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Liability waiver

What You Need to Know Before Signing a Liability Waiver

June 24, 2019

These days, you don’t have to go skydiving or mountain climbing just to sign a liability waiver. Signing these documents has become routine at fitness centers, bike rentals and summer camps. Because most waivers are written in legal language, they can be difficult for the average person to understand. You may be wondering about some of these issues:

  • What is the meaning of a liability waiver?
  • Do I have to sign one?
  • What if I sign a waiver and my child (or myself) is injured? Can I still sue?

Here’s what you should know about your legal rights regarding liability waivers.

What is a Liability Waiver?

A waiver releases a provider, such as a camp or recreation program, from liability if a participant is injured. While providers cannot force participants to sign waivers, they can refuse to admit those who refuse to sign.    

In addition, certain liability waivers include an indemnity agreement. This agreement is used when a participant is injured and sues the business or organization. If the plaintiff has signed this agreement, they must repay the provider for the compensation they received from the lawsuit. This includes all costs the business incurred as a result of the claim, including medical bills and legal expenses.

Are Liability Waivers Enforceable Under Michigan Law?

Sometimes. In Michigan, liability waivers are enforced more strictly than in many other states.

Here are some of the reasons a court may rule that a waiver is not enforceable:

  • The language of the waiver is unclear or ambiguous.
  • The waiver did not list the “inherent risks” of an activity.
  • The provider was guilty of extreme negligence, reckless behavior or intentional actions that resulted in the harm or injury.
  • The provider attempted to obscure the waiver. An example would be placing it in the middle of a gym membership contract without any delineation. 

What If I Sign a Liability Waiver on Behalf of My Children Who Are Minors?

Contracts signed by minors (under 18) are not legally binding under Michigan law, including liability waivers. But, when a parent signs a waiver on a child’s behalf, the rules are more complicated. 

In 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that parents cannot legally waive liability on behalf of a child. Then, in 2011, legislators passed a law allowing the enforcement of liability waivers signed by parents of minors. However, these waivers are only enforceable under very specific circumstances:

  • The recreational activities must be sponsored or organized by non-governmental, non-profit organizations.
  • The law does not apply to activities provided by for-profit companies or governmental bodies, such as schools.
  • If an injury was caused by negligence or reckless behavior on the part of the organization or its employees, the waiver is not enforceable.

If I Am Injured (or my child is) After Signing a Waiver, Do I Have Any Legal Recourse?

Like many legal issues, liability waiver law is complicated. You may still be able to sue the provider, but it depends on several factors. You will have a better chance if the provider was negligent or their equipment was faulty. However, the degree of negligence is important, and it’s difficult to prove someone guilty of “gross negligence” or recklessness. The language of the waiver is another consideration. If the document was clearly written and you signed it voluntarily, you may have a harder time challenging its validity. 

What Else Should I Know About Liability Waivers?

  • Liability waiver law varies according to state. Therefore, if you or your children attend a camp or program outside Michigan, it’s important to check the state laws.
  • Be wary of signing a liability waiver that includes an indemnity agreement.
  • Make sure you understand all waivers and other agreements before you sign. Ask questions if you’re unsure.
  • If you or your child is injured after you’ve signed a waiver, contact a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Personal injury law is complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.

Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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