Pre-Liability Waiver Lawyers in St. Louis
In effect, a liability waiver or release is a document set in place to protect businesses or organizations from being sued in the event of an injury. We sign these all of the time. When we sign children up for sporting events, fill out forms to go rock climbing or skydiving, or before we get behind the wheel of a go-kart. The question remains: How enforceable and legally binding are pre-release liability waivers in the first place?
Depending on the state, personal injury lawyers say these waivers hold varying amounts of legal power. Seldom is there a template that includes must-have clauses and other legal documentation in these waivers. Typically, organizations that require waivers attempt to include the following to make them enforceable:
- Specifics relating to who is being released
- Exact references to the activities and dangers involved
- Precise language to ensure signers know what they’re getting into
As mentioned, the legal backing of a personal injury liability waiver depends on which state you’re in. An adult liability waiver, for example, may or may not prohibit the signer (you, the adult) from suing via civil action in the case of a potential injury outlined in the signed document. There are other precedents for child liability waivers based on the state. This may pertain to the parents who signed the waiver for the child will not be able to be compensated for damages (i.e. medical bills). Any “damages” are the child’s, who are likely unable to sue due to legal verbiage in the waiver.
On the other hand, if a non-parent signs a pre-liability waiver and the said child is injured in a “fall” or another type of accident outlined in the pre-liability waiver, you may be out of luck. Typically, courts will mark these waivers as invalid if the signer is not a legal guardian. It boils down to negligence on the event organizer’s part, or their “failure to exercise ordinary care” given potentially dangerous circumstances.
Negligence Lawsuits in St. Louis, MO
When it comes to liability waivers, the goal of any good lawyer is usually to either A) Prove the waiver is invalid due to vagueness or guardianship or B) To prove negligence. “Ordinary” and “Gross” negligence are key terms here. Gross negligence is, for example, when there is a known problem (such as a worn out rope in a climbing gym) that results in an injury. Broken equipment, sharp edges, and other known problems fall into this category. The operative words here are after a problem has been reported. Ordinary negligence is a bit more lenient. Typically, this stems from poor advice or equipment (like a treadmill) malfunctioning during operation. Ordinary negligence is not assumed — it happens.
The practical point of a liability waiver is to create an agreement to participate, which is another (often additional) piece of documentation. Simply put, these forms do not directly protect organizations or their facilities from liability suits. Instead, pre-liability waivers tend to outline potential risks, expected behaviors, and rules.
Liability Waivers | What St. Louis Parents Should Know
There are a few things you as a parent should know about pre-liability waivers in Missouri and Illinois. Note that waiver enforcement in Missouri and Illinois are mid-ranged in most cases, usually requiring strict-to-moderate standards to be admissable in court.
- Refusing to sign a waiver will often result in restricted activities.
- The legal language needs to be clear. If you need a law degree, it probably doesn’t count.
- In Missouri, courts go by a case-by-case basis when a parent waives the liability for a child.
- Adult waivers are usually enforceable unless the conduct was willful or beyond mere negligence.
- Downloaded waivers and templates need to be updated for accuracy for the particular event and activity.
With respect to liability waivers, the general advice is to be careful. Read the fine print. If the language is vague, it will be more difficult for an organization to protect itself in the case of negligent or preventable accidents. As always, you can call a St. Louis liability lawyer for more information.