Liability Waivers, Are You Signing Your Rights Away?
It’s happened to all of us. You arrive at an attraction or activity, it’s the first day of school or camp, and you’re presented with a waiver of liability to sign. Often times, the environment around you is chaotic, there are many people, lots of noise, you’re trying to keep track of your children and possibly their friends too – not exactly ideal for reading and understanding the often detailed information you’re being asked to absorb. So what do we do? The majority of us sign the form, because not doing so will prevent us from participating, but do we feel good about it? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s important to know what your rights really are, so that the next time you are presented with a waiver to sign, you’ll feel more confident in your understanding of what this form means.
Waivers by design are presented to protect the provider of services. By signing them, you are making an agreement with the organization that first, you agree and understand the natural risks associated with the activity. Second, you are agreeing that if the organization provides services as expected and you get injured as a result, then they are not at fault for your injuries. This all seems straightforward, but it is important to understand, that by signing a waiver, you are not signing away all legal recourse if something goes wrong.
Many state courts refuse to uphold waivers for anything other than the inherent risks associated with the activity. A provider of a service, activity or attraction has a duty to provide a safe environment for participants. As a consumer, it is up to you show negligence on behalf of the service provider if injury occurs. For instance, a camp has a duty to watch your child and keep them safe. If an injury occurs while the child is at camp, you have to show that they failed in their duty. This being said, certain activities such as sky diving, roller coasters and contact sports create situations that are unsafe by their definition, so proving failure of duty is more difficult.
It is good practice to retain a copy of any agreement that you sign. Organizations don’t always offer to provide you with a copy of the waiver that you sign, but it well within your right to request one. In the unfortunate situation where an injury does occur, be sure to consult with your lawyer to determine your rights as they relate to your individual situation.