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Arbitration clauses hide nursing home abuse from public

When a family in North Carolina needs to find a nursing home for an elderly loved one, they may feel compelled to sign away the right to settle disputes within the judicial system. Known as a pre-dispute arbitration clause, this element of an admission contract forces a resident to address disputes, including cases of neglect and abuse, in a private arbitration process geared toward limiting the accountability of the facility and preventing cases from entering the public record.

Disputes with nursing homes often encompass severe claims of negligence and willful misconduct. Problems experienced by abused residents include physical and sexual assaults, suffocation by restraints and renal failure from dehydration. Excessive confinement of residents also inflicts preventable problems like infected pressure sores and muscle and joint pain.

Because the arbitrated results of these severe and sometimes fatal cases leave no judicial record, individuals seeking nursing care for a relative have no means of vetting a facility's record prior to an admission. Administrators pressure people to sign away rights in exchange for granting care to the elderly. The federal government had reduced the ability of nursing homes to impose pre-dispute arbitration clauses. However, the current administration has proposed eliminating legal protection for elderly abuse victims.

A person who discovers that nursing home abuse is harming a relative could obtain advice about how to proceed from a personal injury attorney. The lawyer could review the terms of admission and inform the person of the elder's rights. Medical records detailing the extent of harm and the likely causes could be gathered to supply evidence for a claim for damages.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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