A recent article in the Washington Post revealed some information that many people don’t realize as they are signing the dozens of admission documents when placing a loved one in a nursing home. Nestled in between those dozens of documents may be a mandatory arbitration agreement, which many nursing homes are now requiring.
By signing the arbitration agreement, families are signing away their right to file a lawsuit if something should go wrong and instead must go before a professional mediator. According to many consumer advocates, arbitration is usually not in the best interest of the family, who not only have to hire an attorney, but also have to pay their share of the arbitrator fees, which may run into an hourly rate of hundreds of dollars.
The Post cites the case of one Massachusetts family who didn’t realize they were signing an arbitration agreement when they admitted their father into a nursing home. A few weeks after being admitted, staff members dropped the victim while using a lift device. An ambulance was called, but then canceled when the man’s vital signs stabilized. That night, he was rushed to the hospital when he became unresponsive. The hospital found that the fall had caused extensive bleeding on his brain. He died a few days later. It wasn’t until the family later spoke with an attorney, they found out about the agreement.
Admitting a loved one into a nursing home can be a very upsetting and emotional time for a family. With all the documentation requiring signatures, it’s easy to see how many families don’t always realize what they’re actually signing. Many families who find out they have signed the right to file a lawsuit away complain that nursing homes are being deceptive in the way the arbitration form is presented.
Besides the financial strains arbitration can have on a family, settlements are also much less than lawsuits awards. Another benefit to the nursing home is that all information disclosed during arbitration is confidential, unlike a courtroom, where a detailed public record of any negligence and abuse is kept.