Well-Written Waivers and Really Respectable Releases

Waivers and releases are a part of everyday life. Whether you are looking for weekend fun, travel plans, lessons for kids, or other such adventures, you’ll probably be asked to sign a waiver or release form in order to get started. Every business wants to be protected, but how useful are these waivers and releases, really? The answer is that they can be very effective, as long as the document is prepared correctly.

A waiver/release is a type of contract and is subject to the legal requirements for contracts in the state in which it is written. Because one of the main elements of a valid contract is the exchange of value, it’s important to make sure that some type of separate value is given when the waiver or release is executed.

Here are a few other key points to remember:

  • Wherever possible, use clear wording that can be commonly understood.
  • The waiver/release should be easily distinguishable from other registration documents.
  • Each participant should sign their own waiver/release rather than having one document with multiple signatures.
  • The waiver/release should include a warning regarding the full range of potential risks inherent in the activity.
  • The language should state that protection against liability for negligence extends as far as the law permits, but no attempt to disclaim liability for gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or claims based in Constitutional rights should be made.
  • The rights of minor participants should not be included without consulting an attorney.

Life is unpredictable, and there is no way to know when an incident will give rise to legal claims or at what time those claims might be pursued. For this reason, it is essential to keep a copy of the executed forms until the statute of limitations has expired. In the case of minors, this could extend several years into the future, so document retention practices should be evaluated at the time the waiver/release is implemented.

It is crucial to take care in the drafting of a waiver/release as courts are much more likely to enforce a document that has been custom-tailored to the specific activity at issue than a generic, all-inclusive form. If you have questions about your waiver/release documents and practices, we can help! Call our office at (248) 477-6300 to get started.

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