Arbitration Agreements in Maryland Nursing Homes May Allow Facilities to Get Away with Neglect or Abuse During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The decision to place a loved one in a Maryland nursing home is rarely an easy one, and typically occurs when the individual is too elderly or sick to take care of themselves. Often, a family feels as if they have no choice but to place their loved ones in a nursing home to ensure that their loved one is taken care of and looked after. Families are often handed stacks of forms to sign—pages and pages—and will sign them right away, usually without reading them, wanting to ensure their loved one is secure in a safe space. However, a sneaky but potentially important term is often hidden in these forms: an arbitration agreement.

Arbitration agreements can force a resident and their family to resolve any disputes—including abuse and neglect claims—through arbitration, rather than through a lawsuit. By signing these forms, the family essentially waives their right to a jury trial.

These arbitration agreements are especially pernicious during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more and more individuals are being dropped off at nursing homes and rehabilitation centers in need of immediate assistance. Oftentimes, families will sign whatever forms are presented to them in an effort to make sure their loved ones are taken care of immediately. In addition, nursing homes are known hotspots for COVID-19 cases across the country, and COVID-19 related deaths surge within them, raising questions about the homes’ adequacy of care.

Some advocates are worried that these arbitration agreements may effectively allow nursing homes to violate health and safety procedures and neglect their patients without facing any real consequences. This is because arbitration proceedings are confidential and closed to the public, eliminating bad publicity, and are decided by an arbitrator paid by the nursing home—meaning worse outcomes for the residents and better outcomes for the home. While a jury trial can result in significantly large sums granted towards victims of nursing home abuse or neglect, a 2019 analysis from the American Association for Justice found that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to win a monetary award in arbitration.

In fact, the Obama administration banned the use of arbitration agreements in nursing homes in 2016, but the Trump administration overturned that ban last year. One expert on nursing homes summed it up succinctly, saying that the arbitration agreements “are very dangerous documents. It’s almost a license to neglect or abuse, because if they do neglect or abuse, they can’t be sued.”

Do You Have Questions About Your Maryland Nursing Home Agreement?

If you have questions about an agreement you signed with a Maryland nursing home and whether or not it prohibits you from filing a civil lawsuit after a loved one suffers abuse or neglect, contact the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury lawyers, today. Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients against abusive or neglectful nursing homes and can review your agreement with the home and find out if there is a way to hold it accountable. We understand the process can be complicated. Our compassionate attorneys will do everything they can to help you recover. Call today to learn more: 800-654-1949.

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