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Can a wrongful death concern be forced into arbitration?

Most people, if they come into a situation where they are harmed by another individual or agency, are able to use the legal system to try and get justice served on the matter. Unfortunately, large companies like nursing homes often try to force individuals to give up the right to sue and instead sign an arbitration agreement. In the event of a wrongful death in a nursing home, the family of the person may have to enter arbitration, which some experts find usually favors the nursing home. The California attorney general, along with 14 other attorneys general, consumer groups and others have recently come out in support of allowing individuals their right to sue. 

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has announced that they intend to roll back legal protections for individuals in nursing homes. Previous rules maintain that senior care homes receiving federal funding must not force the residents into arbitration agreements. CMS and proponents of the change maintain that this process allows for a speedy and fair resolution of problems without putting an undue burden on care providers. 

The problem is that arbitrators tend to find in favor of the large companies, banks and institutions because the businesses are typically the ones paying for the service, giving them an unfair power advantage. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are in American nursing homes. In 2014, over 33 percent of residents had experienced some type of harm or adverse events. The ability to correct the injustices is an important one in this country. 

It is too early to tell if these changes will come to California. Residents of local nursing homes and their families may wonder what can be done in the event of abuse or wrongful death. A personal injury attorney can offer guidance on a person's individual case through a consultation. 

Source:, "Consumer Confidential: Why Let Nursing Homes Dodge Litigation?", David Lazarus, Sept. 3, 2017

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