Elder care law is the body of law aimed at protecting seniors. There are laws in place setting minimum standards for nursing home care and giving seniors the ability to make damage claims should abuse or neglect occur and cause harm. Unfortunately, arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts can limit the rights of seniors and their families.
Parman & Easterday is an elder care law firm offering assistance to families with issues that matter during the aging process. We can review nursing home admission paperwork and can represent you in cases when abuse or neglect occurs.
Understanding Arbitration Agreements in Nursing Home Contracts
While elder care law aims to provide comprehensive protection for vulnerable seniors moving into a nursing home setting, many nursing homes have found ways to limit their liability if they fail to provide an acceptable level of care to their residents.
While nursing homes cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for their patients or avoid claims against the home, they can limit the rights of residents to file a lawsuit. Nursing homes do this by including arbitration clauses in nursing home admissions paperwork. The Washington Post reported on the increased use of arbitration agreements in nursing home contracts, and illustrated some of the consequences of arbitration clauses.
Arbitration clauses are found in nursing home paperwork from many facilities and many people who sign this paperwork don’t read it carefully or don’t know what the arbitration clause means. One example in the Post told of the guardian of a man who signed admissions paperwork when the man went into a nursing home. The guardian didn’t realize there was an arbitration clause in the contract. The man was dropped by the nursing home staff as he was being moved and he died several days later of the injuries he sustained. His family discovered they couldn’t sue the nursing home because the arbitration clause required that the claim be resolved through arbitration.
Arbitration clauses are ubiquitous in nursing home paperwork and few people who sign admissions contracts with these arbitration clauses understand the implications. There are problems with forced arbitration in cases of nursing home abuse or neglect. One issue is the cost and another is that arbitration often favors the nursing home.
When a claim is made in arbitration, the victim or his family has to pay for part of the arbitrator’s time, which can mean paying fees totaling hundreds of dollars an hour. A study of 1,449 claims between 2003 and 2011 showed arbitrations are decided in favor of nursing homes more often than cases decided in court. When cases were decided in court, plaintiffs were compensated for damages in all but 19 percent of claims. By contrast, when cases were decided in arbitration, plaintiffs didn’t receive compensation in 30 percent of their claims.
When plaintiffs were compensated in arbitration cases, the amount received was typically lower than that in court cases. While 12 percent of cases that did not go to arbitration resulted in the nursing home abuse victims or their families receiving $250,000 or more in compensation, only 8.5 percent of cases decided in arbitration resulted in victims and their families receiving at least $250,000.
Because arbitration can be less effective at getting money for those who have been harmed by abuse or neglect, it is important to think carefully before signing a nursing home contract with an arbitration clause.
Getting Help With Elder Care Law
It is imperative you understand your rights as you age, especially when you are about to go into nursing home care. If you are providing care for an aged family member, you also need to know how elder care law applies to protect the person you love. This means understanding the rights of nursing home residents.
Unfortunately, far too many people sign nursing home admissions paperwork without fully understanding what is in the contract. This is understandable because this is a difficult time for the family, but you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to have the admissions paperwork reviewed by a lawyer you trust.
Parman & Easterday will carefully review nursing home admissions paperwork to determine if the contract is fair and reasonable, help you understand the provisions within the contract, and help you make informed choices about your rights and the rights of your loved ones. To learn more and to get the help you need with elder care law issues, give us a call today at (405) 703-9987, or contact us online to learn more. You can also join us for a free seminar to find out more about elder law issues.