Arbitration Agreements: Nursing Homes May Soon Be Allowed to Force Seniors to Sign


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Rules may soon be overturned that were created to prevent nursing homes from limiting the rights of abuse victims to sue. Our California and Santa Clara County elder abuse lawyers explain.

Nursing home abuse victims can pursue legal remedies with the help of the California and Santa Clara County elder abuse lawyers at Evans Law Firm, Inc. Abuse victims can sustain substantial harm when victimized by caregivers, as seniors who are affected by abuse face high rates of depression and higher mortality rates than seniors with the same age and health status who are not abused.

Unfortunately,
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because nursing home abuse is an epidemic and seniors and their families are often awarded substantial damages for instances of abuse, nursing homes began to take action to curtail abuse claims. Many nursing homes incorporated arbitration clauses in the admission agreements residents or their families had to sign. These arbitration clauses would preclude seniors from taking cases to court.

Arbitration has generally resulted in smaller amounts of compensation being awarded to abuse victims, and in fewer successful abuse claims, according to several studies. In some cases, seniors and their family members who pursue claims for abuse are required to pay a portion of arbitration fees. Together, the limitations imposed by arbitration make it much more difficult for seniors to get justice.

A Rule Aimed at Protecting Seniors May Never Go Into Effect

Because arbitration clauses are often viewed as shielding nursing homes from the consequences of abuse, the Obama Administration passed new rules to aim to stop nursing homes from engaging in the common practice of including these clauses in agreements residents and their families signed upon moving into a care facility.

According to the rules issued last September, Medicare and Medicaid would no longer make payments to nursing homes that mandated forced arbitration clauses for new residents. Because Medicaid and Medicare are primary payers of nursing home care services, nursing home were essentially forced under these rules to abandon the practice of making residents sign arbitration clauses.

The rules promulgated by the Obama Administration have not yet been allowed to take effect, as a judge blocked the rule from going into effect last year. However, when the judge issued the injunction stopping the rule from going into effect, the order issued by the court indicated that while the federal government might not have had the power to issue the rule, the court did believe it was based on sound public policy.

Now, however, a proposed new rule has been put forth to reinstate the ability of nursing homes to receive funds from Medicaid and Medicare, even if they require that seniors sign arbitration clauses and give up their rights to sue for abuse. Because of this change, it is unlikely that nursing homes will be at risk of losing their funding for using arbitration clauses in the future which means more of these clauses may find their way into contracts and prevent seniors from suing when they suffer harm.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ingrid Evans
Attorney Ingrid Evans of the Evans Law Firm, Inc. is a California, San Francisco and Santa Clara County elder abuse attorney who represents seniors who are victimized by financial fraud and nursing home abuse.

Whether or not your admissions contract includes an arbitration clause, our attorneys can help you pursue a claim for compensation for any abuse that has occurred.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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