How Arbitration Agreements are Undermining Justice for Nursing Home Abuse Victims
Nursing home abuse can be a substantial threat to the health and safety of senior citizens. Unfortunately, the elderly are especially vulnerable to being abused. This is true both of seniors who are receiving home care as well as of seniors who are admitted to a nursing home and who live in a residential care setting.
For seniors who are abused in a nursing home environment, the law provides the opportunity for a civil lawsuit to be filed by the victim or his family members. The lawsuit can make it possible to obtain monetary damages for losses.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes are including arbitration agreements in admission contracts, which limit the rights of vulnerable seniors and their families to sue. A lawyer should be consulted in situations where abuse has occurred so the senior or his loved ones can understand options for making a damage claim. An attorney should also be consulted for help before signing nursing home admission paperwork. Zimmer Law Firm is here to help.
How Arbitration Agreements Adversely Affect Nursing Home Abuse Victims
According to the Washington Post, arbitration agreements have become an increasingly common feature of nursing home admissions paperwork. Arbitration agreements mandate that disputes, including claims of abuse, are settled in arbitration rather than in litigation. When an arbitration agreement is legally valid and has been signed as part of a nursing home admission’s contract, a claim of abuse must go to arbitration and the opportunity to file a civil tort lawsuit is lost.
The required arbitration is not good for senior abuse victims. More than 1,449 claims occurring between 2003 and 2011 were reviewed for a recent study which was discussed in the Washington Post. Some of the claims were decided in arbitration and others were not. Of the claims decided outside of arbitration, patients got compensation for allegations of abuse in all but 19 percent of cases. Of the claims resolved in arbitration, however, there was no compensation awarded to victims alleging abuse in 30 percent of cases.
Unfortunately, even in situations where an arbitrator did agree that the alleged abuse victim was entitled to receive monetary compensation for damages and losses, the recovered compensation was typically much lower for claimants in arbitration versus for seniors and their families who pursued abuse claims outside of arbitration. In 12 percent of the cases decided by means other than arbitration, victims and their families got $250,000 or more in compensation. By contrast, only 8.5 percent of victims whose cases ended up being decided in arbitration were awarded this much money.
Not only is there a reduced chance of a senior being appropriately compensated for abuse when a claim is decided in arbitration, but the nursing home abuse victim and his or her family members will also lose some of the money that ends up being recovered. This is because a victim who pursues a claim of abuse in arbitration will have to pay for half of the arbitrator’s fees. The costs of arbitration can be very expensive, especially for seniors on fixed incomes.
Before signing any agreement for yourself or a family member when entering a nursing home, you need to have it reviewed by a nursing home abuse lawyer who can determine if there is an arbitration clause and who can explain to you how your rights will be affected. If you have already signed for yourself or a loved one and abuse subsequently occurred, getting help from an attorney is also important to make sure you do everything you can to try to recover the maximum in compensation in a bad situation.
Getting Help from a Sharonville Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you have signed an arbitration agreement and given up the right to sue for your own nursing home abuse or for the abuse of a family member, a Sharonville nursing home abuse lawyer can help you to determine if there are any grounds on which you could argue the arbitration clause is not valid or should not be upheld.
If your claim does proceed to arbitration, you need an experienced legal professional who understands how the arbitration process works and who can assist you in trying to get the maximum recovery even when an arbitrator is deciding the outcome of your case.
To learn more about how a Sharonville nursing home abuse lawyer can help you, give us a call at 513.721.1513. You can also join us for a free seminar in order to find out more about arbitration clauses, the rights of nursing home residents, and the rights of victims of nursing home abuse. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can assist you.