Injured? Always consult a lawyer before you sign a release

always-consult-with-a-lawyer-before-you-sign-a-releaseInsurance companies and other businesses often try to get injured people to sign a release right away, before they talk with a lawyer. Sometimes they actually say that they’re trying to protect or take care of the person, and that there’s “no need to get lawyers involved.”

Beware! There’s a reason they don’t want people to talk with a lawyer, which is that they don’t want them to understand all their rights.

The truth is that you should always talk with an attorney before signing a release (or any other important legal document). Don’t even think of signing away your rights before you fully understand what your rights are.

Take the case of a Nebraska woman who claimed that she suffered a ruptured appendix after a hospital’s emergency-room physicians, who were employed by an outside urgent-care company, failed to diagnose her appendicitis.

Before filing suit - and without first speaking to an attorney - she settled her malpractice claims against the hospital. As part of the settlement, she signed a document giving up her right to sue the hospital and “all others liable.”

Later, she hired a lawyer to sue the urgent-care company. But the urgent-care company argued that it couldn’t be sued because the woman had given up her right to sue “all others liable.”

Ultimately, the state’s highest court allowed the case to go before a jury to determine whether the urgent-care company was protected by the release.

So the woman might eventually have her day in court - but even if she does, she will have had to go through a lengthy and expensive legal process to get there, one that probably could have been easily avoided if she had spoken to an attorney before signing the release against the hospital.

It’s always advisable to speak with an attorney before signing any releases. And the best advice is to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after an injury occurs.