Do you offer a service that customers take some risk by using? This could be anything from a fitness facility to a skydiving or skiing business. Maybe you rent e-scooters or run a “haunted house” around Halloween. You need customers to sign a release or waiver to help minimize your liability if something goes wrong that wasn’t your fault.
The crafting of that document and the manner in which it’s provided to those who have to accept its terms are both crucial to making it valid. Although there’s no one “boilerplate” liability waiver, they typically require the user to accept responsibility for their own reckless behavior or failure to follow instructions and rules.
These waivers don’t protect a business from gross negligence or intentional misconduct. If you run any kind of fitness facility, for example, you’re responsible for ensuring that the equipment is in working order or clearly marked if it’s not.
You’re not, however, responsible if someone is under the influence or not wearing required gear (for example, if helmets are required) or if someone presents a fake ID to appear the required age. You also want to reserve the right to remove people who are endangering their own or others’ safety.
It has to be readable and understandable
It’s also crucial that you give customers the opportunity to read the waiver. It’s typically recommended that this be separate from any documents you provide. Often, customer agreements of all types are online now, and people need to scroll to the end to accept them.
You can’t guarantee that someone has read every word before signing or clicking to attest that they have. However, you do have a responsibility to use language that is understandable and in a font size that’s readable. You also should not make it so long and cumbersome that virtually no one will read it. Any of these things could cause it to be deemed unenforceable.
If the waiver is for some type of event or “experience,” like an escape room, haunted house or murder mystery party, it’s wise to note what kinds of things will happen that may startle or disturb someone. Of course, doing that without ruining the fun and excitement can be a balancing act.
Too many businesses and other organizations don’t think they need liability waivers until something happens and they get sued. It’s best to have one in place before anything happens. The first step is to get sound legal guidance.