A basic liability waiver can go by several different names. You may have heard of liability waivers referred to as release forms, waivers of liability or even as harmless agreements. But, at their most basic, these documents all serve the same purpose no matter what name someone chooses.
If you’re being asked to sign a liability waiver or you’ve been told it’d be a wise idea to draft one up, it’s not something you want to approach casually. It’s important to understand what exactly a liability waiver is, what it does and when you might need one before you sign on the dotted line. Take a look at these and other basics about liability waivers to get started.
What Is a Liability Waiver?
A liability waiver is an agreement in which one party (the releasor) agrees not to hold another party (the releasee) legally responsible for the potentially negative consequences of a particular situation.
Basic liability waivers are usually designed to do two things. The first is to alert the releasor to the risks they’re about to undertake by participating in a certain activity or situation. These risks could involve anything from physical injury to financial loss or property damage.
The second is to protect the releasee from being sued if any of these risky events take place. Liability waivers can come in several different forms, but their overall purpose is to take the possibility of a lawsuit off the table.
How Liability Waivers Work
Liability waivers are commonly used by companies and individuals looking to protect themselves from lawsuits. This is particularly true for those that provide services that sometimes result in unexpected outcomes.
Here’s an example to clarify. Say Amira has always wanted to go skydiving. For her 25th birthday, she finally decides to take the (literal) leap and contacts a skydiving center. As part of her orientation before the jump, the instructor informs her of all the risks associated with the flight and the jump.
Before she can suit up, Amira has to sign a liability waiver. It acknowledges that she’s been informed of the risks of her skydiving adventure — and that she won’t hold the company responsible for any injuries or damages she suffers as a result of the jump.
The company must still do its utmost to keep jumpers from getting hurt. But if Amira ends up injured through no fault of her instructor or the pilot and she decides to sue the company over it, she may not have a winning case. That’s because she signed the liability waiver stating she was aware of the risks and wouldn’t hold the company responsible for her decision to take on those risks.
What Liability Waivers Can and Can’t Do
A liability waiver can be used in a wide variety of circumstances. You might be asked to sign one when hiring anyone from a personal trainer or massage therapist to a lawyer, contractor or financial advisor.
It’s important to keep in mind that liability waivers don’t necessarily remove all of the releasor’s rights. They’re intended to protect the releasee from being held responsible for accidents that occur through no fault of their own.
Liability waivers are not, however, intended to offer the releasee legal protection from mishaps that are a direct result of gross negligence — such as Amira’s parachute failing to open because the company neglected to perform a safety check.
Types of Liability Waivers
While some liability waivers ask the releasor to waive certain rights, others simply ask them to agree to settle a given dispute outside the legal system. Common types of liability waivers include the following.
Accident Liability Waivers
These agreements state that the releasor won’t sue the releasee over an incident such as a car accident. It may, however, specify that the releasee will compensate the releasor for a certain amount of money that the two parties have agreed upon.
Activity Participation Waivers
Activity liability waivers are commonly used by companies such as the one in our example above. They state that the participant understands the risks of a given activity and assumes sole responsibility for them.
General Liability Waivers
Businesses commonly use these to remove the possibility of being sued by customers for any negative consequences that might result from the use of the companies’ services.
Mutual Liability Waivers
In a situation where both parties are partially at fault for damages, they can use a mutual liability waiver to agree not to sue each other.
Personal Injury Waivers
Personal injury waivers are common after an injury has already occurred. The accident victim agrees not to sue the releasee, sometimes in exchange for pre-agreed compensation.
Property Liability Waivers
These waivers protect a property owner from any injuries the releasor may sustain on their property.
How to Write a Liability Waiver
If you need to draft a liability waiver of any sort, it’s recommended that you consult a lawyer. While it’s technically possible to write one on your own, assuming you understand all of the required components, going the DIY route isn’t necessarily the choice that’ll ensure you’re fully protected. An improperly drafted liability waiver might not hold up in a court of law, which could potentially mean financial harm for you or your business.
Websites like WaiverSign and Rocket Lawyer offer an easy way to create your own liability waivers. Using these sites, you can customize a premade waiver template. These can be an effective way to start planning your waiver.
However, it’s still a smart idea to have an experienced contract lawyer look over any waiver you create before relying on it. Liability waiver laws can vary from state to state, so it’s important to make sure yours will hold up in court. Depending on your situation, the language in your waiver may need to be more clear or more specific than you’d anticipated. Consulting with an attorney could save you or your business from owing damages in the event of an accident.