If you have signed a waiver prior to entering a private property or participating in a certain activity, you may assume that you have waived all of your rights, and that if you suffer an injury, the party who asked you to sign the waiver cannot be held liable for your harm. While this may be true in certain cases, it is very important that you have your case reviewed by a Los Angeles personal injury attorney before you draw any conclusions. While you may waive your right to a personal injury lawsuit in some cases by signing a waiver, in many instances, a party can still be held liable for harm caused to another as a result of the party’s negligence. At the law offices of El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, our experienced personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles can help you to understand waivers and legal liability, and your legal options if you have suffered harm following the signing of a waiver.
What Is a Waiver of Liability?
For many different activities, especially recreational ones in California, a participant may be asked to sign a waiver of liability before they can participate in the activity. These waivers are common at gyms, trampoline parks, amusement parks, water parks, and in regards to various activities, such as taking a surfing lesson, skydiving, youth sports, and more.
While the language of a waiver of liability, and the scope of the waiver, can vary on a case-by-case basis, in general, a waiver of liability is a contract between the participating party (consumer or recreational participant) and the company or facility providing the recreational opportunity (i.e. owner of trampoline park) that states that the participant is knowingly waiving their right to file a lawsuit against the other party should they suffer an injury, and that they are engaging in the recreational activity at their own risk. By having participants sign waivers of liability, companies attempt to evade being held legally responsible should something go wrong and a participant suffers an injury.
Laws About Waivers in California and Requirements of a Valid Waiver
Most waivers of liability are enforceable, which means that should an injury occur, and the participant knew of the risk of that injury and yet engaged in the activity at their own risk (and signed a document stating this), the other party cannot be held liable for their harm. However, in order for a waiver to be enforceable in California, it must be valid. A California waiver of liability is valid and enforceable when:
- The activities that are covered by the release of liability are unambiguously stated and explained, as are the risks that the person is taking by participating in said activities;
- The rights that the person who is signing are waiving are explicitly stated;
- The types of accidents and injuries that could happen, and for which liability is waived, are clearly stated; and
- The person who signed the release of liability did so knowingly without deception or while under duress.
This means that if you are harmed on the property of another or when using the property/recreational equipment of another, you may still have a claim even if you signed a waiver of liability if you can prove that the waiver was not valid or that your injuries fall outside of the scope of what was stated in the waiver.
Waivers, Legal Liability, and Gross Negligence
Assuming that a waiver is indeed valid, the party whose negligence caused the injury (and who is protected under the waiver of liability) cannot be held liable for ordinary negligence that led to the participant’s harm. Ordinary negligence refers to the failure to exercise the proper degree of care in a given situation, and is the basis for all personal injury claims. However, while a party may be immune from liability based on their ordinary negligence per the terms of a valid waiver of liability, they are not protected from acts of gross negligence. Gross negligence is the failure to exercise even “scant care” or the extreme departure from an ordinary standard of conduct. As determined by the California Supreme Court, a recreational provider in California may be held liable for gross negligence that leads to an injury in our state regardless of the wording of a waiver of liability.
The Importance of Having a Waiver Reviewed by a Skilled Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
If you have signed a waiver of your right to sue and a release of liability and you suffer an injury, you should not automatically assume that you have no legal rights moving forward and no recovery options; you may still have a case, and the recreational provider may still be held liable depending upon the situation. Indeed, it is for this reason that before you assume a lack of ability to bring forth a claim, you have the waiver and your case reviewed by a skilled Los Angeles injury attorney. You may still be able to bring forth a claim for damages, despite the fact that you have signed a waiver, against the at-fault party if:
- Your release of liability was buried in a lengthy document and you were unaware of what you were signing;
- The party who asked you to sign the release is guilty of gross negligence;
- The release contained ambiguities;
- The type of accident in which you were involved or injury you suffered is not named in the release; or
- The release was unconscionable or you signed it under duress or deception.
Our Los Angeles Injury Attorneys Can Help
At the law offices of El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, we know that waivers of release of liability are sometimes used to allow recreational providers and other parties to escape liability for their egregious and wrongful actions. If you have been harmed after signing a waiver, do not assume that you have zero rights; instead, call our experienced Los Angeles injury attorneys today for a free consultation and more information about your recovery options. Our lawyers are here to serve you and know how to protect your best interests.