Last year we discussed a few alarming stories suggesting that various forms of “alternative dispute resolution” (including arbitration) were making their way into hospital admission agreements. What this means is that patients and their families need to be careful about unintentionally giving up their legal rights. In the event of medical malpractice, it is critical for families to have the option of pursuing their rights via the civil justice system.
As mentioned before, arbitration agreements essentially force those who are hurt by the negligence of others (usually big companies or enterprises) to go through a separate process to resolve their dispute. That separate process is slanted greatly against the consumer/patient. Historically, these agreements were never used in the medical context–and it is still somewhat rare. However, as use of arbitration agreements increases significantly in all situations, more and more medical establishments are trying to sneak in these clauses.
The Truth About Forced Arbitration
Recently, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) released a comprehensive new report that sheds light on forced arbitration clauses in all contexts. The analysis discusses how, like various other “tort reform” efforts, the entire purpose of forced arbitration is to prevent companies from being held accountable for their misconduct. The harm to individual patients and manner in which it covers up misconduct is of no consequences.
Virtually all of the benefit of forced arbitration goes to the largest companies in the world. Led by the lobbying efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these entities spend millions working to influence policies for their own benefit–including upholding forced arbitration clauses. In fact many small businesses are also victims of forced arbitration in disputes against bigger companies. All claims that these agreements are to “protect small businesses” or “improve efficiency” are completely disingenuous; the facts do not lie.
The AAJ report notes that, “Forced arbitration is Corporate America’s Trojan Horse – a campaign to eliminate access to the courts and individual rights and replace them with big businesses’ own dispute mill. Though most Americans remain largely unaware of forced arbitration and its effects on their rights, more than half a billion arbitration provisions inﬁtrate our everyday lives.”
Considering the prevalence of use for forced arbitration, many consumers remain completely unaware of the situation. That is exactly how these agreements have proven so successful; consumers do not know about them until it is too late. In the medical context, patients may be bound after signing admission documents. Of course, there is an obvious problem in these cases–patients often have zero options when in need of medical services. There is nothing “voluntary” about signing away rights to a hospital at the exact moment that you need medical care. For that reason, arbitration agreements are still not prevalent in this setting, but that is slowly changing.
Med Mal Attorney
Have you or a loved one been hurt by medical malpractice? Consider contacting our legal team to see how we can help. We work with residents in Chicago and throughout Illinois, ensuring you receive redress and accountability following preventable injury.
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