You Signed a Release of Liability Waiver and Got Hurt — Now What?

By Greg Kohn

Whether you sign your child up for a summer camp or you go to a concert, you might have to sign a release of liability waiver. We often accept the fact that many businesses require these waivers and do not think about the consequences unless someone gets injured. Does that piece of paper, the language on the back of your ticket, or the box that you had to check when you purchased your tickets online really mean that the company does not have to pay your medical bills and other losses?

Like so many issues in law, the result will depend on the facts of your situation. A New Jersey personal injury attorney can talk to you about your unique circumstances and answer the question, You signed a release of liability waiver and got hurt – now what?

An Overview of Release of Liability Waivers

When a business tries to avoid having to pay money for damages to people who get hurt on their premises, they might require business visitors to sign some type of paper that protects the company in the event that the customer gets injured. The release could get called by a variety of names, like an assumption of the risk, exculpatory clause, disclaimer or waiver of liability, or some other title, but they all try to shift the responsibility for injuries onto the participants rather than the business entity.

Is the Liability Waiver Legal?

Few people actually read the words contained in a liability waiver. Even if you do read the waiver, the company is unlikely to allow you to negotiate the terms of the release. Either you sign the form as written or you do not get to participate in the activity.

Because of this lack of input from the customer, some people incorrectly assume that the waiver is not legal. They might sign the waiver thinking that no court will enforce the terms of the paper. Unfortunately, courts can enforce a liability waiver whether you read the fine print or not. Of course, the law does not let businesses go too far in avoiding liability.

What a Company Can and Cannot Include in a Waiver of Liability

You know those signs on the shopping cart corrals in parking lots that say the store “cannot be liable for any property damage or injury to persons for any reason whatsoever”? No court would allow a store to take sledgehammers to their customers’ cars and say that the company was not liable because of that sign. In a similar fashion, overbroad terms in a liability waiver can get rejected by a court.

Liability waivers are supposed to reduce the number of personal injury claims and lawsuits that people might otherwise file if they get hurt when engaging in a risky activity. The company says, in essence, we will provide a facility for you to play indoor soccer, but you cannot sue us if you trip on your shoelaces and get hurt.

It is against public policy, however, for the business to try to avoid liability for its own negligence, particularly gross negligence, or intentional acts. For example, if the manager at the indoor soccer center went on a rampage and attacked people in the facility without provocation, the owner of the center could face liability for not adequately screening job applicants to see if they had criminal records that could put customers at risk of harm. The facility also might not be able to use the routine waiver language to protect it from lawsuits when people get injured due to hazardous conditions on the premises. The company trying to shield itself from legal responsibility with a liability release will likely hire lawyers to defend it from your claim. A New Jersey personal injury attorney can deal with the claims adjuster and defense lawyers on your behalf and go after the compensation that you deserve for your losses. For legal assistance get in touch with our office today.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.