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Nursing home neglect claims may soon have to go to arbitration

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is reviewing proposed changes to regulations related to the handling of complaints about nursing homes nationwide, including in Pennsylvania. New regulations may see claims of nursing home neglect or abuse going to arbitration and not to a court. While nursing homes say this will be less time consuming and costly than litigation in a court, victims of neglect may be worse off.

Arbitration is a process involving an arbitrator presiding over a hearing outside of court. The arbitrator must settle disputes and make decisions about awards to plaintiffs, rather than leaving it to a jury to decide. Arbitrated awards are expected to be significantly lower than would be granted by a court. Furthermore, before they are admitted, new patients will be required to sign documents in which they will give up their rights to litigation and submit to arbitration in the event of disputes.

Nursing homes will also have the advantage of choosing the arbitrator and the location to which the nursing home patients will have to travel, regardless of their ability to travel. There will be no requirement for written documents to be issued by arbitrators, limiting the possibility of filing an appeal. The final date on which the decision about the proposed regulations will be announced is unknown.

If these proposed regulations come into effect, patients will be giving up their rights to sue facilities for any type of nursing home neglect and abuse, including wrongful death and sexual abuse. Victims of such circumstances -- or their families -- may be best advised to discuss the matters with a Pennsylvania attorney who is experienced in handling cases of nursing home negligence. A lawyer's knowledge about the laws and regulations will be up to date, and he or she can provide the necessary support and guidance in handling the issue.

Source:, "Forced arbitration agreements could leave nursing home patients without a day in court", Chelsea Copeland, Oct. 10, 2017

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