Should I sign a release of liability?

by John
(St. Louis, MO USA)

A small piece of metal was in a sandwich from a national restaurant chain, and that small piece of metal chipped my tooth. I returned to the restaurant and explained what happened, and they opened a claim with their insurance company.

Their insurance company contacted me and told me to get the tooth repaired, and they would pay all costs. I had my tooth repaired at my dentist. Now they want me to sign a liability release before they make payment to my dentist for my repair service.

Is this common practice... to require a liability release BEFORE payment to a third party? Should I sign it, so my dentist gets paid? How do I make sure I'm not giving anything up? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Should I sign a release of liability?":

John (St. Louis, MO USA):

The insurance company's actions are entirely customary. What you seem to be suggesting is, in addition to the reimbursement paid by the insurance company to your dentist, you may also be entitled to additional compensation for your pain and suffering or emotional distress.

Your dentist had a constructive lien on the proceeds paid by the insurance company for the repairs to your tooth. A constructive lien means the insurance company knew, or should have known, the money they are about to pay out on your injury claim is rightfully due to the dentist.

If they paid you instead, and you didn't pay the dentist, the dentist might sue the insurance company for ignoring the lien.

This is similar to a body shop that repairs a car damaged in an accident. The insurance company knows a car accident requires a body shop to repair the damaged vehicle. So, the insurance company would make the payee of the insurance the victim of the car accident AND the body shop which repaired the car.

While you may be entitled to a small amount for your pain and suffering, you are entitled to compensation from the insurance company for all of your out-of-pocket expenses directly related to your injury, and lost wages (if you had to take time off from work to see the dentist or recover from the dental work).

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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