There are many situations where you may be asked to sign a waiver, also known as a liability release form, before you can participate in some activity. These waivers are designed to protect the other party, by legally giving up your right to compensation for injuries during the activity. Waivers are commonly used in several situations:
- Before participating in a sport or activity that is physically dangerous
- Before entering the premises of some business, like an amusement park
- As part of enrolling in a school, college or class
- As part of being hired by an employer
The goal in all of these situations is the same. The other party is saying: “You might get hurt while you’re here, and if so, you agree not to sue us.”
But waivers don’t cover all possible injuries. There are many cases where someone signs a waiver, gets hurt, and successfully wins a personal injury claim—as if there was no waiver at all. The courts only enforce waivers in certain circumstances.
When will the courts enforce a waiver?
Waivers are usually honored if they specifically list the type of risk that ended up causing your injury. For example, if the waiver to participate in rock climbing says that you acknowledge the risk of falling, and you end up falling and hurting yourself, then you probably don’t have a claim. You agreed to take on that specific risk in advance.
On the other hand, if you end up falling because the rock climbing guide did not maintain their equipment properly, you still have a case. No waiver in the world gives someone the right to be negligent with the safety of others. You signed the agreement believing that the guide was a professional using safe equipment, and the guide failed to live up to that.
Here is another example that shows whether an amusement park would be liable for an injury:
- Not liable: When you buy your ticket for the amusement park you sign a waiver. During a ride you start to feel your heart race and then pain in your chest. You end up having a heart attack and have to go to the hospital. The park is probably not liable for your heart attack, because you accepted the risk when you signed the waiver.
- Liable: During a ride a cable snaps. The loose cable strikes you, breaking your arm. The park is liable for your injury, regardless of the waiver. This is because they were negligent in maintaining the rides.
How can I challenge a waiver I’ve signed?
The most common grounds on which to challenge a waiver are:
- You weren’t warned of all the risks. The waiver is often no good unless it specifically warns you of the risks you are accepting. If it doesn’t list all the risks, or if the reason you were hurt wasn’t covered, you can challenge it.
- You didn’t have equal bargaining power. This often applies when you have to sign a waiver in order to do something vitally important. For example, if an elderly person needs to sign a waiver to be admitted to a nursing home, and there admission is very sudden during a change in their medical status, then they really had no choice but to sign the waiver. You may be able to get out of the waiver.
- Only a minor signed it. A parent or guardian always needs to sign a minor’s waiver. If only the minor signed it, it may be no good.
- The language was unclear or the waiver was deceptive. Sometimes waivers are unnecessarily vague, trying to act as a catch-all for anything that could possibly happen. This is common in premise liability cases. In other cases the waiver language is hidden deep in some other document, like signing up for a concert or school trip. If either of these is the case you may be able to challenge it.
What should I do if I signed a waiver, and then got hurt?
You should speak to a lawyer immediately. Often, victims who signed a waiver feel like they have no choice. You might think you signed away all your rights—leaving you stuck with the medical bills, or even unable to work. But you do have legal options. You may still have a right to recover some or all of your costs. In many cases, waivers aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Only a legal professional can help you decide whether you have a case.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.