What is a Liability Waiver?
Most people have signed liability waivers in their lives without knowing it. They are usually presented to consumers for signature just before renting skis, snowmobiles, going on a sightseeing trip in a helicopter, renting construction equipment, or going on a scuba diving excursion. If the activity has any potential risk of causing injury, chances are very high you signed a liability waiver. Unfortunately, most people sign documents put in front of them because they are in a hurry and do not bother to read what they say. That can be a big mistake because you might be giving up important rights.
Liability waivers protect the companies providing the tools, vehicles, or experience that may cause harm. The waivers typically provide a warning about how the activity is inherently dangerous and that the company cannot be held legally responsible for the customer’s injuries, even if caused by the company’s negligence. Liability waivers are legal in Washington State. The courts believe people and companies should be free to enter contracts as they wish. However, there are limitations to this freedom. A customer might be able to recover for personal injuries and/or financial damages after an accident in certain situations, despite a liability waiver. This blog article will explore some of those situations.
CAN I SUE A COMPANY IF I SIGNED A LIABILITY WAIVER?
There are several situations where Washington State courts have ruled that a customer may file a lawsuit against a company even after signing a liability waiver.
The waiver violates public policy. The government is supposed to implement laws that make society safer. For example, as a matter of public safety, the Washington State Legislature has passed laws that make landlords responsible for maintaining certain common areas on a property. To protect the public from hard, the landlord cannot make the tenant responsible for those common areas. If a landlord has a tenant sign a liability waiver that says a tenant cannot hold the landlord liable for injuries that happen due to the landlord’s negligence in maintaining a common area, that liability waiver will be invalid as violating public policy.
The waiver is ambiguous. Courts have routinely held that for a waiver to be valid it must be written in clear, specific, and unambiguous language. To help ensure customers understand the importance of the document they are signing and its potential ramifications, courts further require waivers to contain bold type and capital letters. The waiver must also have a signature line beneath the waiver language, as well as at the end of the document. If the waiver is ambiguous, courts will generally find the waiver of liability language invalid.
The injuries were caused by the company’s gross negligence. A person or company acts with gross negligence when it is reckless or exhibits extreme indifference to the likelihood of causing serious bodily injury or death to others. For example, a company cannot escape liability through a liability waiver if after a crash it is discovered that its helicopter pilot flew customers while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While this may seem obvious, gross negligence can be challenging to prove. For this reason, you need to hire a competent personal injury attorney to assist you.
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR LIABILITY WAIVER?
If you have signed a liability waiver and have sustained injuries, or you are an insurance carrier defending an insured in a personal injury lawsuit, we encourage you to contact Attorney Jeff Aultman so we can investigate your legal options. You can simply complete the consultation form below and let us know the particulars of your circumstances. Attorney Jeff Aultman will be happy to meet with you and discuss your case.
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