Nursing Homes Requiring Families to Sign Arbitration Agreements Before Admittance
Recent news out of Oklahoma shows why having competent legal representation is important if you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one. And, importantly, having such representation before making the choice of which nursing home to go with.
Many of Oklahoma’s 300-plus nursing homes require potential residents to sign arbitration agreements prior to their being admitted to the nursing home. The arbitration agreement means that the family would be bound to arbitration if a disagreement over care arose, which would effectively strip the family’s ability to sue in court. And the damages awarded in arbitration would probably be less than if a civil suit in court were filed.
Arbitration is an alternative form of dispute resolution that takes place outside the courts. While this method has its uses, it can limit the rights of victims of elder abuse.
Other downsides of arbitration in the case of potential nursing home abuse include: enforcing an award to be paid can be more complicated, the proceedings can be made confidential, which allows the nursing home to potentially cover up their wrongdoings, and there are limited avenues for appealing a bad decision, among other negatives.
If you are considering putting a loved one in a nursing home, you should contact a knowledgeable elder abuse or elder law attorney to review any agreements the nursing home might have you sign prior to admittance. Planning ahead of time can help prevent possibly tragic situations of elder abuse; and, you can ensure that if anything does go wrong, you will have legal recourse to seek justice and compensation.
Even if the state prohibits such arbitration agreements, as they do in Oklahoma, nursing homes could argue that such agreements are permissible under federal law. That is the argument the Oklahoma nursing homes have made.
You can read more on this issue in The Norman Transcript.