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Difference between a release and a waiver

I translated some legal agreement several day ago. It is about an accident in a hospital resulting in the death of AAA. In this agreement, it is provided that AAA’s parents would waive (the term I used) all claims they may have against the Hospital and something like that, but my boss told me yesterday that “release” should be used in this case. I referred to certain dictionaries, but found nothing that can explain their difference.

Can the term “waive” be used in this case? Is there any difference between a waiver and a release?

Many thanks

  • August 12, 2009
  • Posted by zipetaa
  • Filed in Usage

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I think this is a legal issue (which term should be used for which situations), so only lawyers could answer this properly, but here is my own sense of the difference.

I think the difference becomes clearer if you use "the right". "Release the right" would means that you are handing over your right to someone else. For instance, if you sign a release before appearing in front of a camera, you are not only giving up your right, but also transferring the right to the photographer. The photographer has the right to use your image.

"Waive the right" would simply mean that you are giving up the right, but not transferring it, like waiving the right to sue someone. (In this case, it's not transferable anyway.)

But "release" might also be appropriate for situations that do not involve transferring of rights. If so, the two terms are interchangeable. But again, I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know how these terms are used in the legal world. In the end, that's what matters.

Dyske August 13, 2009 @ 6:24AM

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I agree that this is probably a legal issue, but I would use ''waive''. ''Release'' implies that they are giving the rights to the hospital or another entity, while ''waive'' implies that they are forfeiting the rights. It seems to me like the word ''release'' may be used to confuse the person signing the document.

Steve1 August 18, 2009 @ 3:14AM

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I'm not a lawyer either, but my gut feeling on this one is that the AAA's family would sign a waiver, which would release the hospital from any liability.
To make matters more confusing, AAA's parents could sign a release, waiving their right to take legal action.

egkg August 18, 2009 @ 10:35PM

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Agreed. This is not a grammar issue. Grammatically, "waive" works fine. In fact, I prefer it to "release." I'm sorry to have published this comment without adding content. :)

scyllacat August 24, 2009 @ 4:09PM

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I'm no lawyer either, but several sources define them similarly. In at least one case (irrelevant to your example), there may be a difference. Permission to deviate from some rule may also be referred to as a waiver. I don't think such permission would normally be referred to as a release. Release literally means to let go. Waive is more like "put aside".

porsche August 24, 2009 @ 5:53PM

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I'm curious. If you sign a release before appearing in front of a camera, are you releasing your rights to the image or are you actually releasing the producer, photographer, etc. from their responsibility to compensate you for the use of the image? I wonder if you don't often see "...release my rights to...", but are more likely to see "...release [insert name here] from..." How are these documents usually worded?

Anon1 August 24, 2009 @ 6:03PM

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I looked at a couple of sample release forms for photographers I found on the Web, and most seem to give permission to take a photo, and also allow for the use, duplication and/or distribute the photo without a fee being imposed by the person whose image or photograph is used.

Here's a link to one of the samples:

egkg August 24, 2009 @ 6:26PM

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Very interesting, anon. You may be right. Just as you suspected, Emil's document says: "I waive the right...", not "I release the right..." Later on, it says: "I...release...the Department of Labor from all claims...", also consistent wth your comments.

porsche August 26, 2009 @ 4:25PM

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As indicated by zipetaa's original question, both terms pertain to whether one party communicates to the other that he will not pursue a potential claim. Though not specifically distinct (their definitions in the well-regonized "Black's Law Dictionary" largely overlap), I believe that in practice they are used in different situations.

My understanding is that a waiver is used where there exists a legally recognizable basis for one person to assert a claim against another, but one has not yet exercised his power to make the claim and seeks to communicate to the other that one will not in the future exercise that power. On the other hand, a release is used where one has already exercised one's power to make the claim, but seeks to liberate the other from the claim already asserted.

Surely this doesn't cover the entire scope of the topic, but hopefully sheds some light on the distinction.

bilmand September 25, 2009 @ 1:04AM

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I waive my right to do something.
I release you from your obligation to do something.
Lawyers often use them interchangeably and redundantly (because lawyers are risk averse and use redundancy to cover their butts).

Practically speaking, if I waive my right to pursue you, then you have been released from your obligation to do it to me.
If I release you from your obligation to do something to me, then I've waived my right to force you to do it.

anon too May 10, 2012 @ 4:21PM

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I think I "waive" the right to pursue a claim. In contrast, I think I "release" someone else from liability. As a practical matter, I think the result is the same, no liability. But I think the possible nuance is that one is transitive (release, which takes an object) and the other is intransitive (waive, which does not take an object). And I think both could be used together: I "waive" any potential claim against you for payment, and I "release" you from any liability you might have to me to make such payment. I think I have even seen some legal documents that say "waiver and release," to cover both bases.

ilikepiet December 18, 2014 @ 3:37PM

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I guess I need to modify my comment, since "waive" is also transitive and takes an object (e.g., waiving a "claim"). Duh. The distinction I was trying to make should remain the same, however. As "anon" puts it more succinctly, a waiving party is forgoing a right or claim against another party, usually before such a claim has actually arisen. In contrast, a party that has been released from liability can raise the release as a defense if the waiving party tries to pursue a claim against the released party if the basis for such a claim ultimately arises. Both a waiver and a release would logically describe the rights, claims or liabilities in question, so the scope of a waiver and a release should normally be the same. But, even if I do not expressly "waive" my rights or claims against the other party, I still should not prevail if there is a clause under which I released that party from such claims, and that release remains binding on me.

ilikepiet December 18, 2014 @ 3:57PM

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