Signing a waiver at a venue: risks and liabilities

Now more than ever, it’s becoming common to sign waivers any time you go into a venue. Whether it’s a concert, a play or even an amusement park, signs and liability waivers are now doing their best to absolve the proprietor or owner of any responsibility linked to injury or accident (and illness), but are these documents legally binding? Will they prevent you from seeking damages should you get injured as a result of negligence?

What does signing a waiver mean for you, and how do you protect yourself should something happen?

What do most liability waivers say?

A liability waiver is directly linked to risk, but in order to be enforceable, there is specific and obvious language that must be included. These documents should be extremely straightforward so that you fully understand what rights you’re waiving before you sign. A huge red flag for any waiver is if the language isn’t clear and concise. Assume the company is hiding something within the legal jargon, and consider not signing.

Waivers should be in writing and clearly spell out the risks involved with the activity so that you’re fully aware of what they are before signing. Your signature should never be forced either. If you feel intimidated, or coerced to sign, walk away.

You’ll see other sections in a standard waiver that cover who pays legal fees should a lawsuit happen as well as information on what the company’s liability insurance won’t cover. Also included should be a choice-of-law clause which specifies the applicable rules and regulations that apply to the location regardless of where you live.

Liability associated with illness

With the onset of COVID, liability waivers now extend to the likelihood of contracting the virus. You’ll now see waivers that protect companies from being held liable should you contract the virus while on their premises. This is something new, since prior to the pandemic, most risk was associated with physical harm and not illness.

What rights do I give up when I sign a release of liability form?

When you sign a release of liability form, you’re agreeing to accept whatever risks are associated with being in a certain venue or doing a particular activity. You’re essentially saying the company isn’t liable for any damages associated with inherent dangers or civil damages that may occur from losses or injuries.

If the waiver is properly prepared, you’ll fully understand what risks you’re taking responsibility for before you sign, giving yourself time to decide if the potential cost of injury is worth engaging in said activity.

Assuming you don’t experience any injury, the liability waiver won’t affect anything, but should you get hurt, the waiver, if prepared correctly, will protect the company even if you file a lawsuit to request damages for an injury linked to any of the risks listed on the document.

Can I sue if injured after signing a waiver?

A liability waiver must specifically address the inherent risks associated with that particular activity. If, for example, you have a trampoline park injury as a result of landing funny on your ankle when you’re jumping on a clean trampoline, clear of debris, the waiver will likely protect the company.

However, liability goes beyond inherent risk. Acts of gross negligence are still something you can sue for should they happen. If that same trampoline park injury happens because the staff have let too many people jump in your area and you run into someone, you may have a case to collect damages.

Individual states also have specific requirements for a liability waiver to make it enforceable. In Georgia, liability waivers are often deemed unenforceable because of the language used in the document. A waiver cannot in any way jeopardize public safety, or else they’ll violate public policy and be considered void.

Georgia industries where a liability waiver typically won’t hold up in court

Based on precedent, there are specific industries in Georgia where a liability waiver is primarily considered unenforceable. It’s important to know this if you’re being asked to sign a waiver in these instances, since you may think you’re signing away rights when you’re not. For example:

  • A construction company cannot request you sign a liability waiver while working building construction or maintenance.
  • A landlord cannot request a tenant sign an accident liability waiver as part of their lease agreement.
  • Medical professionals cannot request patients sign a liability waiver.

What if there’s just a sign serving as the liability waiver?

Another way a business may try to absolve itself from liability is with a sign. One place where it’s common to see this is on a playground. While the equipment kids play on is meant to promote playground safety, there’s definitely risk of injury when climbing, sliding and running around a designated play area.

You may see a sign that says something like ‘play at your own risk’ or ‘use equipment at your discretion.’ Many signs will also include language that states they (the owner) are not responsible for any accidents or injuries.

A key difference here is there’s nothing to sign showing you agree to the terms. You’re also not being clearly presented with language pertaining to risk. A warning sign does not equal a liability waiver so it is often not enforceable in court.

Should you or a loved one have an accident in an environment where there’s only a warning sign, it’s important to seek legal representation to have all the details of your particular case reviewed. It might be easier to prove your claim in this situation than if you had signed an actual waiver.

Filing a lawsuit after signing a liability waiver

In any situation where you’re injured after signing a liability waiver, it’s best to talk to a personal injury lawyer. These cases are often complicated, made challenging by the language of the waiver and the nature of your accident. However, gross negligence or recklessness are solid grounds to pursue compensation. If you find yourself injured due to misconduct, intent to harm, maliciousness or gross negligence, even after signing a liability waiver, contact the legal team at Nicholson, Silverbach & Watson. We’ll review the waiver, assess the details of your accident, and provide actionable steps toward getting the compensation you deserve if possible. Contact us today to set up a no-fee consultation.

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