Is a Waiver of Liability Legally Binding?

Attacking a release form or waiver of liability in court:

Have you ever read the back of a ski lift ticket, or the release you signed when your child went to a skating rink party, or enrolled a sports camp?

Most modern sports and recreation facilities and activities in which you or your child partcipate require a signed release or waiver of liability. In signing said form, you usually agree to waive certain rights in exchange for the services provided by the business. These forms, or waivers of liability, attempt to limit or completely eliminate the liability of a business (i.e. ski resort, lacrosse camp, batting cage facility) if someone suffered injuries on the premises.

Our Missouri injury attorneys know that most people have never really read waiver of liability forms in full, or thought about what rights they might be giving up when they sign the forms. Most of these waivers are extremely wordy, lengthy, and confusing; they are designed this way on purpose in efforts to scare individuals away from reading the full release. Fortunately for most, it is only when someone is seriously or fatally injured that these waivers or agreements even become important.

As a paying patron, you are in a difficult position when faced with these waivers immediately before participating in an activity. Rarely does an individual have a reasonable opportunity to thoroughly read and evaluate the language in a waiver of liability. More importantly, rarely does a patron know if the waiver of liability they are signing actually complies with legal requirements.

If you do have the chance to read the release of liability you are signing, do you know what rights you are actually waiving?

  • Some releases include waivers of your right to a jury trial. You may have signed away your 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury without even knowing it.

What if you signed one of these releases and then got injured?

Waivers of liability or legal releases are typically enforced in Missouri. If these forms are properly drafted and executed under the guidance of the law, they are considered valid contracts that limit your rights.

BUT, signing a waiver of liability for a sporting activity may not be the end-all to your rights to recover compensation for your injuries.  If you signed a release or waiver of liability, and you or child sustained a serious injury while in the facility, our personal injury lawyers can evaluate whether the form you signed was valid and legally binding.

There are four different ways to challenge the validity of a waiver of liability:

  1. Illegal content or format: Releases must be concise and clear, typed in an easy-to-read font. Releases must specifcally identify all parties being waived from liability. If the waiver doesn’t meet certain legal requirements, you may be able to bring forth a lawsuit or legal challenge. For example, if the wording is too narrow or too broad, it may not release all the parties able to be sued. Similarly, the writing may be too small to read, or it may be too confusing, or what the law calls “unconscionable.”
  2. Fraudulent or misrepresented statements: The ads, websites, or marketing literature associated with the activity may contain fradulent or misrepresented false statements. These statements may have induced you to participate in the sporting activity; if so, this type of fraud could overread the waiver of liability.
  3. Recklessness or gross negligence: Releases are typcially only valid to protect defendants from being sued for negligence. Ultimately, they can be deemed invalid if you can prove that the other party’s conduct was that of gross negligence or recklessness.
  4. Products liability: A valid release cannot prevent you from pursing a lawsuit or case against the manufacturer, designer, or distributor of a defective or faulty product.

Do not be intimidated because you signed a release form or a liability waiver. The law tends to be on your signed even if you have signed something that you fear limits your rights. If you’ve been seriously injured during a sporting activity, the recreational facility may be entitled to reimburse you for your injuries, even if you signed a release form. For an evaluation of whether or not you signed a valid release or waiver of rights, contact a Missouri personal injury attorney for a free consultation at 314.409.7060. Our lawyers represent injury victims throughout the state of Missouri for all types of serious injuries.

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Reach out to Chris Dixon for personal injury, workers compensation, product liability, and other legal services for experienced, reliable counsel and representation in St. Louis.

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