When you visit a new physician or admit your aging parent to a nursing home, you are asked to fill out many different forms. One of these papers is typically an arbitration agreement. Among the bundle of paperwork, it may go unnoticed.
Unnoticed, that is, until a serious problem arises such as medical malpractice or nursing home abuse. At that point, whether or not you signed the agreement will play a critical role in what happens next.
So what are the pros and cons of signing?
According to an article in the LA Times, arbitration agreements have both pros and cons. One potential benefit is that the arbitration process allows patients to preserve more of their privacy, since a court reporter is not involved. Another benefit is that the process is typically faster, allowing patients to resolve disputes without the need for a lengthy trial.
In our opinion, however, the disadvantages of arbitration far outweigh the benefits. Here are a few reasons to put down the pen and refuse to sign such an agreement when it's offered:
- You give up the right to a jury trial. By signing, you are agreeing to give up your legal right to have a jury and judge hear your case. Instead, you're leaving the outcome entirely up to the appointed arbitrators.
- You give up the right to have a lawyer fight for you. You won't be able to have an experienced attorney prepare your case and argue for your rights if you sign the agreement. You won't have a dedicated advocate on your side who is looking out for your interests alone.
- You may receive less money. The executive director of the nonprofit Center for Health Care Rights in Los Angeles, Peter Lee, points out that several studies reveal that injury victims are more likely to receive less compensation through arbitration than through trial.
- You may encounter biased opinions. Sometimes the attorneys working for the hospital, doctor or nursing home have long-established relationships with local arbitrators. This can potentially skew the decision in favor of the medical provider.
Remember that in Ohio, you have the right to refuse to sign an arbitration agreement. To learn more about your rights under the law, contact a lawyer skilled in medical malpractice cases, nursing home neglect and related personal injury matters.