SHOULD I SIGN AN ARBITRATION AGREEMENT?
No, you should not sign an arbitration agreement with any health care provider. It is becoming more routine practice for health care providers to ask patients to sign an arbitration agreement before receiving medical care. Often times the medical care provider buries the agreement in a large stack of documents they ask you to sign. Patients do not even realize what they are signing. It is particularly troubling when nursing homes have included these in the fine print of admission packets. Loved ones often do not even realize they are contained within the admission agreement. By signing the arbitration agreement you are waiving your right to a jury trial in the event that they cause harm to you or your loved one. There is no legitimate reason for a health care provider to want you to sign such an agreement. Health care providers do this because their lawyers have taught them that arbitration is often more favorable for them than a jury trial for resolving potential disputes. Their arbitration agreements often include a clause that force you to use an arbiter from their list of approved arbiters. Do you really think a medical provider is going to pick an arbiter who is not going to be favorable to them?
You do not have to sign an arbitration agreement to seek medical care. If your doctor, nursing home or hospital insists on you signing an agreement it is not a good sign. Choosing an alternative care provider would be wise. In an emergent situation they cannot refuse care based on your decision not to sign the arbitration agreement. Ohio Revised Code 2711.23(A) provides that a medical provider cannot refuse to treat if you do not sign the arbitration agreement.
Generally arbitration is not as favorable for patients as a jury trial. In most cases, an arbitration proceeding functions very much like court. There is, however, no guarantee the arbiter can consistently adhere to the rules of evidence and procedure that help ensure the hearings on the ultimate issue are fair. There is also no guarantee the arbiter will be impartial. Arbitration is generally not held in a public forum. It allows negligent medical providers to sweep their mistakes under the rug and keep them out of an open courtroom. For these reasons, among others, The O’Keefe Firm generally advises clients to not sign arbitration agreements.
WHAT IF I HAVE ALREADY SIGNED AN ARBITRATION AGREEMENT?
If you have already signed an arbitration agreement it may not be too late to invalidate the agreement. Ohio Revised code Chapter 2711 contains Ohio’s arbitration laws. Ohio Revised Code 2711.22 provides that once the contract is signed by all parties the patient or the patient’s legal representative have 30 days to provide written notice to rescind the arbitration agreement.
IF I HAVE SIGNED THE ARBITRATION AGREEMENT AND IT IS BEYOND THE 30 DAYS AM I STUCK WITH THE AGREEMENT?
Not necessarily. In Ohio Revised Code 2711.23 there are multiple requirements that may invalidate the arbitration agreement. For example, if you signed the arbitration agreement when your medical condition prevented you from making a rational decision as to the agreement, or if the arbitration agreement fails to separately give you notice of your right to cancel. Ohio Revised Code 2711.24 has specific language that they must include in the arbitration agreement and failure to do so would make it void.
If you have any questions regarding an arbitration agreement or medical negligence please feel free to contact a professional medical negligence and personal injury lawyer anytime at 937-643-0600. Remember to trust your instincts. If you believe something is not right I can help get you the answers you deserve.
WHAT DOES THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE SAY ABOUT ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS?
The American Association for Justice is urging lawmakers to take action and reverse the laws that allow these harmful arbitration clauses. They recently wrote that “Forced arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts must be banned in order to restore the rights of residents and their families.” They are trying to discuss the matter with Medicare and it appears that Medicare is on the verge of banning such agreements from all hospitals and nursing homes that accept federal funding. This would be a big help to families who have been harmed by medical or nursing home negligence.
I think the Association quote about the need for this change summarizes the problem perfectly. “During the incredibly stressful nursing home admissions process, many nursing home corporations push residents and their families into signing away their right to go to court – even in instances when residents suffer severe neglect, serious injuries, death or sexual and physical abuse.” At The O’Keefe Firm, we think arbitration agreements are a serious problem and will be happy to review your case to help you understand the implications on you and your family. Call us at 937-643-0600 for a free consultation.