It is an overhwelming task for an elderly person or the family of a senior to find a nursing home that is clean, affordable, meets their needs and is accepting patients. By the time a suitable facility is found, the patient or family is so happy to gain admittance that they don’t realize what forms they signed upon admission. Unknowingly, most patients sign arbitration clauses upon signing the admission paperwork. In fact, arbitration agreements have become a main part of Florida nursing home and assisted living facility contracts.
What Are Arbitration Clauses?
An arbitration agreement is a clause that stipulates whatever legal disagreement that occurs between a nursing home resident and the facility will be settled by arbitration instead of through a jury trial or court of law. These agreements protect the nursing home from liability in the case of Florida nursing home abuse, neglect or concerns over care.
What You Should Know About Arbitration Agreements
Most of the time, patients do not know that they signed arbitration agreements upon entering a nursing home or long-term care facility. This is because the packet residents receive upon admission requires them to sign a number of documents. Unfortunately, most seniors do not know what they are signing because employees don’t explain the forms, seniors may suffer from poor eyesight and cannot read the forms, or they are just too weak to care about the forms they are signing. Additionally, the arbitration agreement is not highlighted or bolded for residents to take notice of it. Instead, it is typically a clause inserted into the admission agreement that goes unnoticed.
When something bad occurs like nursing home abuse or wrongful death, residents or their families may try to file a lawsuit against the nursing home. However, they are often surprised when the nursing home shows them a binding arbitration clause that the resident signed—forcing them into arbitration.
Nursing homes want disputes resolved in this manner because it helps them by:
- Saving them money by lower damage awards
- It is faster than litigation
- The arbitration decision is not public record
Although arbitration is supposed to be neutral, many claim that it is not. Arbitrators usually favor nursing homes because they know nursing homes will provide repeat business to arbitrators.
Is an Arbitration Clause Mandatory?
Many nursing homes would like to make you believe arbitration agreements are mandatory to sign upon admission. The truth is that federal law prohibits nursing homes from discharging, transferring or retaliating against a patient who refuses to sign an arbitration agreement. This means that patients and their families can refuse to sign an arbitration agreement in Florida.
As Sarasota nursing home abuse lawyers, we encourage you to read through the admission contract before signing it. Ask the facility to remove the arbitration clause. Remember, if you sign it, it is binding in Florida.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a nursing home, please call the Mallard Law Firm immediately. It is important to note that there are statutes of limitations for bringing forth Florida nursing home abuse lawsuits, which can be as short as two years from the date the resident was admitted. Don’t delay; call a Sarasota nursing home attorney for a free consultation at 888-409-3805.