04 May, 2020
Historically, nursing homes ask, or at times, force patients and their families to sign arbitration agreements before being admitted into their care. Through signing these agreements, patients and their loved ones give up their right to sue if they think the nursing home is responsible for a patient’s injuries or death.
Indeed, legal agreements that direct medical and nursing home care are a frequently overlooked estate planning matter. If you have a loved one that requires 24/7 nursing care, specific actions may affect his or her legal rights. Many nursing homes insist their incoming residents sign binding arbitration agreements. Signing an arbitration agreement means that if the resident is seriously injured or dies due to the facility’s wrongful practices or negligence, any claims are submitted to binding arbitration. Often, the stressful or urgent circumstances surrounding the nursing home admissions process combined with their massive bargaining power means that the majority of prospective residents are not aware of the content contained in what they are signing. Or, that they do not understand the significance of a decision to enter into a pre-dispute arbitration agreement. In other words, giving facilities the right to ask residents to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements is unfair to both these residents and their families. It can harm their safety, rights, and quality of care.
The problem with arbitration is that it interferes with the standard discovery and trial process established by the court system. Arbitration tends to push for a speedy resolution of claims over highlighting unfairness and injustice. Depending on the nursing facility’s type of arbitration clause and forum, victims and their loved ones may not ever be able to get straight and honest answers about what happened. Federal laws strongly favor arbitration agreements. The backing of the federal government makes things significantly more challenging for family members who see a loved one die due to possible nursing home abuse and neglect. A nursing facility may move to dismiss claims of elder abuse, negligence, and wrongful death, arguing that they have a binding arbitration agreement signed by the victim.
Many elderly citizens enter nursing homes under admission forms signed by a family member who holds a power of attorney. Often, the person with a power of attorney is not aware of their loved one’s wishes or chooses to disregard them. Consequently, it is a wise move to make your wishes known regarding arbitration clauses or agreements beforehand, so the agent making decisions on your behalf does not inadvertently sign away your valuable legal and constitutional rights. An estate planner can provide you with the care, commitment, and precision you expect from a legal professional. These lawyers can deliver exceptional representation to you through understanding your needs on a personal level. Estate planning lawyers recognize that they can provide the best legal services and advice when they fully understand your short-term and long-term goals. If you need advice from a qualified and experienced nursing home attorney on this or any related matter, contact a lawyer in your local area to schedule a consultation today. Thanks to our friends at Cohen & Cohen for their insight into nursing home law.
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