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Medical Release Forms Don't Necessarily Mean Immunity For Hospitals

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Some patients may think that signing a waiver prevents them from suing a hospital if something goes wrong. It does, attorneys say, but it does not mean they are excluded from receiving compensation for a medical mistake.

A document entitled "Agreement to Alternative Dispute Resolution" can be a confusing legal document to unravel, especially right before major surgery.

The important thing to remember, attorneys say, is that patients do not have to sign it, and if they do, that does not mean the hospital has immunity.

If patients sign this form before treatment, health attorney Sam Southern said they waive their right to fight a mistake in court. Instead, they head to arbitration, which can still mean monetary awards.

"I'm not aware of any data that the chances of recovery are less, or that recovery is smaller in arbitration context," Southern said.

Arbitration is quicker than court and it is confidential, he said.

"Trials, of course, are public and open to the press," Southern said.

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