There are many types of businesses that request customers to sign liability waivers prior to taking part in activities — particularly more risky ones. Whether you are interested in engaging in a bicycle tour, whitewater rafting, or skydiving, these companies often protect themselves against lawsuits by asking patrons to sign liability waivers. When signed, these waivers can make it nearly impossible to file a lawsuit against the company if the signer was hurt while engaged in the company’s activities.
While this may not seem legal, how could these companies completely avoid paying monetary compensation if a customer is hurt? This seems particularly unfair when these companies require that you sign that waiver before even participating in the activities. The reality is that these liability waivers are legal. Whether or not these liability waivers are enforceable, however, is another issue.
Liability Waiver Terms
In simple terms, a liability waiver is a contract between two parties — the party giving up his or her right to sue and the party who is being protected by the document. The particular terms of the contract are important. Generally, when a company requests that a customer sign a liability waiver the form provides the maximum protection allowed by law.
In order to be enforceable, however, this liability waiver must:
- Be easy to understand and not written in legalese so that ordinary people can easily misread its terms;
- Its terms must be clearly visible and not in the fine print or hidden in a strange place in the document (like the back of the page);
- Can only limit a company’s liability (exposure to a lawsuit) to ordinary negligence.
Notably, a liability waiver cannot avoid liability for the acts of its employees and agents that are deemed to be grossly negligent or willful misconduct. Gross negligence is particularly careless behavior when a legal duty to show care toward another. Willful misconduct is when a person or entity deliberately tries to hurt someone.
Understanding the Risk
Another factor that determines the enforceability of a liability waiver is whether or not the person who signed the document understood the risk they were about to undertake when participating in the activity. This means that the person assumes the risk or voluntarily exposes him or herself to risk if something goes wrong. Additionally, the person must have actual knowledge of the risk of harm. In other words, if the person who signs the liability waiver does not fully appreciate the risk involved in the activity the document may not be enforceable because the person did not know what he or she was actually waiving. See Renaud v. 200 Convention Ctr., 102 Nev. 500 (1986).
In sum, while requiring you to sign a liability waiver before you can participate in an activity is legal the actual waiver itself may not be enforceable if you are hurt, depending on the contract and the circumstances.
Personal Injury Help
Ideally, we would all have an attorney right next to us who would explain important contracts like liability waivers so we can understand them before signing. If you have been hurt in an accident, whether or not a liability waiver was involved, contact the skilled Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at Matt Pfau Law Group.