Beware of Hidden Terms in Virginia Nursing Home Contracts

Do you know what your cell phone contract says?

Or did you just hit the button that says agree?

I have no idea what mine says. Admittedly I skimmed it. I didn’t read every word and I frankly don’t care what it says. I want the use of the phone.

But some commercial contracts actually matter and should be understood before pen is applied to paper.

One such contract is a an agreement with a Virginia nursing home or assisted living facility. And these contracts matter for many reasons.

1. It is a health care contract – so you need to know what services are being provided, and what are not.

For example – did you know assisted living facilities in Virginia are NOT health care providers? So what services will actually be provided to your loved one? Read the contract to find out.

2. It is a health care contract where money is exchanged, and likely, if the patient, Medicare or Medicaid doesn’t pay, the facility wants someone else on the hook. By signing a contract on behalf of a loved one, are you agreeing to pay them if Mom or Medicare cannot? READ THE CONTRACT and find out who is on the hook. Mom’s Estate? You? Who?

3. Arbitration agreements exist in almost every nursing home or assisted living contract in Virginia. What does this mean? Well, it essentially means that the facility could kill your loved one and you may have agreed not to sue them in Court, but rather to take your dispute to a group of non-judges, in a private dispute forum called Arbitration. Boo. Hiss. Not a great idea.

So when someone calls our office about an act of neglect or abuse that has occurred in a Virginia Nursing home, we always ask:

1. Who signed the contract?

2. When?

3. When did Mama leave the facility?

And the we advise the family to REVOKE (yes, I mean take back, unwind, undo – revoke) the arbitration agreement, which is permitted under Virginia Code 8.01-581.12.

And how, do you ask, can one revoke such an agreement?

Well, the issues are tricky, such as who can revoke legally, when etc – but we examine the facts of each case and then ask the right person to revoke the agreement in writing.

At least its a start, and perhaps gives the family the opportunity to have their day in court so to speak if one is just and warranted.

After all, if your loved one was really abused or injured, do you really want the dispute to be handled in such a way that the facility can deny it ever happened as it will not be made public?

Read a nursing home contract before you sign it. I know it is a stressful time. I know it is scary process, emotional and difficult. But don’t throw common sense out just because its a stressful process – READ, ask questions, understand and don’t agree to something you are uncomfortable with.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.