It is reasonably common practice for patients to be asked to sign a waiver or release prior to a medical procedure to confirm that they understand the risks associated with the procedure. However, if the procedure does not go according to plan and the patient is left with a permanent injury, where does that leave them? Does a waiver mean that they cannot consult a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville and take legal action?

Let's talk about waivers and their impact on a medical malpractice lawsuit.

What is a Waiver?

If you have ever had any medical procedure, your healthcare provider likely asked you to sign a consent form or waiver. The waiver is a document you will sign to agree to the procedure and confirm that you understand the inherent risks associated with the procedure. It will also state that you agree not to hold your healthcare provider or the facility responsible in the event of any injury or other damages. For most patients, this seems like a reasonable request. However, all too often, a patient will sign a waiver without realizing that it could impact whether or not they can consult a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to take legal action if something goes wrong.

Can a Waiver Prevent the Patient from Filing a Lawsuit?

When it comes to whether or not a waiver prevents a patient from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, there is no black-and-white answer. It's going to depend on the individual circumstances of the case. However, there is no harm in consulting with a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to find out where you stand. Signing a waiver does not automatically protect the healthcare provider from any liability. Suppose they acted negligently, and the patient is injured outside of the usual accepted risks of the procedure. In that case, it is certainly worth talking to a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville, as no waiver can protect against gross negligence.

Informed Consent & Assumption of Risk

If you decide to have a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville file a lawsuit against your healthcare provider even though you signed a waiver, they will likely use the assumption of risk as their defense. The waiver will be used to demonstrate that you expressed knowledge of the associated risks. Since the patient is voluntarily exposing themselves to known risks, the assumption of risk defense will state that the healthcare provider cannot be held responsible for any injury sustained as a result. In short, the patient accepted the possibility that things might go wrong.

This is where informed consent comes into play. When patients sign a waiver before a medical procedure, they do so under the premise that their healthcare provider has explained every possible risk. However, that is not always the case. If there are any risks that are not discussed with the patient or included in the waiver, a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville might argue that the patient was unable to give informed consent because they were not presented with all of the facts. This would render the waiver unenforceable.

Gross Negligence

Regardless of any waiver that a patient signs, all healthcare providers are legally obligated to provide a level of care that meets the medical community's accepted standard of care. If a doctor or other healthcare worker fails in this duty, then a waiver will not protect them from legal action. In the event of gross negligence, your medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville will seek to prove that the medical professional has acted recklessly and that their actions led to an otherwise preventable complication or injury. It is important to prove that the injury would not have occurred if all of the appropriate protocols had been followed. Some examples of acts that might be considered gross negligence include the following:

  • Foreign bodies, such as surgical tools, being left in the patient's body
  • A procedure performed on the wrong part of the body or the wrong patient
  • Failure to use sterile instruments
  • Performing a procedure under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Intentionally ignoring the patient's concerns resulting in misdiagnosis or worsening of the condition

As you can see, determining whether or not legal action can be taken even if the patient has signed a waiver can be complicated and depends on the case's individual circumstances. If you are unsure where you stand, a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville can consult with you and help determine if you could file a medical negligence lawsuit.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at or call 865-637-3531.

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