Nursing home residents fight for right to take abusers to court

Nursing home residents that are victims of abuse may not get their day in court.

Finding a good nursing home is not always an easy task. Recommendations and Internet searches can help, but even the best facilities may have employees that fail to provide an acceptable level of care. If residents are victims of abuse or neglect, it makes sense that they should be able to hold the responsible party accountable in court. Yet many residents do not have this basic right.

How have nursing residents lost the right to hold abusers accountable in court?

Unfortunately, many residents are pressured into agreeing to terms on an application form to a nursing home that they either do not understand or feel unable to fight. One such term is referred to as a pre-dispute binding arbitration agreement.

What is a pre-dispute binding arbitration agreement?

This legal term basically means that a provision is present within the application that requires the resident to hold an abuser accountable for illegal action, like abuse or neglect, through arbitration. The arbitration process is private and does not use the courts. Instead, it essentially uses a third party that reviews the facts of the case and comes up with a decision.

Critics of this system argue that it favors nursing homes. Proponents state that it allows nursing homes to keep costs low. When these terms are present, the nursing facility is often able to cut down on costs, as arbitration is generally faster and cheaper than traditional litigation.

Will the pre-dispute binding arbitration provisions remain part of nursing home contracts?

Attorney Generals from the District of Columbia and 16 states, including Pennsylvania, have come together to encourage the Trump administration to protect the rights of nursing home residents. As noted in a recent article by The Hill, this group sent comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) in opposition to the agency's move to allow inclusion of these provisions within applications for admittance to nursing home facilities.

The group clarifies that the use of arbitration is fine, as long as it is agreed to at the time the dispute arises - not before the resident is even admitted to the facility.

What about victims of nursing home abuse?

Even if these terms are present, victims of nursing home abuse and neglect have options. It is wise to seek the legal counsel of an experienced attorney. Your lawyer can review the details of your case, including a review of the accident and the contract, and guide you through the process. This professional will advocate for your interests, working to better ensure you receive any legal remedies that are available.