When moving into nursing homes or assisted living facilities, older people and their families expect professional and adequate care. They trust that caregivers will protect their physical and mental health from deteriorating conditions. Sending their loved ones into a nursing home or assisted living facility was a difficult decision in the first place. Now, they expect their loved ones will get the proper care.
In most cases, nursing homes and assisted living facilities meet those expectations. Their patients usually experience a positive environment. Older people typically benefit from the professional and compassionate treatment of their caregivers.
Sometimes, however, older people are harmed physically and/or psychologically by negligent or even intentional acts on the part of the nursing staff.
Nursing home and assisted living facility claims, in such cases, typically result from negligent personal supervision and care, poorly qualified and trained staff, or negligent maintenance of premises.
Personal injuries that arise from nursing homes or assisted living facilities oftentimes result in legal claims. Typical ways of resolving nursing home or assisted living facility claims are through court litigation or alternative dispute resolution procedures, such as mediation and arbitration.
Mediation is an effective and mutually beneficial procedure of settling nursing home claims. Compared to litigation, which often takes years, mediation enables the parties to resolve their conflict in a much shorter time. Getting a trial date takes a long time, while mediation can usually be promptly scheduled and completed on the scheduled day.
In addition, the expense of court litigation is much higher than mediation. In litigation, there are filing fees, discovery expenses, expert travel and testimony costs, and other unspecified expenses. Mediation does not involve such a financial burden on the parties.
Mediation is also less stressful. Older people are more vulnerable, and nobody wants to expose them to additional stress inherent in court/trial proceedings. The mediation procedure takes place in a relaxed and non-adversarial atmosphere.
As an informal and confidential process, mediation enables the parties to present their claims to a neutral third person. The mediator is chosen voluntarily by the parties by signing the mediation or engagement agreement. The mediator is usually a retired judge or an attorney experienced in nursing home and assisted living facility claims. The confidential mediation process enables the parties to open up and discuss the most sensitive and personal issues inherent in nursing home or assisted living facility claims.
Through a series of brief conferences separately with each side, the parties to a nursing home or assisted living facility claim can present their respective positions regarding the claim. That enables the mediator to assess the possibility of settling and then hold sessions attempting to find common ground that will hopefully lead to an agreement. Such an agreement, when signed, is binding on both the nursing home or assisted living facility and the harmed patient.
Arbitration is another alternative dispute resolution method which is effective in resolving nursing home claims.
Unlike court litigation, there is no jury in arbitration. The injured party, through his/her attorney, presents nursing home or assisted living facility claims to an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who are generally retired judges or experienced attorneys.
Oftentimes, a nursing home or assisted living facility patient, or their family, sign an initial agreement with the nursing home or assisted living facility agreeing to arbitration to resolve any disputes or claims against the nursing home or assisted living facility, whereby the patient gives up their right to a jury trial. The arbitration ruling is generally binding and enforceable in the same way as court judgments. If, on the other hand, the arbitration is not binding, one or both of the parties can reject the arbitrator(s) decision/award and demand a trial – after receiving the arbitrator(s)’s decision/award.
Additionally, arbitration is less formal than litigation. There are generally relaxed rules of evidence in an arbitration. That enables the parties to a nursing home or assisted living facility claim to resolve the claim in a more timely and cost-effective manner.
Mediation and arbitration are generally informal, confidential, and far less expensive than litigation. For those reasons, mediation and arbitration are invaluable methods for resolving nursing home and/or assisted living facility claims.