Choosing the right nursing home is always a huge decision to make. You want to make sure that your loved one is being housed in the best possible facilities available. It can seem awfully intimidating to sign forms upon forms—like you are bequeathing all your rights away. This is especially true when you do not have a full and comprehensive understanding of the law. After all, legal jargon can be very obscure and hard to understand. This is especially true when you are dealing with a stressful or emotional situation—like choosing the right elder care facility for your loved ones.
There are many different types of forms that a nursing home may want to have you sign. Recently, arbitration agreements have been becoming more and more prevalent for many nursing homes. While these agreements may be presented to you as “voluntary,” the nursing home staff can make you feel like they are anything but. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to feel pressured into signing an arbitration agreement for the good of their loved ones. The nursing home staff may make you feel as though it would be irresponsible not to sign one. In reality, arbitration agreements have the nursing home’s best interests at heart—not the residents.
Part of the reason it is so easy for people to be fooled into signing arbitration agreements is that very few people fully understand what an arbitration agreement even is. This is understandable—in most situations, for most people, there is no reason to really know the general principle behind an arbitration agreement. Fortunately, we are here to help break it down.
Simply put, an arbitration agreement can be defined as “a contract between two or more parties to refer a dispute to arbitration.” One of the most important things to know about arbitration agreements is that they are drafted by the nursing home’s lawyers. This means that they are inherently set up to favor the nursing home. The language of the contract will always protect the facility rather than the residents. Therefore, it is not too exaggerated to think of signing an arbitration agreement as signing away some of your constitutional rights.
For example, signing an arbitration agreement may effectively bar you from bringing an elder abuse and neglect claim to the court. You may instead be presented with the option of taking the dispute to an arbitrator. Arbitrators are private individuals who are trained and appointed to settle such matters.
How exactly do nursing homes sell arbitration, you may wonder? Well, they may claim that the process is cheaper, quicker, and just generally all-around more efficient than actually taking a case to court. More often than not, this is a blatant lie. Unfortunately, it is one that many people buy into before signing an arbitration agreement.
To start, let’s begin by revisiting the common lies nursing homes may tell about arbitration. For one, they claim that arbitration is cheaper than taking a case to court. This claim is easily dismantled when you take into consideration that arbitrators are private individuals. This means that, unlike judges, they are not paid by the government. In fact, they must be paid by you and the nursing home.
Depending on your case, you may find that paying an arbitrator alone can add thousands (and even tens of thousands) of dollars to your overall claim costs. As if that was not unfair enough, the process is not nearly as draining for nursing homes themselves. In fact, their costs will usually be paid for by their insurance company—meaning they can get off relatively scot-free while victims have to pay to have their cases heard.
Nursing homes may also pressure families into signing arbitration agreements by claiming that arbitration is quicker than pursuing a legal case. In reality, it is very possible that a court of law will expedite a case that involved the elderly, unwell, and/or dying. This is in stark contrast with the arbitration process, where they have a vested interest in dragging out the case as long as they can. It can take months or even years before the arbitration process is finally through.
Furthermore, nursing homes may try to convince you that the arbitration process is a better option than the legal process. Again, this is a blatant lie. The very structure of the justice system makes it fit to judge nursing home abuse cases than the arbitration process was ever designed to do. Because judges are government employees, they have no vested private interests in serving the nursing home’s best interests. The same goes for jurors, who are private individuals but are randomly selected.
The truth is there is no such thing as a neutral arbitrator, no matter how hard a nursing home may convince you there is. Arbitrators and nursing homes have a symbiotic, mutually profitable relationship where they have every reason to turn a blind eye to nursing homes’ bad behavior. Simply put, if you agree to an arbitration agreement, the odds will be stacked against you from the get-go.
It can feel difficult and overwhelming to take care of a nursing home neglect claim on your own, especially if you do not have a full and comprehensive understanding of the law. You need someone on your side you can trust. Fortunately, you do not have to go through it alone.
If you or a loved one have recently been involved in a nursing home abuse case, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country.
You should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our trusted nationwide nursing home abuse attorneys. We have helped countless clients successfully resolve their nursing home abuse cases. We can help you too. Let us fight for you and get you the compensation you rightfully deserve.