Liability waivers are a tool with which defendants in personal injury cases try to protect themselves. These waivers are familiar to Floridians and others who enjoy activities like scuba and boot camps. In fact, contracts of many kinds can and do include liability waiver language. Premises leases, for one. A lot of people sign off on waivers without reading them. Others read before signing and balk at giving up their rights. But sign anyway. Some won’t sign, and walk away.
Under Florida law, liability waivers can be enforced. The owner of a dive boat (for example) can be shielded from liability for injuries to clients. However, there are two paths to beating a liability waiver. Not every waiver is enforceable. Under certain conditions, no waiver will help a defendant.
LIABILITY WAIVERS VALIDITY
A liability waiver must be valid to hold up in court. That means it has to be clear, unambiguous, unequivocal, and specific. A valid waiver makes it plain the signer is giving up certain rights. Chiefly, that of claiming damages due to negligence. A valid waiver must spell that out in just those words. So any reader can understand it.
Negligence is one of the keys that unlock fault for personal injury. A valid liability waiver exempts plain negligence as the test for liability. A poorly-drafted waiver which doesn’t meet the standards above, won’t.
Plain negligence, though, isn’t the only test for liability. A valid waiver doesn’t shield a defendant from claims based on other types of misconduct. Gross negligence is conduct that shows “…a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights...” of the plaintiff. Likewise, a waiver is no defense when the cause of injury is an action clearly meant to hurt the plaintiff. A valid waiver won’t help a zip line owner who socks a rider in the teeth.
A person hurt while covered by a liability waiver may still have options. There may be a way to claim and recover damages. As noted, the text of the waiver might make it invalid. Also, the defendant’s roles in causing the injury can trump the waiver. Lastly, there are issues in the law regarding minors. Minors can’t sign waivers. Parents and guardians can. The law treats these waivers a bit differently. Hence, it’s best to call a seasoned personal injury lawyer ASAP after an accident. Waivers can be beaten.