It May Become Easier to Sue Negligent Nursing Homes
Currently, it is common for nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities, to require new residents or their loved ones to sign an arbitration agreement when they enter the home. It requires you to go to arbitration instead of suing the nursing home if you have a claim, such as for neglect or abuse. Sometimes the agreements are buried deep in the contract and those signing don’t even notice them. The federal government is considering regulations that would require nursing homes to be clear and up-front about their arbitration agreements and prohibit them from requiring agreement to arbitration as a condition of admission to the facility.
The Problem with Arbitration Agreements
Arbitration can mean getting your money faster, but there are several problems. For one, you’ll probably receive a much smaller award. A study commissioned by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) found that awards are typically 35% less when there is an arbitration agreement. Another study found that the likelihood of getting any award is lower with arbitration.
And, there is the issue of secrecy. One reason for bringing a nursing home abuse claim is to expose the wrongdoing and hopefully prevent it from happening to other vulnerable residents. When you take a nursing home to court it becomes public record. That doesn’t happen when you go to arbitration.
Juries Take Nursing Home Abuse Seriously
Juries do not look favorably on nursing home neglect and abuse. It is human nature to be shocked and outraged when our most vulnerable citizens are treated horribly by the people who are entrusted with their care.
In January 2012, a jury in Florida issued a $200 million verdict for the wrongful death of a nursing home resident. 92-year-old Elvira Nunziata, died after she fell down a flight of stairs while strapped into her wheelchair. She had been missing for an hour before anyone thought to look for her. They found her in an emergency exit stairwell.
In July, 2014, a jury in Massachusetts awarded $14.5 million dollars for the neglect and wrongful death of a nursing home resident in Danvers. She also died after falling. More than $12.5 million of the verdict was for punitive damages.
It is not just the fatal cases that juries take seriously. In 2011, A Kentucky jury awarded $1 million to an injured nursing home resident. Irene Hendrix, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, disappeared while travelling the halls of the nursing home in her Merry Walker. She was found in an equipment storage room where she had fallen and sustained severe injuries including bleeding in her brain and broken bones in her face.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a nursing home negligence lawyer near you.