Legal myth: If you sign a waiver, you can't sue

These days, it seems like everyone is asking for waivers - hospitals, doctors, schools, spas, dentists. We live in a society where anyone can sue for anything (not that they'll win), and people are more and more concerned about getting dragged into court.

There are even restaurants that require waivers when you order certain food, like the Chicago bar that makes you sign a waiver before eating their hot wings. Obviously, it's partly a marketing ploy, but it points out the widespread use of waivers.

While they can be a good idea, waivers aren't bullet proof. The purpose is to warn you of possible harm. By signing, you're saying that you understand the risk and are agreeing to go forward with the activity anyway. You are not saying you won't sue if someone is negligent and causes you harm. There is nothing you can sign that gives someone the right to be negligent.

So, if you suffer a possible risk of surgery that is listed on a waiver, you probably don't have a good case. But negligence probably wasn't involved if it's a common risk, so the truth is you wouldn't really have a good case anyway - waiver or not. If the surgeon was negligent and caused you serious harm, it's a case, even if you signed a waiver.

It's a precaution, and sometimes meaningless, but waivers have become the norm. It's a better-safe-than-sorry sort of thing.

If you have been injured, and you signed a waiver, don't assume you're out of luck. If you have a serious injury and it was caused by someone's negligence, you probably still have a case. Personal injury attorneys give free initial consultations as a way for you to get your questions answered and a way for them to screen your case.

If they turn down your case, get a second opinion. If you get several rejections, it probably means you don't have a case worth pursuing. Most likely, the problem isn't the fact that you signed a waiver but that your injury isn't serious enough to make the time and expenses of a lawsuit worth it in the end or the attorneys don't believe they can prove actual negligence.


Today's legal tip is from Chicago attorney Mark Silverman: Effective in September, 2010, the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance requires landlords to put the name and address of the financial institution where the tenant's security deposit will be kept.  If the landlord moves the deposit during the rental, the landlord has to let the tenant know.  Until now, landlords were not required to disclose this information to tenants.



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  • Landlords BEWARE. If you do not do as simple as "thing" as putting the information Mr. Silverman states is now necessary as to the location of a tenant's security deposit in the written lease, then you are liable for damages equal to two-times the amount of the security deposit, plus if a lawsuit is filed, court costs and the tenant's attorney's fees.

    It is essential that all landlords of residential apartment in Chicago subject to the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, know about and comply with this brand-new (as of August, 2010) provision of the RLTO.

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