Nursing homes are a crucial part of the elder care system in the U.S. As of 2016, the U.S had 15,600 nursing homes. Around 1.4 to 1.5 million Americans live in nursing homes today.
Decisions centered on nursing homes are thus important to a large proportion of the American public. The ability to sue a nursing home for abuse and negligence is an important safeguard for nursing home residents.
That’s why, in 2019, advocates for nursing home residents were disappointed when Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Advocacy (CMS) came up with a rule that permitted nursing homes to enter into pre-dispute, binding agreements with residents or their representatives.
Why Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Are a Problem
Arbitration is a form of alternate dispute resolution (ADR), or a process to settle a dispute outside of the court system, without a conventional lawsuit. Parties submit their claims to a third-party who acts as an arbitrator. Arbitrators are not necessarily experts in law, or even part of the legal profession.
Advocacy groups believe that arbitration agreements should be banned entirely.
An article published by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging explains why signing an arbitration agreement with a resident at the time of admission is not a good idea.
- It’s a time of crisis for residents and families
- Resident might be ill, or otherwise incapable of making an informed decision
- Families might have limited as to what nursing homes they can access
- They might have no idea of what disputes might be bound by an arbitration agreement.
While arbitration might be a good way to settle an issue, making a resident sign an agreement before a dispute takes away their capacity to make an informed decision based on the facts of the case.
Fortunately, the rule makes it clear that a nursing home can’t deny a resident admission based on the non-signing of an arbitration agreement. They can also rescind an agreement 30 days after signing.
We need to educate residents so that they don’t feel forced to make a decision too early and sign away their legal rights to approach a court or opt for other ways to settle a dispute. If they do agree to sign an agreement, residents need to make sure that they don’t agree to clauses that are counterproductive- such as waiving a right to communicate with federal, state, or local officials or health department employees.
Courts Need Valid Arbitration Documents
In a recent case, a North Carolina court denied arbitration to a nursing home accused of causing a patient’s death.
Azalea Health & Rehab Center and its parent company, Saber Healthcare Holdings LLC, were accused of causing the death of William Rogers by providing negligent medical treatment.
According to the court, the home failed to prove that there was an arbitration agreement, because the patient’s daughter, who had power-of-attorney over her father’s health care decisions, said that she had never signed an arbitration agreement. Also, the home waived any right to arbitration by withdrawing a previous arbitration motion.
The attorney for the case said that the case illustrated “the lengths that some companies will go to in an effort to force an unfair arbitration agreement on families.”
Nursing home residents need to be vigilant about nursing homes that act in negligent ways and then try to deny a patient the right to seek proper legal action. This is why residents should be careful about signing any arbitration agreement with a nursing home.
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Don’t Let Nursing Homes Get Away with Negligence
Nursing home residents need legal courses of action available to them because of the increasing levels of abuse and neglect at nursing homes. Even though many families entrust their elderly loved ones to the care of nursing homes, there have been shocking instances of mistreatment, harassment, and even injury at these homes.
Common problems caused by neglect in nursing homes include:
- Emotional abuse
- Medication errors
- Sexual abuse
Elderly people who are abused have a 300% higher risk of death than those who are not. This makes it even more important to protect our elderly populations.
The recent COVID-19 outbreak also highlighted the recklessness of several nursing homes, which did not follow guidelines to help take care of their vulnerable elderly populations. As a result, the death toll at nursing homes due to COVID-19 has been staggeringly high.
How We Can Help
It’s hard to understand the legal challenges and complications associated with nursing homes. You want the best care and treatment for your loved one, and we want to make sure you have the information you need.
Our lawyers have handled many complex nursing home cases. We can offer guidance and legal advice if you suspect any foul play. Reach out to us today for a free case review. We’re available 24/7, and you don’t pay a penny unless we secure compensation on your behalf.