For some activities – most often, recreational ones – you are required to sign a waiver of liability or a release of liability. A “not responsible for accidents” waiver, or whatever you want to call it, means that under most conditions, you will not be able to hold the property owner or business owner liable for your injuries.
But does it really mean that there is absolutely no way to get the property or business owner to pay for your injuries? “It depends,” says our Los Angeles premises liability attorney at Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg.
Are waivers of liability lawful and legally binding in California?
Although a waiver of liability is often written in fine print, California law recognizes it as a legally binding contract signed between the person signing it and the business or property owner named in the waiver. Under most circumstances, a waiver of rights is enforceable as long as it meets certain legal requirements.
But what many people in California do not realize is that property owners are not protected from all types of injuries and accidents just because they had you sign the release of liability.
Meaning: if you have been injured on someone else’s property while participating in an activity or were present as a spectator, just because the property owner points at the waiver of liability and tells you that you will not be able to sue him or her, it does not necessarily mean that he/she is right.
When a waiver of liability protects the property owner (and when it doesn’t)
Under California law, a waiver of liability can only protect a business or property owner from liability when accidents are caused by “ordinary negligence.” When an accident or injury is caused by “gross negligence,” on the other hand, and the injured party can demonstrate evidence of that, he or she may be entitled to sue the property owner despite the fact that he/she had signed the release of liability.
“When signing the release of liability, the person signing it agrees to assume the risk of engaging in activities outlined in the waiver,” explains our experienced premises liability lawyer. Therefore, the person who signs a waiver of liability is normally not allowed to sue the property or business owner mentioned in the waiver in the event of an accident unless the accident is caused by “gross negligence.”
Likewise, if a person dies while engaging in the activities described in the agreement, his or her family members will most likely not be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the property or business owner mentioned in the waiver if the accident was caused by “ordinary negligence.”
When are you required to sign a release of liability?
Waivers of liability are signed more often than you think. For example, you may be required to sign a release of liability when:
- Purchasing a gym membership;
- Purchasing tickets to sporting events;
- Purchasing tickets for concerts and festivals;
- Getting permission slips for student field trips;
- Signing up for participation in recreational sports;
- Signing up for fitness classes, including yoga and CrossFit;
- Signing up for volunteer activities.
Waivers of liability are valid and legal when…
A waiver of liability, or the “not responsible for accidents” waiver, is considered valid, lawful, and enforceable if it meets the following legal requirements in California:
- The waiver clearly and unambiguously explains what activities are covered by the release and what risks are posed to the person signing it;
- The waiver clearly outlines the rights the person signing it is waiving;
- The injuries and accidents covered by the waiver must be directly related to the activities described in it;
- The release of liability cannot be hidden from the person signing it and must be written in the print size that is easily readable;
- The property owner or business owner cannot pressure the person to sign the waiver of liability or mislead him or her about what the waiver does.
If you have been injured in an accident while engaging in an activity mentioned in the waiver of liability that you had to sign, consult with our Los Angeles premises liability attorney from the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to find out whether or not you will be able to sue the property or business owner for your injuries. Get a free consultation by calling 310-997-0904.