The occurrence of abuse and neglect in nursing homes sparks outrage amongst the general public. For the loved ones of residents who have been abused in these facilities, the outrage meets with feelings of frustration and helplessness upon discovering that a pre-dispute arbitration agreement with the nursing home prevents them from taking their case of abuse and neglect to court.
Recently, Arizona media have cast a spotlight on this stifling practice, and in 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) attempted to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. A U.S. District Court placed an injunction on the ban that still exists today.
Until the day this practice ceases, the personal injury legal team at Zanes Law is committed to helping you get justice for your loved one. We will fight to invalidate the arbitration agreement by which your loved one is bound. An arbitration agreement dispute lawyer in Phoenix, AZ will do everything from A to Z to see that justice is served. Call us now for a free, no-obligation initial consultation at (866)-499-8989.
Understanding Nursing Homes’ Use of Arbitration Clauses
Nursing homes in Phoenix, AZ increasingly require individuals who apply for admittance as residents to sign a pre-dispute arbitration agreement. By signing this agreement, the resident agrees to settle all differences with the nursing home via arbitration, and not through a court of law.
These “differences” include allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect.
The arbitration process consists of a private discussion or negotiation, usually run by a professional arbitrator, aimed at resolving disagreements outside of court. Although the prospective nursing home resident and family members sign the agreement voluntarily, they probably also sign it unknowingly.
Nursing homes typically bury the arbitration clauses in stacks of paperwork, and the fine print goes unnoticed.
If your loved one has been abused or neglected at a nursing home and is bound by an arbitration agreement, an arbitration agreement dispute lawyer in Phoenix, AZ will dispute the validity of this agreement on your behalf so you can have your day in court.
What You Lose When You Sign a Nursing Home’s Pre-Dispute Arbitration Agreement
To be clear on the matter, by signing a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, you are giving up the right to all the following legal measures a person would ordinarily pursue in an instance of nursing home abuse or neglect.
You give up the right to:
- Sue the nursing home for abuse or neglect in a court of law
- Present your loved one’s case to a trial by jury
- Pursue legal action if the nursing home violates state or federal law
- File a malpractice lawsuit
Consequences of Arbitration Agreements
Nursing homes peddle these arbitration agreements with the promise of offering more efficient conflict resolution than the traditional process of taking your case to court. The owners of these facilities insist that arbitration will save you the cost of attorney fees.
These arguments consist of half-truths. The full truth of nursing home arbitration is as follows:
- You may save on attorney fees, but you will pay your portion of arbitrator fees.
- Typically, arbitrated cases yield significantly lower settlement amounts than cases judged in a court of law.
- Bound by confidentiality, the matters of abuse and neglect presented in an arbitrated case will never see the light of day. Conversely, cases heard in court become a matter of public record, giving future nursing home shoppers access to the facility’s shady history before admitting their loved ones.
- You do not get to choose your arbitrator. Instead, the organization that will provide the arbitration in your case has already been determined and is named in the arbitration agreement. Expect this arbitrator to be partial to the nursing home, perhaps even an entity whose whole purpose is to protect the interests of nursing homes.
- Arbitration proceedings are not governed by the same rules designed to promote fair play that applies to courtroom proceedings. For example, you will not receive the benefits of “discovery,” wherein both parties in the dispute exchange information and documents that serve as evidence and are otherwise pertinent to resolving the case fairly.
- You will have to live with the arbitrator’s decision. The process is binding, and you have no chance to appeal.
Nursing homes want arbitration because it works in their favor to quiet unhappy residents and caregivers, cheaply and with no fear of future claims or lawsuits and no bad publicity for their negligence in fostering an abusive environment.
Finding a Way Out of Arbitration Agreements
If you have not yet signed an arbitration agreement, don’t. The nursing home cannot make you sign it, and if they insist, this should be a huge red flag.
Save you and your loved one much grief down the road by walking out the door and finding a reputable nursing home that does not feel the need to hide behind such smokescreens.
If you or your loved one already signed a nursing home pre-dispute arbitration agreement, do not despair. There are ways of overturning these agreements.
- Perhaps your loved one was in a state of stress or urgent need and signed without fully understanding what the agreement entailed. A court might see this as a state of duress.
- Or maybe, as is often the case, the nursing home strategically slipped the arbitration agreement between signature lines approving privacy, healthcare, consent. A court could see view this practice as misleading.
- If a relative signed the arbitration agreement, it might be thrown out based on not having the legal authority to represent the resident in this decision.
- If your loved one was disoriented, on medication or experiencing dementia at the time of the signing, you may be able to challenge the agreement.
Nursing home and elderly care laws are intricate and complex. Although the above scenarios may seem logical enough for any person to sense their unfairness, it often takes the know-how of a lawyer to invalidate an arbitration agreement with a nursing home.
Tireless Advocates of the Elderly and Infirm
The nursing home has an agreement with your loved one’s signature. This is a challenge. And it is a challenge we accept enthusiastically.
Let our firm represent you and your loved one to dispute the arbitration agreement that is keeping you from getting the justice you deserve. We will do everything from A to Z to have this agreement thrown out, so you can have your day in court.
Call Zanes Law today for a free, no-obligation review of your case with an arbitration agreement dispute lawyer in Phoenix, AZ.