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Releases in Medical Malpractice and Dental Malpractice Cases

Release

You became dissatisfied with your doctor and went to another doctor without telling him.  It happens all the time.  Or, you signed yourself out of the hospital, and the nurses and doctor made you sign a statement t

hat you were leaving of your own accord and against the doctor’s advice.  If you do that and terminate your relationship with a doctor or a hospital, you have released them.  They are no longer responsible for what happens to you.  You become responsible for everything that happens to you from that moment onward, including aggravation or complications of your previous injuries because of failure to follow-up with your medical care.

However, it is important to note that a release, whether just implied by your actions or actually written out, only releases the doctor or hospital for whatever happens in the future.  It does not cancel out any responsibility for what has already been done to you.  If you go to another doctor or hospital, they become responsible for everything that is done from the time they accept you as a patient.

Just because you signed a release does not mean you have given up any of your rights for what was done to you before you signed the release.  If you are asked to sign a release for things that have already happened, it is illegal, and the courts will not recognize it.

What if you are asked to sign a release before you are treated?  That is only good for getting your consent to risky treatment, as already explained in the post on assumption of the risk, and it cannot be used as an excuse for medical malpractice or dental malpractice, because no one can ask you to sign away your protection under the law.

The exception to this is a consent to submit any dispute or malpractice claim to arbitration, instead of going to court.  Some states recognize and enforce such agreements.  Others consider them an infringement of your constitutional right to have your case decided by a jury of your peers.  You will have to check with your lawyer to find out whether arbitration agreements are legal and binding in your state.

Insurance Release

It is important for you to know that the release an insurance company adjuster might ask you to sign, in return for a quick settlement of your claim, is different and is legally binding.  That is because it has nothing to do with the doctor’s treatment and is a contract

between you and the insurance company.  You are getting valuable consideration in the form of a quick settlement of your claim, in return for your agreement to settle for a smaller amount.  Since the insurance company is not the person who caused your injuries, it does not have to justify its actions.

The Rule Is: If you believe that you have been the victim of medical malpractice or dental malpractice, do not sign anything without your lawyer’s approval.  If you do not have a lawyer, do not sign anything until you do and he or she approves.

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