The Health and Human Services Department, a federal agency tasked with protecting the health of all Americans, recently issued a rule that is designed to better ensure nursing homes are held accountable for instances of nursing home abuse.
Aren't nursing homes already held accountable if their residents are victims of abuse? Unfortunately, this answer is a bit complicated. Many nursing home facilities currently require residents agree to an arbitration clause prior to receiving approval for admittance into their facility. These provisions generally require that any allegations, like those of abuse, be taken to an arbitrator for resolution.
Doesn't arbitration work for nursing home abuse cases? Although arbitration can be a very useful legal tool, it is not right for every situation. A recent piece in the New York Times discussed both arbitration and this new rule, noting that arbitration in these situations has often resulted in the nursing facility having an upper hand in cases of nursing abuse.
How will this rule change things? This rule, set to go into effect in November, is designed to better ensure that nursing home abuse cases go to court, not to arbitration. This would allow for two potential benefits:
- Justice. Victims and their family members would be able to hold their abusers and the facility that was supposed to protect them accountable for their actions in court.
- Awareness. The victims would also be able to bring these instances out to the public. Instances where a facility failed to protect their residents could be shared with the public. This could encourage facilities to provide safer accommodations while also allowing for the public to make a more informed decision on the nursing homes they choose in the future.
The piece in the Times was also careful to note that the rule could face a court challenge. Although it appears the rule will go into effect shortly, the rule could change if challenged.
What about those who are already victims of nursing home abuse? Those who are victims, or loved ones who believe their family members are victims of abuse, have options. One option is to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney. This legal professional can review the details of your case and help you determine the best path towards justice.