In Elder Law News

Senior couple sits in office signing documents.A part of long-term care planning can include finding the right nursing home facility for yourself or your loved one. When you are searching for the right nursing home, you may find yourself sifting through piles of paperwork, and in that mountain of documents can be an arbitration agreement. Some nursing homes may attempt to bully you into signing this agreement, but remember that you have the right to refuse to sign it and continue to receive care.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process that keeps parties out of court by resolving their matter through a less formal legal process. There are no judges, and the parties do not need to have attorneys represent them when they present their case. An arbitrator listens to each side of the case and facilitates negotiation and settlement between the parties.

What Is an Arbitration Agreement?

An arbitration agreement includes the terms that the parties agreed to during the arbitration process. The parties’ agreement is typically reduced to writing and signed.

Depending on your state, an arbitration agreement is filed with the appropriate court. The agreement has the force of law. If either party does not abide by its terms, the court will enforce the agreement.

Why Do Nursing Home Facilities Want Residents to Sign Arbitration Agreements?

The nursing home that you choose may want you to sign an arbitration agreement. Arbitration agreements in the nursing home context are usually not beneficial to the resident or their families. However, nursing home facilities stand to benefit. If residents agree to arbitration, nursing homes can avoid the expense of hiring lawyers and trials should a dispute arise about your loved one’s care.

Benefits of Arbitration for You

There are several benefits of using arbitration if you need to resolve legal issues with a nursing home. Arbitration is different from a traditional lawsuit in some critical ways. Arbitration, as compared to a typical court case, is less expensive, confidential, and resolves faster.

The Downside of Using Arbitration

Agreeing to arbitration strips you of the right to take your case to court. Nursing homes may include various types of disputes in their agreements and ask you to sign them before receiving their services. By signing an agreement to an alternative dispute resolution, you lose your right to a day in court if you or your loved one suffer any of the following while a resident:

  • Acts of physical or sexual assault
  • Receiving incorrect medication or the wrong medication dose
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Theft of money or other belongings
  • Outbreaks of infection or other disease
  • Wrongful death

What Should I Look Out for in Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements?

You should never sign an agreement unless you completely understand it. Typically, arbitration agreement clauses are buried in other admission paperwork. Remember that signing an arbitration agreement is not mandatory for admission into a nursing facility. Before you agree to arbitration, look for these red flags:

  • The agreement explicitly states that your care depends on whether you sign the agreement. This is untrue and a major red flag for an arbitration agreement and the facility.
  • Agreements that limit the amount of damages that you can collect after an injury or loss. Nursing homes use arbitration agreements to limit their financial exposure if a resident is hurt. You should consider protecting yourself and your legal right to financial recovery before making any final decisions.

Contact an Experienced Elder Law Attorney to Discuss Your Options

Speaking to an attorney before committing to an arbitration agreement can help protect your rights in the long run. You can find an elder law attorney in your area by searching here.

To further educate yourself as you navigate the process of looking for a nursing home, check out the following articles:

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