A release of liability occurs when a victim signs a release form or a contract containing a release clause. A release form is a waiver. By signing the waiver, the victim agrees that if an injury occurs, they assume the risks associated with the dangerous activity. This prevents the victim from suing the operator for any injury that occurs during the activity.
Release forms are common in more dangerous activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, and parasailing. These activities have an increased risk of injury because they are dangerous. The risk of injury and inherent dangerousness are either obvious to the participants or are disclosed to the participants by the operator.
If you want to participate in an activity that involves release of liability, you will often be required to sign a liability waiver. If you refuse to sign the waiver, the operator will likely not let you participate. If you are uncomfortable with the risks or if you were unaware of the dangerousness of the activity, you should not sign the waiver.
Under some situations, you may be able to sue for negligence if you are injured, even if you signed a waiver. Release of liability does not bar negligence lawsuits when the release form is unenforceable.
One way a release form may not be enforceable is if your state’s statutes do not permit waiver of liability for the activity. For instance, most states will not allow construction companies to be absolved of liability even if they have their construction workers sign release of liability forms before working.
This is because under some inherently dangerous situations, the defendant is still responsible for making sure the activity is safe. The court will not recognized a release of liability form in those circumstances.
Another way a release form may not be enforceable is if the form contains jargon too confusing and complicated for you to understand. In order for you to waive your right to sue, you need to understand both what the inherent risks are and what exactly you are waiving. If the company does not explain this to you clearly and/or if the contract does not make this clear to the average person, the court may hold that the release form cannot be enforced against you.
Finally, the release form may state that the company is not liable for certain types of negligence. For instance, a release form for skydiving may state the company is not liable for bad weather conditions. However, if the release form does not state that you waive your right to sue if your parachute fails to deploy, then you may sue for negligence when that occurs.
If you signed a release of liability form, it will be difficult to prove that the company can still legally be sued for negligence. You will need a personal injury lawyer to help you review the release form, draft arguments, and navigate the law related to your injury.