Signing up for certain high-risk activities comes with mandatory liability waivers for participants. Liability waivers are a safeguard for the person or enterprise in charge of the activity, granting them immunity from related lawsuits. If something goes wrong and the participant suffers an injury, a liability waiver could save the business from being held legally responsible. Liability waivers are not foolproof, however, and are not always enforceable.
How Does a Liability Waiver Work?
A liability waiver is a document that becomes legally binding when signed. The document states that the party signing is giving up his or her right to file a personal injury or damage lawsuit against the company or individual. Liability waivers are common at gyms, community pools, obstacle courses, trampoline parks, sky diving centers and other places that offer activities with inherent risks for participants.
Some liability agreements have implied rather than express consent from participants. Activities such as taking a cruise or attending a sports game, for example, have liability clauses built into the ticket. Purchasing the ticket gives the buying party’s implied consent that he or she gives up the right to file a claim in the event of an accident. It is important to read the fine print carefully before purchasing tickets to an event or activity.
Determining Whether the Liability Waiver Is Enforceable
Not all release of liability forms are legal or enforceable in a court of law. Many contain errors or issues that will make them more difficult for the defendant to uphold in court. The laws governing the limitations and requirements of liability waivers vary from state to state. In Arizona, a liability waiver must contain certain factors for the courts to enforce it. It must have clear and unambiguous language that communicates the hazards of the activity to participants. It must be specific in the particular risks included in the agreement. It should also be in writing, as verbal liability agreements are generally unenforceable.
When Is a Liability Waiver Enforceable in Arizona?
A signed liability waiver does not provide blanket immunity to the business or enterprise. There are important exceptions in which the injured victim can still hold the defendant liable. The most common exception is if the defendant has been negligent or is guilty of intentional misconduct. If the defendant (or one of its employees, in the case of a business) breaches a duty of care or intentionally harms the plaintiff, the waiver will not protect the defendant from liability.
In Arizona, it is a jury’s decision whether or not the scope of a liability waiver applies to a particular situation. It will be up to the plaintiff (or his or her attorney) to prove to the jury the defendant more likely than not caused the injuries in question and that the liability waiver signed does not protect the defendant from accountability. It is the plaintiff’s burden to prove the defendant owed him or her a duty of care, breached this duty, and that the release form does not protect the defendant. The jurors will listen to testimony, assess the evidence presented and decide whether the plaintiff met his or her burden of proof. If so, the defendant may have to pay for the plaintiff’s damages despite a release of liability waiver.
What to Do If You Signed a Waiver and Were Injured
Do not assume you do not have the right to file an injury claim after a harmful accident, even if you signed a liability waiver. Release forms do not always protect a defendant from liability for a participant’s injuries. Liability waivers are often unenforceable due to unclear language, illegal clauses or the defendant’s fault in causing the accident. Always contact a personal injury lawyer after an accident in Arizona for advice about your rights involving a liability waiver. If you signed a release form and suffered an injury, speak to an attorney about your options. You may still be able to hold the defendant liable for your damages.