By: Peter Diskin
- Liability waivers offer some protection, but laws vary by jurisdiction
- If liability waivers are improperly written they may be overruled on the grounds that the claimant did not understand what they were signing
- A liability waiver may not protect an organisation which can be shown to have acted negligently
A general liability waiver is a form an organisation may use to protect itself from lawsuits or paying compensation. Typically an organisation may ask an individual to read and sign a waiver form, which states that the organisation is not responsible for injuries, damage, or loss suffered as the result of the activities he or she participates in with the organisation.
A liability waiver form will often also state that the signer of the form fully comprehends the risks inherent in participating in the activity and contain basic information about medical procedures the organisation may use in the event of an emergency.
An individual who is presented with a general liability waiver may question whether or not they have any choice in the matter. For example, they may want to go on a bus trip but retain their rights in the event that the organisation somehow contributes to an injury or loss. While some organisations may make the signing of these forms voluntary, in most cases signing will be mandatory for participation. A learn to surf school, for instance, may only allow budding surfers to participate if they have signed this type of form. Likewise, a child may not be allowed to attend a class excursion organised by a school if his parent hasn't signed a waiver.
The actual protection an organisation can expect from a general liability waiver may depend on the laws in the particular jurisdiction. In some circumstances, if such a form has been signed on behalf of a child, a court may have the authority to overrule it. Alternatively, if the form wasn't executed properly or the signer can convince a court that he or she did not understand the implications of what they signed, a judge may invalidate the waiver.
Similarly, many court systems have laws in place that protect the signer in the event that an injury, loss, or damage occurred because someone in the organisation acted negligently or is guilty of misconduct. In such a case, the organisation may still be liable, even though it has received a signed general waiver of liability.
As a Third Party Claims Administrator GB often comes across large claims made for personal injury where a waiver has been signed. While waivers offer organisation some protection, each matter needs to be considered based on the factual circumstances leading to the incident. In our experience waivers offer the most protection when combined with injury management and prevention strategies.