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When Do You Need To Use a Liability Waiver?

Regardless of the size of your business, you should take steps to protect it financially and legally. Having important records ready to go can be a lifesaver in emergencies ranging from lawsuits to client disagreements. Some of the most important legal documents for business owners include employment agreements, contracts and liability waivers. What are waivers, when are they necessary and how do you use them?

What Is the Purpose of Liability Waivers?

As the name suggests, a liability waiver is a legal document designed to help your business avoid responsibility if customers hurt themselves. Waivers are also called liability release forms. When a customer signs this form, they are agreeing to free your company from legal repercussions for accidental injuries or damages.

Liability releases generally cover accidents related to your business property, services or products. For example, car rental businesses usually have clients sign a release form before they give customers the car keys. That way, if the driver gets into an accident because of careless driving, the rental business isn’t liable for the damages.

Where Can You Find Liability Waivers?

Some businesses create their own release forms with the help of a lawyer. Lawyers can customize the document’s language to your business’s specific circumstances. This option can get expensive, but it potentially keeps you out of hot water.

Some point-of-sale terminals and business management systems include comprehensive liability waiver apps. For example, Smartwaiver provides access to a full suite of electronic release forms, e-signature features and waiver tracking options. One advantage of this type of system is that it keeps all of your client waivers in one place, safely stored if you end up needing them for legal reasons months later.

How Effective Are Electronic Waivers?

Thanks to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, the majority of electronic documents in the U.S. are just as legally binding as their paper counterparts. Virtually anywhere you use a paper release form, you can use an electronic version instead.

That said, there are a few bars you have to meet for any waiver to be legally binding:

  • Clients have to understand the document: The person needs to be able to read the language your waiver is in. The legal language should be clear enough that the average user can understand the main points.
  • Customers need to read the form: You should encourage the person to read the form carefully before signing it.
  • The form must have a signature: If the waiver isn’t signed, don’t allow the client to proceed with the booking or activity.
  • The waiver must be reasonable: Overly broad language may not protect your business. Keep the form limited to things under the client’s control, such as risks from participating in activities.

A release form doesn’t protect your business against lawsuits for negligence. That means your property should be reasonably clean and safe, and your equipment should be in good working order.

What Types of Businesses Need Waivers?

Release forms are common in the tourism industry. Many businesses related to travel or outdoor adventures use waivers, including:

  • Resorts
  • Tour operators
  • Dive shops
  • Bike, motorcycle, ATV and UTV rental agencies
  • Rafting companies

Put simply, if your business offers activities where clients have a risk of injury, you should have a waiver in place. This list also includes gyms (especially ones with rock-climbing walls), amusement parks and pools.

Another situation where you want clients to sign release forms is when you’re renting out a piece of property, such as a wedding venue or an event center. Even though you’re not the one organizing the event, you can still be liable for accidents that happen on your property. Before allowing anyone to use your event space, land, watercraft or other equipment, make sure you have signed releases from all attendees and participants.

How Do You Use a Waiver for Online Clients?

With the help of modern tech, sending an electronic waiver is a breeze. You simply enter the customer’s email address, send the form and wait for the signature. Recipients can e-sign in a few minutes. Once you receive the signed document, save a copy for your records.

When in doubt, send a waiver. Even many construction companies require signed release forms to start work on a client’s home. Doing your best to keep your company safe from lawsuits is smart in today’s world.

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