Watch What You Sign or Suffer the Consequences

proof3-300x200It happens all the time. You go to an amusement park. You go to a tumbling facility for children. Maybe you take your kids to a horseback riding facility. Perhaps you’re even at one of those trampoline places where everyone jumps around with socks on. And this could even happen at a doctor’s office. What is it? Signing papers without reading them first.

What happens if you don’t get to do what you want unless you sign a piece of paper? It seems unfair that you could be stuck and held to an agreement that you signed in that sort of a situation. But when you sign something you need to read it. In fact, in all the situations above, if you sign away your right to sue if somebody else does something wrong and hurts you, then you can’t sue them no matter if the other person is negligent.

In fact, if the agreement says that you are releasing the location or person or company from any of their own negligence that means you can’t sue them if they’re negligent. Seems pretty straightforward. But nobody reads these agreements. Even lawyers will fail to read them. But you should think carefully about whether or not to even want to go forward with the activity. Because even if the other side is negligent, if you sign that paper, you can’t sue them.

Sometimes these agreements are not correctly drafted. That will open a potential avenue to have the release thrown out of court. For example, if a doctor is trying to release himself or his own negligence, he’s got to use the magic word – “negligence” word. Either way, it sure does seem wrong that a doctor could get himself released from his own negligence, but that is what a recent case seems to suggest.

In Brooks V Michael De Paul, MD,  42 FL L. Weekly  D1305, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial judge, William L Roby, who decided that an exculpatory clause was enforceable.  The exculpatory clause did not say the doctor was trying to excuse himself for his own negligence. That doctor could not release himself from his own negligence in that instance. This is because the paper that the patient signed didn’t use the word negligence.

Terms and Conditions

Either way, the lesson here is watch what you sign. Aside from releases and exculpatory clauses, you can release other important rights by not reading the details. One example is cruise ships. In agreeing to the terms and conditions of your ticket, you are agreeing to a specific venue in which you can bring a lawsuit. That means if you are injured on a cruise ship, you have already agreed to only file a lawsuit in one court and that court is usually the Southern District Court in Miami.

Another example of signing away your rights is Airbnb. If you are injured due to the negligence of your Airbnb host, you options are limited. In agreeing to the Airbnb Terms of Service, you agreed to not sue Airbnb directly and you also agreed to submit to arbitration on all issues that could be submitted in arbitration. You would have the option of pursuing a cause of action directly against the Airbnb host but your lawsuit will not include Airbnb as a named defendant.

You have probably signed away your rights in a variety of ways already. Use Uber? You agreed to waive your right to a jury trial in favor of arbitration according to the Uber Terms and Conditions. You can sue a negligent Uber driver but it is quite difficult to bring Uber in as a defendant.

Have you purchased a warranty for your car? Better check it close – some of those warranties allow you to sue but only in Cook County in Illinois. Belong to a gym or fitness center? Those papers you signed at the beginning likely release the gym from nearly any type of accidental injury that might happen to the members.

You also don’t want to be in a situation where you are stuck with the paper you signed that doesn’t allow you to sue the responsible person or company. Better, go to another doctor. Or, go play different trampoline center. Or, find a different place to do business or let your children play. In the end, if we read what we sign and stand up for our rights, people won’t try to make us sign things that are outrageous like an agreement to absolve them from their own negligence.

Think about that. Someone is asking you to sign a piece of paper that even if they’re completely negligent. You’re basically giving that person to treat you as poorly as they want. Without any recourse. Why would they try to be safe if you’re telling them they can’t be responsible for their actions? They won’t. Protect your safety and watch what you sign.

Miami Personal Injury Lawyers Serving South Florida

Were you or a loved one injured due to the negligence of another? Did you sign some type of waiver, release or agree to some terms and conditions? Our Miami accident attorneys at Wolfson & Leon are here to help.

If you want to find out more about documents that you are asked to sign, you can call us for a free consultation. If you were hurt and the owner of the premises or some insurance company is relying on something you signed, then you can call us to discuss the situation. Call us at (305) 285-1115 and let us answer your questions.

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