It’s easy to become injured during a workout class, ski trip, summer camp, or high-adventure activity. These are the types of activities that often require liability waivers before you can participate. Companies require waivers to help protect themselves from expensive litigation if people injure themselves.
You might think that since you signed a waiver acknowledging the risks of the activity, you have no legal leg to stand on to file a personal injury lawsuit. Waivers can make personal injury lawsuits more complex, but you can still seek damages for injuries that could have and should have been prevented.
Companies Are Still Responsible for Your Safety
The first thing you should realize is that a waiver does not absolve a company from their legal duties to provide safe equipment and a protected environment for patrons. While your waiver does require you to accept personal responsibility for injuries due to normal participation, it does not require you to accept responsibility for a business who makes safety errors.
For example, if you signed a waiver to bungee jump with a service, you rely on the technicians to properly calibrate the cords and provide safe harnesses. If you are injured because of faulty equipment or improper procedure due to blatant employee error, you have a case for a personal injury lawsuit.
Other examples of proper safety include:
- Having enough staff on hand to handle the number of people admitted to the facility. Swimming pools or trampoline parks should always have enough people to prevent accidents.
- Proper maintenance. Equipment-rental companies rent equipment to you for a fee, and you often sign a waiver. However, you rent the equipment in good faith, believing it has been maintained. Your rented houseboat, for example, has inflatable life rafts for emergencies. If the life rafts are not present or do not inflate because of un-patched leaks, you have grounds for a lawsuit.
- Instructional videos or demos before the activity. Many high-adventure activities require initiation. If a company does not provide any instruction for use of the grounds and equipment, not even posted rules, your waiver will be more easily contested.
Your personal injury lawyer can comb through the state safety regulations required of the business. If a system was not up to code or if a company was not in compliance with specific legal safety restrictions, your waiver will also be weaker in the courtroom.
Businesses Cannot Intentionally Harm You
Just because you sign a waiver does not mean any employee can do anything to you without consequence. Employees are expected to do their jobs within their agreed-upon role. Blatant or intentional negligence will essentially void your waiver.
For example, if you are riding a roller coaster, the employee is supposed to check and secure your safety restraint. If they choose not to do so, and you are injured as a direct result, you can pursue a case for compensation.
Similarly, people often sign waivers for experiences like haunted houses. Haunted houses disclose the level of discomfort you are likely to encounter during the tour. If employees are not supposed to touch you, but someone does anyway and causes you harm (sexual or physical assault), you can press charges against the individual and file a civil case against the business under certain circumstances.
You Must Sign a Waiver in Full Knowledge and Willingness
This may seem like a silly distinction to make, but lack of knowledge or willingness is actually one of the biggest reasons lawyers can completely toss out a waiver in a personal injury case. If you can prove you were not acting on your own power when you signed the waiver, you can place some of the liability back on the company. A waiver could be void if:
- You were clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs when signing. In this case, you should have been prevented from doing the activity at all.
- You were forced to sign the waiver. You are never bound by any waiver you were coerced to sign.
- You were too young to sign the waiver. Children and teenagers must have a parent sign for them. A business cannot accept waivers signed by minors.
- The waiver was too difficult to understand. For example, tiny print in a subtext of a waiver may not hold up in court, as it does not provide patrons with clear and honest information about the risks and assumption of liability.
- The waiver is fraudulent. A waiver could be determined fraudulent if it does not accurate disclose the level of risk a patron normally experiences. If you had known the risks, you may not have participated at all and therefore would have avoided injury.
As you can see, a waiver is not an end-all, be-all stop for company or business liability. If you’ve been injured during a high-adventure activity, contact us at Otorowski, Morrow & Golden P.L.L.C. We can help you get the compensation you need.