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With every signature, every click and broken seal, you are potentially waiving a fundamental right—to have your dispute resolved by a jury. The American Association for Justice (AAJ), I am a former Parliamentarian, recently published a report revealing the extent to which American jurisprudence, federal statutes, and corporations have conspired to force consumers to arbitrate their claims rather than bring them to court (view here).

Personal injury plaintiffs have the most to lose in this equation. Arbitrations traditionally favor the defendant in form and procedure. For instance, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities will include a binding arbitration agreement in admission or resident agreements. However, when a loved one is entering into this transaction, they are hardly attentive to their rights in the event that they fall victim to professional negligence, rather they are concerned about the level of health care in their new home.

Consumers need to look at the fine print, especially when they could be injured at the hands of another. Don’t be afraid to ask about the details of the transaction and even reject the arbitration agreement. In many cases, it may not be a condition of providing goods or services but you certainly won’t know until you ask; it is always the best time to consult your attorney, before you give up your rights.