A liability waiver is a legal statement from an organization or business that a user or participant signs to state that they understand the risks involved in their participation. This allows the company to remove legal liability in the event that participants, users, or consumers are harmed while using the product or enjoying an activity.
Liability waivers are generally between 1 and 3 pages long, and focus specifically on assumptions of risk, nature of activity or product, inherent potential risks, and spaces for both parties to sign that they understand the information regarding risk.
How is a Liability Waiver Used?
Businesses like gyms and yoga studios, organizations that support running, walking, or biking events, and even some corporations that produce software or food products create liability waivers for people who use their goods and services. In the event a participant falls and breaks their ankle, for example, the organization that created the 5K event cannot be sued for liability.
Liability waivers also apply to emergency medical situations, and can allow organizers to provide medical services and assistance to participants, including minors.
Use a liability waiver to detail information that you, the business, would consider an accident that you could not foresee or prevent. Make sure that both you (or an employee representative) as well as the participant or customer read the waiver, understand it, and sign and date it. If the injured customer later claims that he or she did not have a chance to read the liability waiver, you will have your word that it was read and understood.
Both parties should receive and keep a copy of the liability waiver. This is proof that you both have and understand the document.
A liability waiver does not release you from your legal obligation to maintain your premises, prevent product defects as much as possible, or check safety issues when planning a physical event. You must still take basic precautions to care for your participants or consumers, and a court that finds you have not done so can allow civil or criminal charges to move forward.
When is a Liability Waiver Invalid?
Some states do not recognize the legal validity of any liability waiver. Check your state’s laws before creating this document.
A liability waiver does not replace insurance. Make sure your business has enough insurance to cover serious accidents – this can help prevent a large civil lawsuit in the long-run.
If a participant or consumer is seriously injured, judges often rule against liability waivers and allow the victim to sue for personal injury or wrongful death. These judgements are usually made on the basis that your business or organization was negligent or malicious in some way, allowing for more potential injuries or deaths along the lines of the current victim’s.
Broad or vague liability waivers are not accepted in court. It is important to be as specific as possible regarding potential injuries that you, the company, cannot take responsibility for, including negligence or malice on the part of the victim.