Nowadays, it seems we are often asked to sign a waiver or release of liability before we can attend an event or participate in an activity, like enter a concert venue, rent a scooter or jet ski, or even to undergo a therapeutic procedure.
But how do you know if the document is legally binding and enforceable?
In many cases, people signing a waiver have no idea what they are signing because they do not have a meaningful opportunity to read the full document, or even if the entire document is given to them, it is so full of legal terms that an average person would not even know what it means.
While it is true that a business may try to have you sign this type of agreement, Florida law strongly disfavors it. And in many instances, the business may not have obtained your signature in a lawful or enforceable manner.
Exculpatory Clause, Liability Waiver – What Are They?
While there are differing legal ramifications for liability waivers, indemnification agreements, and exculpatory clauses in a contract, they basically are legal provisions written to protect a business or individual from being held responsible for injuries or damages they cause.
There are number of scenarios in which a person might be asked to sign an agreement that is intended to release a business entity from any liability in the event you are seriously injured:
Renting a Scooter, ATV, or Jet Ski– While on vacation or enjoying a weekend with friends, you may decide to rent a scooter, ATV, or jet ski. While filling out the paperwork for the rental, the business may have ask you to sign a document that contains language releasing them from any liability in the event you are hurt while riding their vehicle. The business intends to protect themselves from any accountability, even in the most egregious of circumstances -- the business rents you a vehicle they knew was defective or had not been maintained properly, and you end up with serious injuries as a result.
Therapeutic Procedures– Have you noticed your massage therapist or trainer asking you to sign a waiver of liability before they can proceed with a private massage or personal training? As a customer, you are typically placing yourself in a very vulnerable position when you receive services of a business in this industry. A company should be ready to make sure their employees are properly trained, background checks have been performed, and the area is reasonably supervised so nothing bad happens to you. Signing away your rights to hold the business accountable in the event something bad happens doesn't leave much of an incentive for the company to make sure it's following best practices.
Entering Certain Businesses or Venues – When you go to an amusement park, take your kids to ride go karts, or enter a stadium, the venue may have a pre-printed waiver on the back of your ticket stub. Even though you may not have actually signed anything, the venue will argue that purchasing the ticket and using it to enter their facility is your implied agreement that you have read the fine print and agree to the one-sided terms written on the ticket.
This often applies to sports arenas like baseball fields too. The terms will explain that the baseball team, arena owners, or management will not be liable for any injuries you may suffer while you are there. In these circumstances, even the types of injuries such a waiver is intended to cover is often litigated. For example, perhaps it was reasonable to assume you were waiving your right to make a claim if you are hit by a foul ball, but you certainly did not mean to waive any claims for serious injuries resulting from a substandard staircase collapsing.
I Signed a Waiver or Release of Liability– Do I Have any Rights?
As mentioned earlier, courts in Florida strongly disfavor the use of indemnity or exculpatory clauses. Florida law requires such clauses be strictly construed against the party claiming to be relieved of liability. Although disfavored, exculpatory clauses that limit or exempt liability for negligence may be enforceable in situations where the contract is between persons of equal bargaining power and the terms are clear and unequivocal.
Therefore, whether or not the document you signed is valid and enforceable will be very dependent on the facts of your case, the language of the document, who the parties are, and the context of your signing. Even though you signed a waiver or release of liability, you may still have a legal right to compensation for serious injuries you sustain.
We Are Always Available to Answer Your Questions
At Goldberg Noone Abraham, our personal injury attorneys understand the most complex areas of the law, stay up to date with new legal precedent, and have decades of experience advocating for your rights regarding waivers of liability.
If you signed any kind of waiver but ended up getting injured, we would be happy to review the agreement you signed to see how it may or may not have affected your legal rights. It never costs a thing to get fast answers to your legal questions, and trusted advice on what you should do going forward.
You can reach us at our main office at 239-461-5508, or just complete this simple form and we'll contact you immediately.
- Tatman v. Space Coast Kennel Club, Inc., 27 So. 3d 108 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009)
- Murphy v. Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Lake Wales, Inc., 974 So. 2d 565 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008)
- Hinely v. Florida Motorcycle Training, Inc., 70 So. 3d 620 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011)
- Rose v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 989 So. 2d 1244 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008)
- Hopkins v. The Boat Club, Inc., 866 So. 2d 108 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004)
- Covert v. South Florida Stadium Corp., 762 So. 2d 938 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000)
- Goyings v. Jack and Ruth Eckerd Foundation, 403 So. 2d 1144 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981)