Understanding arbitration agreements for medical care

If your spouse suffers a sudden stroke or heart attack, you may not read every document you have to sign when admitting him to the hospital. You just want to make sure your spouse is OK and gets the treatment he needs. If your elderly mom breaks her hip and needs to enter a nursing home as soon as possible, you also may have a difficult time reading through all the paperwork. Yet more than likely, if you don’t pay careful attention, you could sign a binding arbitration agreement and that could cause problems down the road.

Arbitration agreements

Arbitration agreements often are slipped in with administrative paperwork in hospitals and nursing homes. By signing a binding arbitration agreement, you agree to allow any dispute you face with a hospital or nursing home to head to arbitration, instead of suing over negligent care. Yet what healthcare providers often neglect to tell patients and family members is that if you don’t sign an arbitration agreement, you still can receive care.

Disadvantages of arbitration agreements

Some of the disadvantages of signing an arbitration agreement include:

1.       The hospital or nursing home may choose the arbitrator, someone whom they like and feel may rule in their favor. This puts the patient in a disadvantage.

2.       When an arbitrator makes a ruling, you can’t appeal it. You can’t dispute the arbitrator’s decision.

3.       An arbitrator isn’t bound by legal precedent. This gives an arbitrator more leeway in making decisions, but also makes a decision more unpredictable. You may not anticipate having an arbitrator rule against your position.

4.       The hospital or nursing home you face a dispute with likely has drafted the terms and conditions of the arbitration, which are more likely to be in their favor.

Also, an issue is what qualifies as a dispute. An arbitration agreement may consider the following a dispute you and your loved one can’t file a suit over:

·       Receiving the wrong medication or wrong dosage of medication

·       Developing bedsores or pressure ulcers from neglect

·       Suffering an injury, such as falls or broken bones, that resulted from neglect

·       Being physically abused or assaulted by a staff member or fellow patient or resident

When you face a medical or healthcare dispute, you most likely want to ensure you protect your rights and best interests. Not signing a binding arbitration agreement is part of that. So is consulting with an attorney if you believe you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect or medical malpractice. Sometimes, you do need to hold healthcare providers accountable for negligent care.