Nursing Homes Requiring Families to Sign Arbitration Agreement
Recent news out of Oklahoma concerns nursing homes requiring families to sign an arbitration agreement before admittance. This is why competent legal representation is important if you’re looking for a nursing home. More importantly, having such representation before choosing the final nursing home.
Many of Oklahoma’s 300-plus nursing homes are requiring potential residents to sign these arbitration agreements prior to admittance. This implies that families would have to resort to arbitration in case of a disagreement over care. Effectively stripping families of the ability to sue in court, and damages awarded in arbitration will probably be less than a civil suit.
What is an Arbitration Agreement
Arbitration is a process of settling disputes outside of court, where a neutral third party makes a binding decision. While this method has its uses, it can limit the rights of elder abuse victims.
Other downsides of arbitration in cases of potential nursing home abuse include:
- Reduced Transparency: Arbitration proceedings are typically confidential. Meaning potential information about abuse, negligence, or systematic issues may not become public.
- Power Imbalance: Arbitration proceedings can favor the nursing home or entity that holds more power. They may have more experience with arbitration and can afford to hire expert arbitrators.
- Limited Discovery Process: The discovery process is usually more restricted compared to a normal court of law. Thus hindering the collection of evidence necessary to support claims of abuse or negligence.
- Financial Burden: Pursuing a case through arbitration can be financially burdensome for families. Having to bear the costs associated with hiring an arbitrator, legal representation, and other proceeding-related expenses. This often discourages families from pursuing valid claims, particularly in cases where damages suffered are relatively small.
It’s important to note that the impact to these families may vary depending on specific terms of the agreement. However, these downsides raise valid concerns about the potential disadvantages imposed on families.
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If you are considering putting a loved one in a nursing home, you should contact a knowledgeable elder abuse or elder law attorney to review any agreements the nursing home might have you sign prior to admittance. Planning ahead of time can help prevent possibly tragic situations of elder abuse; and, you can ensure that if anything does go wrong, you will have legal recourse to seek justice and compensation.
Even if the state prohibits such agreements, like Oklahoma, one could argue such agreements are permissible under federal law. That is the argument the Oklahoma nursing homes have made.