Avoiding Potential Pitfalls in Nursing Home Admissions Paperwork
The decision to admit yourself or a vulnerable loved one to a nursing home, residential care center or assisted living facility is a difficult one. Admission may be precipitated by a sudden downturn in health, the loss of a trusted at-home caregiver or other emotion-laden situations. Nursing home admissions come not only with a multitude of stresses to be felt and decisions to be made; they also come with a lot of paperwork.
Hidden deep within admission forms is likely to be a provision binding the resident and his or her family to arbitration in the event of a dispute involving the quality of care received or the terms of payments made to the facility. By signing a contract with an arbitration agreement, you are waiving your right to a trial in a court of law. In practical terms, this means that if a dispute arises - say one involving abuse or neglect on the part of the nursing home that costs a vulnerable resident his or her life - the remaining family members find themselves forced to find a resolution in front of a single arbitrator instead of a jury of their peers.
Costs associated with arbitration often greatly exceed the costs necessary to file a lawsuit in a court of law. Many arbitration agreements call for a claimant to contribute a substantial portion of money before the arbitration process begins. This sum is usually much greater than the filing fee required by public courts. Very often, the fee schedule for arbitration is directly related to the amount of damages claimed. In other words, the greater the alleged injury, the more expensive the arbitration.
Though arbitration provisions have become more fair and balanced to consider the rights of all parties involved in recent years, they are still seen by many as unfair, archaic and unduly restrictive. The fact that the circumstances of a loved one’s injury or death cannot be demonstrated to a jury is lamented by plaintiff’s attorneys and advocates for the elderly around the country. The seeming secrecy offered by the arbitration process is another point of contention - arbitration proceedings are held in private, presided over by an attorney acting as an arbitrator, with no chance for the public airing of grievances that comes with a trial.
Consider Hiring An Experienced Lawyer To Help
If you are considering nursing home admission for yourself or a loved one in need of special care, do your homework before signing a contract that could impact your legal rights.
It is important that you read all documents very carefully and ask questions about provisions that give you pause.
You should also seriously consider seeking the counsel of an experienced elder law attorney in your area before signing a binding legal contract, particularly when you could possibly be giving up valuable legal rights in the process.