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Signing An Arbitration Agreement With Your Doctor

When patients go to their doctor, they often become a stack of paperwork to complete, which usually contains an arbitration agreement. If the patient signs the agreement, they have agreed to settle all medical malpractice issues with an arbitration panel, not in court. The medical provider must admit liability in arbitration proceedings and a patient`s damages are limited to $250,000, half the amount imposed by the legislature nearly a decade ago. The Florida Supreme Court is trying to rule on the legality of the agreements, because in Florida it has long been decided that no part of a written agreement can defend itself against their application, if only because it signed it without reading them. Arbitration agreements that require patients to waive their rights to a jury review if their treatment fails are gaining popularity among doctors in Florida. Proponents of the agreements argue that these legal contracts reduce the cost of medical malpractice. However, the legality of agreements is called into question, as many patients often do not understand what they sign or what rights they give up. Opponents of the agreements fear that arbitration against the patient will be weighted. Doctors` lawyers are more likely to develop relationships with arbitrators, they say, which, in turn, can only give the applicant a symbolic arbitral award to continue the activity of doctors. Many doctors believe that lay juries cannot fully understand the complexity of medical misconduct cases, and may indicate a medical umpire in the agreement. States are divided on the validity of these arbitration clauses.

Arizona and Louisiana prohibit arbitration agreements that require the patient to choose a physician as an arbitrator, while the Utah Supreme Court in Sosa upheld an arbitration decision that included a three-arbitrator jury of a certified orthopaedic surgeon on the board of directors. Charles Inlander, president of the People`s Medical Society, a national consumer protection group in Allentown, Pa., calls forced agreement arbitration agreements „because people don`t realize they have a choice. They don`t know what they`re signing. I didn`t want to sign this arbitration form, but I thought, „If I don`t sign, will this doctor treat me?“ I went to the waiting room counter and politely asked if I should sign the arbitration agreement. The pleasant woman said, „No, it`s optional,“ and continued to draw a large „X“ on the form. Other state statutes stipulate that the nature and printing of the arbitration agreement should be of a certain size, not buried in small legal characters and that the language should be simple enough to understand. Connecticut, for example, requires that the arbitration conditions for someone with Grade 6 training and on a form be no more than one page in length. A court may invalidate an arbitration agreement if it constitutes a contract with liability. A liability contract is a formal contract that is created and imposed by a stronger party on a weaker part, on a take-it or leave basis, if the contractual terms are favourable to the sender`s party.

A liability contract is not automatically unenforceable, but a court will examine it carefully and may decide not to apply certain contractual conditions that are not applicable. Arbitration agreements must be fair. Those that contain excessive conditions and are simply handed over to patients could be considered liability contracts that, in almost all states, could be non-acute.