Beware of Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on January 31, 2020 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 25, 2024

elderly woman signing papersMany long-term care facilities include an arbitration clause in the contracts that must be signed by new residents and/or their loved ones. Although it may sound harmless, if you sign this agreement, you could be signing away important legal rights, such as the ability to pursue a civil lawsuit if your loved one is abused or neglected and suffers injuries.

PKSD Law explains what an arbitration clause is and what you should be on the alert for when reviewing a long-term care contract.

If someone you love is a nursing home resident and was injured because of another’s neglect or abusive behavior, contact our office today to request a free legal consultation with one of our nursing home abuse attorneys. If you have a case and we represent you, there are no upfront costs to worry about. We charge you nothing unless we are successful in obtaining compensation.

What Is a Nursing Home Arbitration Clause?

Nursing home facilities across the country have arbitration clauses in their admissions contracts. These clauses are often full of confusing language and purposely hidden amongst many other pages your loved one is given to read and sign to gain entry as a resident.

Typically, an arbitration clause states that if an issue arises between the patient and the facility, a third party, called an arbitrator, will be used to settle the dispute outside of court. When you sign an arbitration clause, you agree to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator.

To be clear, arbitration is not court. There is no jury and the person who decides the outcome of your dispute is not a judge. Unlike court verdicts, an arbitration decision is binding, so you cannot appeal it. It is rare for a nursing home to include an arbitration clause that is non-binding. However, if the clause is a non-binding agreement, either party could elect to ignore the decision of the arbitrator.

Pros and Cons of an Arbitration Clause

Arbitration may offer some benefits. For example, it is easier and more efficient to resolve a dispute in this way. Additionally, it reduces the number of frivolous lawsuits against nursing homes, which in turn may reduce the cost of care for residents. In a minor dispute, assuming your loved one suffered no physical or emotional harm, it could be a good way to quickly resolve an issue.

There are, however, critical drawbacks to signing this type of agreement, especially if the arbitration clause is binding:

  • The arbitration process, though faster, may cost you more because the fees and other expenses are split evenly between the parties.
  • Arbitration hearings are private, so there is no public record of the accusations or complaints.
  • The nursing home is under no obligation to report an arbitrated dispute, even if there was abuse or serious neglect involved.
  • Potentially, a perpetrator may continue committing acts of abuse or neglect at the same or other nursing homes, because there will be no public record of what happened.

Are You Signing Away Your Legal Right to Pursue a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?

If you sign an arbitration clause, you are agreeing to settle any disputes through arbitration. This means you accept the decision of the third-party arbitrator and you cannot pursue a civil lawsuit against the nursing home, even in cases of elder abuse.

Do You Have to Sign an Arbitration Clause to be Accepted in a Long-Term Care Facility?

You do not have to sign an arbitration clause for a nursing home to accept you. In fact, it is illegal for a nursing home to make it mandatory, or even tell you that it is required.

Before you sign any nursing home contract, ask if the nursing home has an arbitration clause, and if they do, simply ask for it to be removed.

How An Experienced Attorney May be Able to Help

If you already signed an arbitration clause, you may still be able to opt out if you are in the first 30 days of the contract. However, if you already signed the arbitration clause and have passed the 30 day wait period, you may have options if the circumstances are especially egregious, such as in a wrongful death. Under these circumstances, an attorney may be able to help you overcome the arbitration agreement.  

In other situations, where a person did not fully understand the content of the agreement, a federal court may rule that the arbitration clause is invalid. One of our Wisconsin nursing home abuse attorneys may be able to challenge your arbitration clause in an attempt to allow you to pursue a lawsuit against the facility.

Contact One of Our Wisconsin Lawyers Today

If a loved one was neglected or abused while living in a nursing home, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for their medical bills and pain and suffering. Our attorneys help victims and their families pursue justice, and we are committed to holding abusers accountable while pursuing maximum compensation.

Call 414-333-3333 or complete our online case review form

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