Arbitration clauses are very popular in the nursing home industry. Arbitration is a way to resolve a legal dispute without using the court system. Generally, arbitration is quicker and less expensive than a traditional lawsuit. At first glance, this may seem like a good alternative for many Maryland nursing home residents who want to bring a case against a negligent or abusive nursing home employee. However, arbitration typically favors the nursing home and should be avoided whenever possible.
Often, the paperwork presented to a prospective resident or the loved one in charge of their care contains an arbitration clause. These clauses essentially waive a resident’s right to pursue a case against the nursing home in court for any claim brought against the nursing home. However, nursing home residents are not provided anything waiving this right, and should carefully consider whether it is a right they want to waive.
Arbitration involves an independent arbitrator who hears the claim and renders a decision. The arbitrator that will hear the case is determined by the nursing home, and is typically included in the arbitration clause. Arbitration hearings often have strict time frames and relaxed rules of evidence, allowing savvy nursing homes who are familiar with the process and its rules to effectively defend against cases brought by residents. In a way, this gives nursing homes the “home-field advantage.”
One of the biggest problems with arbitration proceedings is that the decision rendered by the arbitrator is usually not appealable. Thus, once a decision is made, the nursing home resident is stuck with that decision and cannot appeal to a higher court. In addition, nursing home arbitration proceedings are confidential, meaning nursing homes have no fear of horrible allegations becoming public. This can give nursing homes another advantage when negotiating settlement offers.
It is important for Maryland nursing home residents to understand that, if valid, an agreement to arbitrate a claim is enforceable. However, given the advantages that arbitration presents to nursing homes, courts have shown a willingness to carefully review arbitration contracts to ensure that they are fair, and that the parties to the agreement knew what they were getting when they signed the contract. Thus, not all nursing home arbitration contracts are enforceable, even if they were properly executed by a resident of a loved one with power of attorney.
Contact an Experienced Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been the victim of Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect, and are considering filing a case against the facility, do not let an agreement to arbitrate stand in your way. At the Maryland personal injury law firm, Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have decades of experience bringing cases against negligent and abusive nursing home employees, as well as the management that allows the conduct to occur. To learn more about how we can help you bring a claim against the facility responsible for your loved one’s injuries, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today. Because we work on a contingency basis, we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you obtain financial compensation.