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Release of Liability: What Is It?

A release of liability is used in many different scenarios, such as sporting events, organized trips, or other risky activities. This agreement dictates that the party participating will not hold the organization responsible for things like personal injury, death, or loss of property. A release of liability form can help an organization or business from being sued if something were to go wrong.

In order to be valid, a release of liability must be signed and dated. It should include the names of both parties. A copy of the release of liability form should be kept by the participant as well as the person or organization sponsoring the event.

Having a release of liability form available for your company is very important. If you need a release of liability form, you will want to check the regulations for your state. Ensure that you include all the required information so that your release form is valid.


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What Is A Release Of Liability?

A release of liability (ROL), or a waiver, is a form that legally protects an individual or company in the case of an incident. The incident could be as serious as a death or permanent injury, or as trivial as a ripped shirt. In all legal institutions, especially in the US, lawsuits are about as common as cheap suits. It is therefore essential, in certain situations, to have a waiver in place.

When do I need a hold harmless agreement?

Think about activities, products or services which could harm participants. These include any physically taxing or potentially dangerous activity, such as a sports game or an outward bound trip, as well as any product or service not yet officially approved, be it a new cheese spread or an experimental airplane. .Keep in mind that "harm" does not only mean fatal injury. If a celebrity sponsor is wearing an historically important diamond necklace, and that necklace snaps, that can do as much legal damage as a fourth-degree burn. Be sure you cover all your bases.

So, as long as my clients sign a release of liability, am I safe?

Nope, sorry. A release of liability gives you a layer of protection, but it doesn't altogether negate the possibility of a lawsuit. It just makes it the client's responsibility to prove that he or she has come to harm unwarned . This is why it's essential that you include all possible types of harm in your ROL wording (see below).

Also, please note: a liability waiver does not replace insurance. You need all your equipment and assets to be properly insured under local, state and federal laws.

What should go into my liability release?

Legal requirements for a hold harmless agreement’s content vary state by state. You'll need to check your state's official website to get all the details. However, here are a few standard components:

  • Names of all involved parties.
  • The date of form-signing, as well as of the activity in question, if applicable.
  • Explicit agreement by the signer to not blame you for anything that goes wrong. For example:

            By signing this form, I agree to participate in the Charles St. Booksellers Outward Bound Employee Field Trip (referred to herein as the “Activity”) held from November the 2nd to November the 5th, and to release, waive, discharge, and covenant not to sue, and agree to hold Charles Street Booksellers Inc., its trustees, officers, servants, agents, volunteers and employees (hereafter referred to as the “Releasees”) from and against any and all liabilities, demands, claims, or injuries, including death, that I may sustain during or in conjunction with the Activity.

  • Explicit statement that the signer is responsible for his or her own safety. Generally, this part will outline all potential risks and serves as the signer's direct acknowledgement of them. For example:

            I agree that my safety is primarily my own responsibility. I agree to make sure that I know how to safely             participate in the Activity, and I agree to observe any rules and practices that may be employed to minimize the risk of injury. I agree to stop and seek assistance if I do not believe I can safely continue, to limit my participation to reflect my personal fitness level, and to refrain from any and all actions that would pose a hazard to myself or others.

· Statement that the client has read and understood the agreement, followed by te signatures, printed names, addresses, and contact information of the signer and one witness.

Tip: Make sure your clients actually read the release of liability.

As long as a waiver gets signed, its legal protection stands. However, most people skim things like waivers and miss most of the content and enter dangerous situations unprepared. They still can't sue without evidence if something happens, but they can make a big public stink about your "negligence."

For this reason, it's a good idea to have an HR person or another associate go over the waiver with every client. This way, he or she can verify personally that the client understands all terms and conditions. 

Legal Considerations of an Online Release of Liability

For business owners involving a potentially hazardous activity or situation, there's nothing more frightening than the thought of losing everything due to a lawsuit.  Something as simple as a slip and fall or a minor injury could be the catalyst for legal action costing a business owner many thousands of dollars.  Operating something as fun as a fitness center, ski resort, go-kart track, Halloween haunted house, sporting event, health spa, equestrian center, or petting zoo could end up in a legal nightmare if precautions are not taken ahead of time.  One of the most important precautions to take is to have all participants sign a form known as a release of liability.  This form is also commonly known as a waiver or release form, and its purpose is to release the business and those involved with it from any possible harm that may occur while normal activity for that business is being performed.

Consider a ski resort, for example.  The people who operate the resort might ask the skiers to sign a release form.  That way, if someone sprains his or her ankle during normal skiing activities, it would be more difficult for that person to win a lawsuit.  This is because the individual signed a release form essentially acknowledging that there is a certain measure of risk involved in normal skiing activities.  If the skier behaved in an especially irresponsible manner or disobeyed the rules of the ski resort, then the release form would probably hold even more weight in a court of law.  On the other hand, if the injury had occurred as a result of negligent or irresponsible behavior on the part of the staff at the ski resort, the release form would not likely be able to protect the business from legal action.  An example of this would be if a patron were injured due to a preventable ski lift malfunction.

These legal considerations should be understood anytime a business decides to use a general release of liability.  Another consideration is the fact that the legal weight of these forms can vary from one state to the next.  For instance, while a Florida court might consider a particular waiver to be strongly binding, the same waiver might not hold the same legal weight in a court in New Jersey.  For this reason, it is vital to use a liability release form that contains clear and correctly worded language that will protect the business in whichever locality it chooses to operate.

One more consideration that many people are unaware of is the availability of waiver forms online.  It can be expensive to hire an attorney or other legal expert to draft a waiver form, and it might surprise you to learn that these can be found on the Internet for free if you're just willing to search for them.  If you conduct a keyword search on a popular search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, you can even find a free liability waiver.  That way, you won't need to hire a legal expert or try to write a waiver from scratch—an ill-advised move for anyone unfamiliar with the legal language contained in such forms.  Be sure to narrow down your search results to get the best waiver form possible for your business's specific needs.

Ben Franklin was certainly correct when he stated that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is most definitely true when it comes to running a business.  Whether you choose to get a free liability waiver online, or create one from scratch, be sure to secure your own ounce of prevention by protecting your business.

 

 

 


Liability Waiver Forms: What You Need to Know

liability waiver forms: what you need to knowIf you are a business owner, then you understand the importance of having a signed liability waiver in place for certain situations. A liability waiver is a common legal document by which someone taking part in an activity related to your business releases the business from responsibility for anything that may occur. It is easy to protect your business in this way, as free liability waiver forms are readily available online. There are, however, a few things that business owners should know before using a free waiver form to minimize their liability.

Today, there are many common misconceptions about liability waivers, and these erroneous beliefs seem to run in two opposite directions. While some people believe that using a free waiver form doesn’t provide a business with any protection, others seem to believe a signed free liability waiver offers a business total “bulletproof” protection. In fact, neither or these extreme beliefs are true. So, what can a signed free liability waiver actually do for a business?  

How well a waiver works in protecting a business depends upon many things. The first is the set-up of the “waiver form” itself. Additional protective clauses may or may not be included in the free waiver form. These include disclaimers, indemnification agreements, informed consent agreements and covenants not to sue. Including as many as are applicable to your business in the form will provide maximum protection in the event of an accident or injury.

The second important consideration is your individual state’s unique laws on liability waivers. It’s important to check your state’s laws to determine the requirements for a waiver, whether they are enforced and to what degree. For instance, waivers are almost always enforced in Alabama, but never in Louisiana or Virginia. There are also several states that sometimes enforce them, states that “tend” to enforce them and states that usually don’t.

Regardless of what state you live in, it is important to make sure that the free liability waiver you use includes a few key components. When liability waivers do fail in some states, it’s often because they are poorly written. As with any legal document, the free waiver form you use must be clearly written and comprehensive to cover all your bases. There are also things you may not want to include in your waiver. Nearly all states will not enforce a waiver through which the business seeks protection from their (or their agent’s) gross negligence or reckless conduct.

There is also some question as to whether or not waivers signed by minors or signed for minors by parents were enforceable. Fortunately for recreation-focused businesses, many states have begun enforcing parental waivers in the last few years. The same issue arises when it comes to a non-signing spouse in a situation where the signing spouse is severely injured or died. Many states have upheld the idea that a free liability waiver signed by an individual has no impact on their spouse’s ability to sue in cases of severe disability or death. It’s important to understand this, so you know how a liability waiver will and will not protect your business.

In the end, it is far better for a business to have a liability waiver in place than to skip it, as it provides at least a layer of protection with no expense and very little effort. Also, by signing an agreement wherein they take responsibility for their own actions, customers may be a little more careful when taking part in recreational activities. 

Components of a Liability Waiver

components of a liability waiverEvery schoolchild has had experience with liability waivers. Those pieces of paper that students have to have signed by their parents before every field trip serve a very important function. They indemnify the school from legal responsibility, known as liability, in the event of an incident resulting in damages to the schoolchild. Liability waiver forms are everywhere. Whether shooting a movie or joining a climbing gym, businesses or otherwise legally responsible persons often use a free liability waiver to communicate that participants are responsible for their own actions and the possible hazards associated with them.

Formally, a waiver or release of liability is a legal document in which a person or party voluntarily gives up a right in a contractual agreement. A waiver form has several components: activity, party information, release of liability type, participant information, emergency contacts, and whether the participant is a minor.

Liability waivers are specific to a particular activity, which must be clearly described within the form. This means that if a party causes damage through an action that is far outside the usual boundaries of the activity, then that party remains wholly liable for both the action and it’s consequences. For example, if a release of liability is signed for a student going on a field trip to the zoo and a teacher strikes that student while on the bus, then the teacher is the responsible party for any damage incurred, despite the release.

The party information concerns the person being released from liability and usually includes their name and address. It may also include contact information such as phone or email. The participant information concerns the person releasing the party of legal responsibility for the activity. It contains similar specific information as with the party. The release of liability type simply refers to whether the form has been made specifically for the occasion or if it is a universal template.  The participant cannot sign away liability unless the party and activity are clearly and explicitly marked in the form.

By its nature, a liability waiver usually concerns a risky activity and therefore must also include at least one emergency contact for each participant. The name and phone number of the contact will always be identified on a free waiver form. Some free liability waivers will identify the contact’s relationship to the participant. Some may include alternative contact methods such as additional phone numbers or an email address. Finally the liability waiver contains a clause pertaining to whether the participant is a minor. Minors do not have the legal right to relinquish their liability. That power falls to a parent or primary caretaker, known as a guardian.