When a parent or family member needs intensive medical care to deal with illness or age, making the transition is overwhelming enough you may not realize what you're signing. A legal agreement mixed into the usual entry paperwork package could create big problems later if the unthinkable happens. Discover why signing a binding arbitration clause interferes with your ability to bring a personal injury claim against a nursing home, even in cases of negligence.
The Facts About the Clause
This complex-sounding clause is actually quite simple in terminology and often only takes up a few paragraphs or a single page of the general contract with the nursing home. The text outlines an agreement in which you and the nursing home settle all disputes through a private third-party arbitrator instead of going to court. This can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars because you usually also agree to pay half of the arbitration fees, even if you win the dispute. Professional arbitrators charge hundreds of dollars per hour and may rule in favor of the home no matter what evidence you present.
The Limits and Legal Support
Despite the serious accidents that occur in serious negligence personal injury and wrongful death cases, these issues are still settled out of court when both parties have signed this kind of clause. This is why it's crucial to thoroughly read all entrance paperwork before signing it, whether you're checking your loved one into a public hospital or a privately-run facility. Even if you claim you didn't understand exactly what you were signing at the time, you're almost always locked into the arbitration model after signing this contract. In fact, the Supreme Court recently upheld the legality of this practice in this exact industry, so don't automatically expect a district judge to reverse the order and bring your case to court.
The Impact on Negligence Cases
The problems caused by keeping a legitimate personal injury claim out of the courts goes beyond the lack of compensation and support for the victim and their family. When negligence is involved on an employee's end or by the entire nursing home staff, settling with a private arbitrator prevents
- Public announcements from being made about the results of the case, exposing the issue to a wider audience
- Victims from joining class action lawsuits, except in a few states that specifically allow that action
- Case law from being changed by the individual decisions adding up over the years
- Employees or supervisors from being fired for their actions, unless the arbitrator makes it a condition for the settlement.
In fact, many families choose to follow through with a personal injury claim mainly to improve the overall safety and oversight in the nursing home industry. They don't get this option if they've signed away their rights to go to court.
The Alternatives for Caretakers and Family Members
Be prepared to negotiate with the nursing home if you find a clause like this when reviewing the paperwork you've already signed. If they won't agree to sign an alternative contract allowing for court mediation or legal proceedings, consider finding a new establishment on this principle alone. It only takes one honest mistake to permanently affect your loved one's health, so you need the security of being able to bring negligence to light when entrusting a family member to the care of professionals.
Consider taking any paperwork from a nursing home to an experienced personal injury lawyer before signing it. Having someone decipher the legal jargon and wording for you can prevent you from signing away rights you'd rather keep, like the chance to influence state and federal safety laws or receive fair compensation to cover your loved one's care. If you're looking for a personal injury lawyer, check out a site like http://www.lebaronjensen.com/.