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Government addresses nursing home arbitration agreements

Many nursing homes in Florida and throughout the country require residents to agree to binding arbitration agreements before they can live in the facility. Because these agreements can hinder a resident's rights to sue the facility, the federal government is considering ways to regulate how the agreements are presented to new residents.

According to a recent report, the pre-dispute arbitration agreements are not explained to residents who unknowingly sign the forms during the admittance process. As a result, nursing home abuse is rarely brought to light because of gag rules associated with the agreements. Moreover, arbitration can be more costly as well as disadvantageous to a plaintiff. In fact, a study conducted in 2009 showed that plaintiffs in complaints against nursing homes were typically awarded 65 percent more in a court case as opposed to arbitration.

While the federal government is taking steps to regulate how nursing homes use arbitration agreements, more than 50 consumer, legal, labor and medical organizations have demanded that the arbitration agreements be banned entirely. In addition, 34 United States senators and attorneys general representing more than a dozen states as well as the District of Columbia are also demanding the government prohibit the pre-dispute arbitration agreements.

However, the American Health Care Association, which represents a large majority of nursing facilities, is against the government's proposed actions. A representative for the association stated that nursing facilities already abide by the proposed changes, although practices may differ among facilities because of state laws.

Families who believe their loved one died because of nursing home neglect or mistreatment might consider retaining the services of an attorney who has experience with these matters. The attorney may be able to help the family seek compensation for their losses such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship and other damages.

Source: NPR, "Suing A Nursing Home Could Get Easier Under Proposed Federal Rules", Ina Jaffe, Oct. 19, 2015

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