter.
Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit
Seeking to hold the facility accountable for its conduct, the man contacted a lawyer working on nursing home neglect cases. However, it wasn’t long before things hit a stumbling block: that stack of papers on admission.
One of those documents was a mandatory arbitration agreement. The agreement meant that, in the event of a future dispute, the senior or family must settle the dispute in front of a professional arbitrator instead of file a traditional nursing home neglect lawsuit.
This poses serious problems for families and usually puts them at a clear disadvantage.
For one thing, the arbitration is costly. Families are forced to pay half of the cost of the process–with hundreds of dollars an hour in fees. In addition, the proceedings are held in private, usually with strict confidentiality rules. This is different than the open and public court proceedings.
On top of that compensation for those injured is often far less (or non-existent) in arbitration cases. The Washington Post story pointed to an Aon Global Risk Consulting study that showed in 30% of cases with arbitration there was no money awarded to families. That figure drops to 19% in cases where there was no arbitration agreement.
This shouldn’t be surprising, as the desire to save money is the whole reason nursing home try to slide these agreements into their admissions contract anyway.
Lawyers, elder care advocates, and others continue to urge community members not to sign these agreements. They do nothing more than place families in an adverse situation right out of the gate. Policies differ at various facilities as to whether a home requires signing for admissions. Some facilities allow you to still enter even without signing. An industry group, the American Health Care Association, does not support forcing arbitration agreements as a condition of admissions–though they do support including them in admissions packets.
The bottom line: be on the lookout for these agreements and do not sign them.
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