Earlier this month, a state supreme court handed down a very important decision regarding the scope of an unambiguous liability waiver signed in the wake of a serious car accident. In the case, Gores v. Miller, the court determined that a waiver signed after an accident, absolving the at-fault driver and his insurance company of any liability, also extended to any malpractice lawsuit stemming from the treatment related to the injuries sustained in the accident.
The plaintiff was a 15-year-old girl who was injured when the van she was riding in was involved in an accident. The girl, through her mother, negotiated and settled a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for $25,000. The court was asked to accept the settlement waiver, and in so doing the plaintiff would forfeit her right to sue any “and all other persons, firms or corporations liable or who might be claimed to be liable,” for injuries both “known and unknown.”
The court accepted the settlement between the parties. However, two years after the settlement was made final, the girl and her mother filed a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who treated her in the wake of the accident.
The Court’s Opinion
In response to the lawsuit against her, the doctor asked the court to dismiss the case, based on the previously signed waiver of liability. The court, determining that the language of the waiver was clear, held that it excused the doctor from any liability and dismissed the case. The plaintiffs, not satisfied with the result, appealed the case to the state’s supreme court.
On Appeal, the Verdict is Affirmed
The girl and her mother made several arguments on appeal, each of which was rejected. Essentially, they claimed that by signing the waiver the girl did not intend to waive any lawsuit that may arise from subsequent medical care. They also claimed that the doctor was an independent actor who was beyond the scope of the release.
The court was not persuaded by the plaintiffs’ arguments and affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court was swayed by the clear language contained in the waiver, giving up the right to sue any party who may now, or later, be alleged to have been negligent. As a result of the ruling, the girl will be prevented from seeking financial recovery from the allegedly negligent doctor who treated her after the car accident.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Maryland car accident, it is incredibly important that you retain your own counsel to help you through the aftermath of what can be a confusing and contentious experience. Before signing away your right to sue, you should be sure you know exactly what you are committing to and how that may affect future claims, should they arise. Call 410-654-3600 to speak with a zealous personal injury advocate at the Maryland and Washington D.C.-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC today. With decades of experience representing clients in all kinds of personal injury actions, the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen have the know-how and dedication to assist you in your case, from beginning to end.
More Blog Posts:
Determining Fault in Maryland Multi-Vehicle Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published February 2, 2016.
Plaintiff Sanctioned by Court for Bringing Claim for Punitive Damages Without Basis, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published January 19, 2016.