With increasing frequency, arbitration agreements are becoming standard components of nursing home admission paperwork. Unfortunately, the average person isn’t very familiar with the arbitration process. Consequently, arbitration agreements are often presented to residents and their families in such a way that it makes it difficult for them to make an informed decision. To help you determine the best course of action for your family, consider the following information about arbitration.
You Waive Your Right to a Jury Trial
The most important thing to know about arbitration agreements is that when you agree to submit all disputes to binding arbitration, you waive your right to a jury trial. The implications of waiving a jury trial are vast. There is a reason that the jury is the hallmark of the American justice system. Legal experts agree that the jury is the fairest way to resolve criminal and civil cases. Juries protect litigants from potential bias and ensure objectivity. Arbitration, though, does not provide the same protections that a jury trial does.
In arbitration, the parties are not afforded the opportunity to be heard by a jury of their peers; rather, they are subject to the opinions and beliefs of the paid individual or individuals chosen to arbitrate their case. Unfortunately, arbitrators have not always proven to be as disinterested and impartial as justice would require. There are several instances where arbitrators were found to be biased, interested in the outcome, and even corrupt. Deciding to forego a jury trial and agreeing to send your case to arbitration is not a decision that should be made casually. Take the time to really consider what you would be giving up.
You Waive Your Right to an Appeal
Arbitration is final and binding. This means that you cannot have the arbitrator’s decision appealed. In a jury trial, however, if errors were made, you can typically always appeal to have the decision overturned. This is one of the most significant disadvantages of arbitration.
Narrow Discovery Process
Discovery is the process through which a party to a lawsuit obtains the information that he or she will use at trial to prove his or her case. Some of the tools utilized during the discovery process include: interrogatories, document requests, and depositions. Discovery is especially important for plaintiffs, as the plaintiff is the party who bears the burden of proof. In a normal case set to be heard by a jury, the discovery process is long, and allows the parties to fully investigate the information known by the other. In arbitration, though, the process is much more limited. Parties are often restricted to one or two depositions each and lack the power to make witnesses show up. This truncated discovery process can be extremely detrimental to a plaintiff’s case at arbitration.
Arbitration Can be Expensive
While typically touted as a cheaper alternative to trial, in reality, arbitration can easily wind up costing more. Taking into consideration the initial filing fee, along with the separate costs to have the arbitrator rule on a motion or attend a conference, the total fee can end up costing thousands more than litigation. It’s important to know the financial breakdown and the allocation of costs before signing an arbitration agreement.
Caps on Awards
Arbitration awards tend to be lower than verdicts awarded by juries. This is partially due to the fact that punitive damages are rarely awarded in arbitration, and partially because arbitration agreements frequently contain clauses that cap damages at a certain value.
Arbitration is an unfamiliar process for most people, which is a disadvantage in and of itself. Navigating unfamiliar waters takes time, and considering the shortened discovery process in arbitration, time is of the essence.
Approach the decision to sign an arbitration agreement deliberately. Take the time to weigh all of the pros and cons before you sign away any of your rights. If you need help deciding how to proceed with your nursing home abuse or neglect claim, contact a Tennessee nursing home abuse attorney today. The experienced lawyers at The Higgins Firm are here to assist you.