Admitting yourself or a loved one to a nursing home or residential care facility can be a daunting process. You are often required to sign dozens of forms, and it may be difficult to understand exactly what you are signing when you are in one of the most hectic and stressful situations in your life.
Recently, more and more nursing homes and care facilities are slipping arbitration agreements into the stack of paperwork for you to sign upon admission. Although they may tell you that these agreements are “voluntary,” people often feel pressured to sign to make sure that they or their loved ones make it into the facility for necessary care without hassle, even though you may not completely understand the effects of signing a document filled with legal jargon. It is important that you refrain from signing these agreements and to get in touch with a Los Angeles elder abuse attorney if you need help.
What Are Arbitration Agreements?
Arbitration agreements are drafted by the nursing home’s lawyers with language that favors themselves. When you sign an arbitration agreement, you are signing away your constitutional right to bring a dispute, including an elder abuse and neglect claim, to be heard in court in front of a judge and a jury of your peers. Instead, you are agreeing to bring the dispute to an arbitrator, who is a private, independent person appointed to settle the matter.
Nursing homes and care facilities will tell you that arbitration is cheaper, faster, and more efficient than bringing a potential claim to a court of law. This is simply false, and an elder abuse attorney in Los Angeles may help if you are faced with signing, or have already signed, an arbitration agreement.
The Truth Behind Arbitration
- Arbitration can be more expensive
While judges are paid by the government, arbitrators are private individuals who are paid by you and the nursing home. Arbitration can add tens of thousands of dollars to the costs of your claim. Additionally, while you have a right to be potentially reimbursed for your costs under an elder abuse and neglect claim in a court of law, an arbitrator may decide differently in arbitration.
Very few people are able to afford private arbitration, yet the nursing home’s costs are paid by its insurance company. Nursing home residents who are abused and neglected should not be forced to pay such high costs.
- Arbitration can take longer
In a court of law, you or your loved one may be entitled to have your claim expedited. If a nursing home resident is very elderly, unwell, or dying, the court may accelerate the process to afford a quicker resolution.
In arbitration, on the other hand, you are not entitled to an accelerated hearing, and nursing homes and care facilities can drag on the process until the elder dies. It may be many months or even years before an arbitration is settled.
- Arbitration is unfair
When you bring an elder abuse and neglect claim in court, a judge and a jury of your peers decide the outcome of your case. Judges are paid by the government and are randomly assigned a given case. Jurors are randomly selected from the community and may only ever serve on a jury one time.
Even though a nursing home might say that arbitrators are “neutral,” the reality is that they are not. Victims of abuse or neglect may only ever bring a claim one time, but nursing homes and care facilities often have many claims brought against them. Arbitrators notice this and understand that in order to receive repeat business from nursing homes and their insurance companies, they will not award high money damages, including punitive damages, against them. This fact effectively turns arbitration against you even before you ever bring a genuine claim. And because of the language often included in these agreements, arbitration decisions are usually final and cannot be appealed.
You should not be forced to give up your constitutional right to a trial by jury in a court of law. It is important to know that it is illegal for a nursing home or care facility to require you to sign an arbitration agreement in order to be admitted to or continue to stay in a facility. (Title 22 California Code of Regulations §73518.) Contact a Los Angeles elder abuse lawyer if you need additional help.
Contact An Elder Abuse Attorney Today
The Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi exclusively represent victims of elder abuse and can help you if you or a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home or care facility. Our Los Angeles elder abuse attorneys have extensive experience fighting forced arbitration, even where an arbitration agreement has been signed. To learn more, contact us online or at (310) 623-1926.