All sorts of businesses ask their clients to sign liability waivers before taking part in risky recreational activities. From bicycle tours to whitewater rafting and skydiving, companies protect themselves against lawsuits by asking their customers to give up at least part of their legal right to sue in exchange for participation. When someone who has signed a liability waiver gets injured during the covered activity, the enforceability of the waiver can be a significant barrier to recovering compensation through the courts.
What a liability waiver can cover
Liability waivers are a type of contract between the person waiving their right to sue and the person the waiver protects. Because they’re contracts, the specific language of waivers matters a great deal. Most of the time a company that asks for a liability waiver will have a form that provides the maximum waiver permitted by law.
An enforceable liability waiver has several traits. First, it must be easy to understand. If it is written in incomprehensible legalese, so that ordinary people can easily misread it, a court will be more likely to throw it out. Second, its terms must be visible. Placing a waiver in fine print or hidden in a strange place, like on the back of a page, may render it unenforceable. Finally, a waiver can only limit a business’s liability for ordinary negligence.
A waiver cannot cover gross negligence or willful misconduct
A business cannot escape liability for the behavior of its employees and agents that is grossly negligent. Gross negligence is a legal standard that describes especially careless behavior in the face of a legal duty to show care toward another person. A skydiving operation might commit gross negligence by failing to follow proper procedures when packing parachutes.
A waiver also can’t cover liability for willful misconduct. If an employee or agent of a business deliberately tries to hurt someone, the waiver alone won’t protect the business from liability (though other defenses may apply).
The person signing the waiver must understand the risk
The enforceability of liability waivers is predicated on an underlying idea that the person signing the waiver understands the risks they are about to undertake. In legal terms, the person signing the waiver assumes the risk of the activity. To assume a risk, a person must voluntarily expose themselves to the risk, and must have actual knowledge of the risk. If a person who signs a liability waiver doesn’t fully appreciate the risks involved in an activity, there’s a possibility that the waiver isn’t valid, because the person signing didn’t know what was being waived. See Renaud v. 200 Convention Ctr., 102 Nev. 500 (1986).
GGRM can answer your questions about liability waivers
In an ideal world we would all have a lawyer at our side to help us understand important contracts like liability waivers before we sign them. But the fact is that we all sign waivers with the hope that everything goes well. If you have been injured during an activity that was covered by a liability waiver and you have questions about how it may affect your legal options, the lawyers at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez are happy to offer guidance. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.