• Nursing home arbitration clauses can be confusing or even misleading
• Nursing home abuse or neglect can lead to forced arbitration if residents or families don’t fully understand all the paperwork they must sign
• Family members may be able to escape mandatory arbitration in some states and situations
• Personal injury or wrongful death laws may help if arbitration clauses are not enforceable
Searching for a suitable nursing home in Missouri or Illinois can be a stressful situation for family members or friends who want to find the best place for a loved one. Often, families are so overwhelmed by the entire process that they don’t fully comprehend all of the paperwork they are required to sign to settle their loved one in a nursing home. Many may sign a nursing home arbitration agreement without understand exactly what rights they are signing away. This document can force a resident or family members to agree to binding arbitration in the event of nursing home abuse or neglect rather than filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
One debate that is sweeping across the nation with regard to nursing home arbitration clauses is whether the survivors of a deceased nursing home resident can be held to the same requirements as the person who actually signed the agreement. Consent is required when it comes to a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement. Whether a survivor is considered to have given consent based upon the resident’s signing the arbitration clause depends on the specific state involved. Some states view the claims made by an heir as being derivative of any claims that resident would have made before death. In this situation, heirs are viewed to stand “in the shoes” of that deceased family member rather than making their own claims.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it would not take a look at a decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that determined the family members of a deceased nursing home resident could not be forced to arbitrate their claims against the nursing facility involved in the case. The state Supreme Court ruled that the heirs could not be compelled into arbitration because they had not been the ones to sign the actual agreement. The federal court’s decision not to consider the case means that the lower court’s decision will stand.
It can be important for families to remember that they do not have to sign such an arbitration agreement. Declining to sign does not automatically mean a resident will be denied acceptance into the facility. In fact, the American Health Care Association does not support making such an arbitration agreement a condition for a resident to be admitted to a nursing facility. Those who have already signed may be able to opt out thanks to a 30-day “opt-out” clause that many arbitration agreements provide should a resident or family members change their minds after signing.
A nursing home arbitration agreement should not prevent an injured resident or surviving family members from pursuing their rights to the fullest extent of the law. Nursing home abuse or neglect should not be tolerated, and Missouri and Illinois residents may wish to learn more about what rights they have. Please call us today at 1-888-586-7041 to learn more about how we may be able to help you. We have represented injured residents and surviving family members in personal injury and wrongful death claims and we would welcome the chance to help you.
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Sources: http://www.mcknights.com/news/supreme-court-declines-review-of-nursing-home-arbitration-case/article/418281/ and http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/signing-a-mandatory-arbitration-agreement-with-a-nursing-home-can-be-troublesome/2012/09/16/ccf851ba-6a2c-11e1-acc6-32fefc7ccd67_story.html