Most people don’t think they need an attorney to enter a Kentucky nursing home facility. It’s only after signs of abuse appear that legal intervention is needed. Yet, it turns out you may need an attorney before your loved one even sets foot inside a nursing home or long-term care facility.

local Louisville news station recently reported on the tragic case of a woman who lost her mother after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, Parkinson’s wasn’t the only thing impacting the nursing home resident’s health. While in the care of a Louisville nursing home, the woman’s mother suffered a broken shoulder, an injury that would go untreated for nearly one week. At the facility, the resident was also injured multiple times due to at least nine separate falls and suffered frequent urinary tract infections. Malnourishment left the resident 20 pounds lighter as well. These are all classic signs of nursing home neglect.

With evidence in hand, the woman may have been able to file a lawsuit against the nursing home to recover damages and compensation for the years of abuse and neglect. Except, she can’t.

She can’t because of a document the nursing home had her sign. The woman didn’t read the paperwork. She says she felt rushed into signing it with no explanation from the nursing home. She also wasn’t told whether signing it was required for her mother’s admission to the home. The document was a pre-dispute binding arbitration agreement.

A pre-dispute binding arbitration agreement is a legal document. The document mandates that any disputes between residents, family members, and the nursing home will be settled through a process called binding arbitration and are barred from the court system. In binding arbitration, a supposed neutral third party hears from each party involved in a dispute. The third party or arbiter will listen to each side and then render a decision that each party must abide by. By signing an agreement to binding arbitration, you are essentially removing the possibility of ever taking an entity to court and having a judge or jury hear your case. That means you are giving up your ability to file a civil lawsuit.

What does this mean for the woman whose mother suffered neglect at the hands of a Kentucky nursing home? It means that the dispute took place in a private setting. She was never allowed to reveal the name of the nursing home that abused her mother, and the nursing home never had to admit wrongdoing.

As it turns out, several Kentucky nursing homes ask residents or family members to sign pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. Yet, most people do not understand what they are, and the document is never explained in detail. Signing a pre-dispute binding arbitration agreement means you are giving up your right to a trial. These documents are frequently included in the nursing home admissions process but are not required for admission to the facility.

Binding arbitration isn’t always a bad thing. Arbitration is typically faster than the court system. However, arbitration is private and not public, as a court trial would be. Some people feel that this gives nursing homes a pass and allows them to avoid bad reviews. The real heart of the problem is that people don’t know what they are signing. There is a general sense that some nursing homes are not being transparent. At the end of the day, everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to give up their Constitutional right to a trial by jury.

If you want to protect your rights and the rights of your loved one, read all documents given to you by the nursing home before signing anything. Have an experienced attorney review the paperwork and explain what it is you are signing. Abuse and neglect are serious problems in nursing homes, and you may want to preserve your right to seek legal remedies if these things happen to someone close to you.

If you or a family member is being abused or neglected by staff at a Kentucky nursing home, contact the experienced attorneys at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP for help. We can investigate your suspicions and explain your legal rights. We can also answer any questions you may have about pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements and whether you should sign one before entering a facility. Call us today at (859) 550-2900 for a free case evaluation.