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Billy Cunningham
Billy Cunningham
Attorney • (800) 574-4332

The Civil Justice System and YOU Can Protect the Elderly

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The American Association for Justice (AAJ) issued a news report on October 7, 2010 illustrating how the civil justice system is the most effective force in uncovering abuses by corporate nursing homes and insurance companies that target elderly Americans.

There are 1.5 million elderly Americans currently residing in nursing homes – facilities that are now operated by mostly large corporate chains. Perhaps they are hoping the baby boomers will fill their profitable coffers. Despite years of regulations and attempts by government agencies to stop abuse and neglect, litigation is necessary to hold offending corporations accountable for their actions.

“Corporate nursing homes and insurance companies have continually chosen to put profits ahead of the well-being of our most vulnerable population,” said AAJ President Gibson Vance. “Where regulatory and legislative bodies have been unable to cope with this distressing rise of neglect and abuse of our elderly, the civil justice system has stepped into the breach.”

Insurance companies are also taking advantage of senior citizens according to the report. It highlights the story of a farmer who purchased long-term care insurance in the 1990s. Rudy moved into a nursing home at his doctor’s suggestion, only to have his benefits cut after three years when the company declared his care was no longer “medically necessary,” despite faithfully paying his monthly premium.

Thousands of seniors met similar fates as insurance companies miscalculated mortality rates and searched for ways to deny claims and cut off benefits, figuring few of their terminated policyholders would fight back. Trial attorneys found evidence of corporate programs aimed at terminating seniors’ benefits, and helped stop these deplorable practices. If you have a loved ones whose benefits have been cut or are threatened to be cut, you should seek the advice of an attorney.

Arbitration also hides neglect and abuse. While litigation has revealed incidences of abuse and neglect, many other offenses never see the light of day due to nursing homes inserting forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of lengthy admission contracts. Residents and their families often sign these contracts while under considerable stress and anxiety without realizing they are being stripped of their access to court. Congress has introduced legislation to ban forced arbitration in nursing home and other consumer contracts. Contacting your representatives in Washington or in your state capitol about this egregious restriction on the right to jury trials will help push needed legislation and put the issue in the hands of your peers – not some high paid arbitrator selected by the nursing home industry.

The report, titled “Standing up For Seniors: How the Civil Justice System Protects Elderly Americans,” can be found at www.justice.org/seniors.