A release of liability form documents that one party will not hold another party – often a business owner or event organizer – responsible for physical or mental damages incurred due to the first party’s dangerous activities on the premises.
Release of liability forms allow a business or organizer to state that the group has insurance that will cover unforeseeable injuries, dictate how disputes will be settled, and that the participant(s) understand the danger they put themselves in.
When and How is a Release of Liability Used?
Release of liability forms are most often used by photographers, filmmakers, entertainment producers, theme parks, gyms and yoga studios, and marathon organizers. Anyone involved in these activities should understand that there is potential physical danger involved in taking part in a marathon, working out, or joining a film crew.
These releases allow companies to put responsibility on those who use their goods or services. Although not all responsibility for personal injury or other damages can be removed from the company, these releases are especially important for businesses that organize physical events, such as charity runs or theme parks.
Sometimes, releases of liability also cover performers, actors, or models whose images may be used in a way that they do not want. Releases of liability in this case involve the person filmed signing over their rights to these specific images, allowing the photographer or filmmaker to own the copyright and use, distribute, or sell the images in any method they choose – from advertisements to personal portfolios online.
When is a Release of Liability Invalid?
Releases of Liability are not valid in all states, so check your local laws. California in particular tends to side with injured parties and will not consider releases of liability valid in court.
Release of liability forms are also not valid in the event that participants harm themselves in some way that the organizer or business could have prevented – these include tripping hazards inside buildings, poorly-maintained equipment, dangerous tracks for marathon runners, or staff members’ encouragement of a participant that could obviously have ended in physical harm (such as overstretching or lifting too much weight).
Sometimes, when a release of liability form is too specific regarding potential dangers, these dangers could be construed by a court as preventable. Although some dangers such as overstretching in yoga can be clearly stated, others such as specific tripping hazards may not hold up in a court of law.
If a release of liability form covers the image or film of an individual, and the use of that film later harms the individual’s personal reputation, then a court is unlikely to hold up the release of liability has having waived the filmmaker’s or photographer’s responsibility to use the image with consideration. This most often applies to pornography or violence, or other extreme cases that could impugn the personal reputation of the model or actor. If the individual did not consent to sexualized or violent activity around their image, they could fight for their rights to have that image removed. Slander or libel cases, however, rarely lean in favor of the emotionally injured party.
Releases of liability are complicated legal documents, and although our free form can help you get started, consider speaking with an attorney if you run a business that could physically damage participants.