Iowa Nursing Home Neglect Cases Cut Short By Forced Arbitration

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Posted by Pressley Henningsen

Image of an old woman crying in a nursing home

The search for a nursing home you can trust often includes paperwork that can take away your right to fight for justice in a nursing home neglect case.  This happens by forcing you into arbitration.

Choosing a Nursing Home is a Tough Decision

When you visit a nursing home in search of a place for a beloved family member, you look for a place you can trust.  You may feel guilty because you cannot take care of your loved one, but they need constant supervision.  You cannot provide this supervision because you have a job, a family, and other responsibilities.  The nursing home you choose assures you they can and will take care of your family member.  It is a difficult but necessary step when you can’t provide 24-hour care at home.

Take Time to Review Nursing Home Admission Agreements

The paperwork signing starts.  There is no real reading of this paperwork, just signing and initialing the various pages.  What would take most of a day to review closely is something that you sign in a matter of minutes.  Your loved one is now under the care and supervision of the nursing home.  You hope they will be okay.

But what if they aren’t okay?  What if you see signs of neglect or harm to your family member?

Unfortunately, in signing those papers, you no longer can hold the nursing home fully accountable for their negligence.  What you didn’t know about signing those papers was you are forced into arbitration instead of a jury trial if you bring a lawsuit against the nursing home.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration means you give up your right to go to court if a nursing home harms your family member.  Even if your loved one has suffered horrible injuries or has died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you cannot go to court for compensation.  It is a private matter, held outside of the courtroom.  There is no judge, jury, or right to an appeal.  Because you signed that paperwork, the only way to get justice is through forced arbitration.

Nursing homes often place this in the documents they ask you to sign.  Although you may not have known, when you signed that paperwork, you were signing away one of your most important civil rights.  Even worse, the courts have ruled that arbitration agreements will be enforced, even if you were unaware of what you were signing, because the documents are considered legally binding.

Forced Arbitration is Common in Iowa Nursing Homes

Many studies have shown that arbitration awards are often less than a jury verdict would have been. Nursing homes are using arbitration clauses so they’ll have to pay out less in lawsuits.  Because this is becoming so common, it gives them protection when they are negligent.  That could mean less compensation for you and your family if you sue.  And you’ll never know it, because most nursing homes don’t point out that particular clause in their paperwork.

Binding arbitration may have its place among equally matched corporations who knowingly agree to it up front.  When choosing a nursing home for your loved one, you are making one of the most emotionally difficult choices of your life.  You want to be protected in case you have chosen the wrong care facility.  The nursing homes’ efforts to sweep future negligence under the rug are shady and should be stopped.  It is your right to take a negligent nursing home to a jury trial for their mistakes.

What You Can Do to Avoid Arbitration

  • Have a lawyer review each document – Before you sign nursing home admission documents, make sure an experienced attorney reviews all of the paperwork. This will help protect you and your loved one’s rights in case you ever need to file a lawsuit.
  • Refuse forced arbitration – Tell them no. Cross it out on the contract you’re signing.  Refuse to sign altogether.  Make them aware you are doing everything you can to refuse forced arbitration for nursing home neglect.  If they refuse to accept your terms, find a different home for your loved one.  Those who try to hide from accountability cannot be trusted.

If you need help with a nursing home agreement, or nursing home abuse and neglect, contact RSH Legal or read more in our guide.

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