What Is a Liability Waiver and When Can it be Enforced in CA?

Person filling out a general release form

If your employer has ever asked you to sign something abdicating them of any liability should you injure yourself, you’re probably somewhat familiar with a liability waiver. But are these waivers actually enforceable?

Liability waivers aren’t only related to injuries and illnesses. These waivers have been utilized for years with the intent of releasing a business or person from liability should a certain situation transpire. Most of us have signed a liability waiver at one point or another, although it may have been called one of the following instead:

  • Release of liability
  • Legal release
  • Hold harmless agreement
  • Assumption of risk
  • Waiver of rights
  • Pre-injury release
  • Participation waiver
  • Exculpatory agreement
  • Indemnity agreement

Businesses will often require people to sign one of these agreements prior to participating in anything that could result in injury or harm. For instance, you may be asked to sign a waiver at an amusement park, swim club, or white water rafting trip.

Due to COVID-19, many businesses that don’t even participate in activities that generally result in injury have begun to ask patients to sign forms that they assume the risk of contracting COVID-19 on-site and will not hold the business liable. 

Determining Validity of a Liability Waiver

It’s important to understand that not all liability waivers are valid and enforceable. In order for such a waiver to be legally valid, it must meet the following requirements:

  • The terms of the waiver must be clear enough so that the person signing it understands the actual rights that he or she is waiving; 
  • The terms of the waiver must be specific enough so as not be open to interpretation; 
  • The terms can’t allow for any workarounds; and 
  • The terms of the waiver must be specific enough so as to protect the business or entity should the situation in question actually occur. 

Should a liability waiver meet the above requirements, it should be considered valid and enforceable. 

When Can I Sue Regardless of Signing a Liability Waiver?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that in addition to not meeting its duty of care, a company cannot sign away liability if the conduct it committed was gross, reckless, wanton, or egregious. 

In other words, requiring customers or employees to sign a liability waiver does not excuse them of the need to exercise their duty of care in keeping people safe. If they don’t meet their duty of care and someone becomes injured as a result, the company could still be liable for damages. 

For instance, if a skydiver injures himself upon the landing because his instructor, who wasn’t qualified for the job, didn’t take the right precautions, the sky diving company could be liable for his injuries. 

Another example would be if an employer is informed by his or her employee that they have COVID-19, but still tells them they must come to work. If they infect someone else, the other person who becomes infected may have a basis for bringing a claim against the business. 

Should you become injured or ill after signing a liability waiver, you may still have grounds to sue for your damages. 

Contact a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney

Since California limits the amount of time that someone has to bring a personal injury lawsuit to two years (less for a government agency), it’s important that you contact a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner he or she can go about collecting the necessary evidence to prove your case.  

At the Law Offices of David P. Kashani, our experienced California personal injury lawyers work strategically to help our clients obtain just compensation for their injuries. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind knowing that our legal team is on your side. We will guide you through all aspects of your personal injury claim and make sure that your interests are protected. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us today!

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