Nursing Homes Continue To Limit the Legal Rights of Patients and Their Families

A man who signed a long-time friend into a nursing home was shocked to learn that in the volumes of paperwork he signed upon his friend's admission, was an agreement that required the elderly man and his family to take any and all disputes with the facility to a professional arbitrator rather than to court.

Within a few weeks of living at the nursing home staff members dropped the man while using a lift device. An ambulance was called and then canceled as his vital signs stabilized.  Later that night the long-time friend and legal guardian, got a call from the nursing home that his friend was unresponsive. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered extensive bleeding on his brain. He died just days after the fall.

The family of the patient hired a lawyer to look into the circumstances surrounding their father’s death. That was when the legal guardian learned that he had signed an arbitration agreement when the man was admitted. Signing an arbitration agreement means that in the event of a problem that cannot be resolved with facility staff, the patient and their representatives are required to bring the dispute before a professional arbitrator rather than file a lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death.

According to consumer advocates, such arbitrations are generally not in the interest of the patient and the families.  They instead benefit the negligent facility by ensuring that the results will be kept confidential. The awards are often substantially lower in arbitrations than when a lawsuit it filed.

Experts say the best way to avoid binding arbitration agreements is to find a facility that does not require you to sign one. If you have already signed an arbitration agreement, you generally have a small time frame in which you can "opt out." This allows you to retain your rights to file a lawsuit. For more, read the story. For more, read the story.

Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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