Read the Fine Print: Arbitration Clauses and Indemnification Agreements Are Everywhere
Many Americans realize that legal paperwork, extensions of credit, and financial agreements contain fine print—terms and conditions that define your responsibilities, rights, and the ability to take legal recourse against a company. Most have been taught to read this information in its entirety to ensure that they understand the agreement being made. However, recently these powerful little clauses have found their way into almost everything, and Americans, who are mostly unaware, are paying the price.
The Emergence of Arbitration Clauses and Indemnification Agreements
Not too long ago, companies could be held responsible if their actions injured, killed, defrauded, or otherwise harmed another person (quite often a consumer of their products). People who experienced an incorrect late fee on their credit card statement could recover the damage. Someone who was overcharged for a service could ask for and expect to receive a refund. But then those companies found a way out.
Arbitration clauses and indemnification clauses became legal for any and every company to use after Supreme Court rulings in 2011 and 2013. Backed by a coalition of Wall Street-led companies that had paid out billions in class-action lawsuits over the years, these agreements were designed to force cases of injury, fraud, and even death into arbitration—a process that provides privacy to the company, places caps on recovery damages, and creates a process that is often detrimental to the consumer.
The companies managed to pass their agenda by claiming they were simply trying to avoid frivolous claims and save their customers both time and money. However, even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau attorneys general foreshadowed the unlawful business practices that now flourish in the absence of class-action lawsuits.
How These Clauses and Agreements Affect Your Life
Whether or not you realize it, you probably come into contact with arbitration clauses and indemnification agreements on almost a daily basis. Now extended far beyond credit card companies, mortgage companies, and legal service providers, these powerful little clauses are found in both written and online contracts, including click-boxes that you must agree to prior to being allowed to use a site or sign up for a membership. You will find them when booking an airline ticket, signing a gym contract, admitting a loved one to a nursing home, and even while renting a DVD.
So how do these contracts affect your life? If you face a disagreement—be it an unauthorized charge, an accidental charge, a service you did not ask for, or an injury or death because of negligence—you may not be able to recover all the damages owed to you. Agreements may take longer to reach, and you may even have to travel outside of the state or pay the company's legal fees out of your own pocket.
Always Read the Fine Print and Seek Assistance from an Attorney
The big lesson here is that you should always read the fine print before signing your name, clicking a box, or agreeing to any sort of terms and conditions.. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury, or you have a lost a loved one, and a business is trying to use a binding arbitration clause, contact a reputable attorney to determine whether the business truly has the right to do so.
If a company has caused injury or death because of negligence or wrongdoing, Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. can help. As skilled negotiators with a history of success, our experienced Appleton personal injury attorneys and Green Bay personal injury attorneys aggressively fight for your rights and pursue fair compensation to cover the cost of medical bills, lost time at work, pain and suffering, and wrongful death. To learn more about our services, call our offices at 920-739-7366 and schedule your free initial consultation today.