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Will the Federal Government Change the Rules for Nursing Home Injury and Death Cases?

Should the federal government regulate the use of arbitration to resolve nursing home disputes?Nursing homes require prospective residents or their families to sign lots of papers before a person is admitted as a resident. The papers outline the costs of the nursing home stay and many other specific provisions—including what will happen if the resident is injured or killed.

Currently, most nursing home contracts include mandatory arbitration clauses that require the resident or her survivors to go to arbitration rather than court if a personal injury or wrongful death is alleged. Many families feel deceived because they either did not see the nursing home mandatory arbitration clause when they signed the papers or because they did not realize that arbitration may:

  • Be costly. Arbitrators need to be paid by the parties—unlike a judge, who is paid with tax dollars.
  • Deprive the family their day in court. Arbitration agreements may be binding and there may be no right to appeal.
  • Fail to bring publicity to the problem of nursing home abuse and neglect. Arbitration agreements are often confidential.

Thus, arbitration may leave some injured nursing home residents or their survivors feeling as if justice was not served.

That Could Change

Last month, Iowa Public Radio reported that more than 50 organizations and dozens of United States senators and state attorneys general from 15 states have asked that these type of binding nursing home arbitration clauses be banned. The federal government is now considering regulating the way nursing homes present arbitration agreements when a person is admitted to a facility. Specifically, the proposed federal regulation would require nursing homes to explain arbitration agreements prior to the resident or family members signing admission papers, and it would forbid nursing homes from making arbitration a prerequisite for nursing home admission.

What do you think of the proposed regulation? Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on this important topic.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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