In my previous post "Doing your Homework can help avoid injury", I discussed the need for making an informed, well-researched choice when selecting a nursing home. After selecting a nursing home and determining that it can provide your family member with the care they need, take extra time to read the admission and other documents very carefully. Why? Because there is a massive effort to deny your legal rights!
Many companies, including nursing homes, have inserted “arbitration clauses” into their contracts. Effectively, an arbitration clause precludes the right to a civil trial in cases involving allegations of wrongful death, medical malpractice, elder abuse, rape and other significant crimes. Arbitration clauses are everywhere! If you have used a credit card, rented a car, shopped online, applied for a job or opened a bank account, you likely have signed away your only realistic means of legal recourse should you discover you have been cheated, overcharged, discriminated against, defrauded, or even endangered
As a nursing home medical malpractice attorney, I’ve been well aware of the growing numbers of nursing homes that insert binding arbitration language into residents’ contracts.
In a court of law, the facts would have been presented to an impartial jury, with equal access to documents and other evidence, the opportunity to cross examine witnesses, and the right to appeal a decision. Arbitration clauses strip you of those rights! These clauses, if they are upheld by the Court, mean that if you file a civil lawsuit, it will not be heard by an impartial jury. In the alternative, liability and your loved one’s injuries are assessed by an arbitrator that, incredibly, is often selected by the wrongdoer.
If you or a loved one is injured by a nursing home, a jury should determine whether or not your loved one’s pressure sore or fall was caused by negligence, not an arbitrator selected by the corporation.
My advice is simple: read before you sign. As you and your loved one review the admission documents, be aware of any mention of “arbitration” or other language that indicates that you agree to not pursue a lawsuit in the Court of your choosing. If you find an arbitration clause, raise the issue, and request that the clause is stricken.
If you have any questions about nursing home care or elder abuse, please feel free to contact me in the office; 410-769-5400. I am always happy to assist with these difficult issues.
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