Waivers are an important part of any activity-based business, as they limit exposure to costly - and sometimes devastating - negligence cases. However, if a waiver isn’t drafted well, it may not be worth the paper it’s written on when it comes to protecting your business.
Dr. Doyice J. Cotten is a sports and recreation law specialist, and the co-author of Waivers & Releases of Liability. Here are his five things to look out for in a well-written liability waiver.
1. Know your waiver from your permission slip
Many businesses operate under the impression that if a person signs a permission slip, they have accepted responsibility for any outcomes. This is wrong, says Dr. Doyice: “A permission slip just gives permission to participate; [it] protects against nothing”. A properly drafted waiver, on the other hand, protects you against the risks inherent in your activity, as well as the more costly risk of injury due to negligence.
2. Never use a generic template
It may be tempting to cut costs by downloading a generic waiver template from the internet, but this is dangerous - especially for the Adventure Tourism Industry. As Dr. Doyice says: “Any business should have things specific to that business in the waiver. For instance, the inherent risks for tennis would be very different from those for tackle football”. That is why all waivers should be written specifically for your particular business.
3. Make provisions for minors
Different legal obligations apply when it comes to minors, so it’s important that your waiver takes this into account. “A business can use a separate waiver for minors, or one waiver can work for either adults or minors if the waiver is properly written”, says Dr. Doyice.
4. Think about how long the waiver applies for
Your business could be vulnerable to a negligence case years after an incident if your liability waiver does not clearly indicate how long it applies for. “The waiver should specify its duration; it can be for one event, one season, one year, or forever”, Dr. Doyice says.
When making this decision, it’s important to consider the types of risk that your activity incurs. Could a customer allege that you caused them loss of hearing after neglecting to protect them from high levels of noise ten years ago? A well-written liability waiver will take this into account.
5. Care for your customers
Finally, a properly-written liability waiver is about customer care.
It’s important to encourage customers to do more than just sign a form - they should be fully informed of the risks and their options in the unfortunate event of an incident. This is not only about legality, it demonstrates that you are concerned for their health and safety.
This is where Wherewolf’s digital waiver system can help. Customisable into different languages, it provides a straightforward way of ensuring that your customers fully understand what they’re signing up to. When customers use the Wherewolf app on an iPad, they must accept each line of a waiver before submitting it - giving you confidence that they’re aware of their rights and responsibilities.