What is in that waiver?

With summertime fun upon us, ‘tis the season of signing “waiver forms” for camps, sports, and vacation activities. But do you know what you are signing or asking your customer to sign? Will the waiver hold up in court or is it not worth the paper it was written on?  

A well-drafted waiver form is likely to include more than just a waiver in order to address risks and liability. Assumption of risk, waiver, release, and hold harmless are legal terms which share some similarities but have distinct meanings and implications. Here’s a breakdown of the differences: 

  • Voluntary Assumption of Risk: Voluntary assumption of risk refers to the concept that an individual willingly and knowingly accepts the potential dangers or hazards associated with a particular activity. It recognizes that some activities inherently carry risks, and by choosing to participate, the person acknowledges and accepts those risks without any external pressure or coercion. Voluntary assumption of risk is a legal defense that can be used by defendants to argue that the plaintiff understood and accepted the risks involved, thereby limiting or eliminating liability for any resulting injuries or damages. 
  • Waiver: A waiver is a voluntary relinquishment or abandonment of a legal right or claim. By signing a waiver, an individual acknowledges that they understand and accept the risks associated with participating in a particular activity or event but waiver language works differently from voluntary assumption of risk language. Essentially, a waiver is a way of giving up the right to sue for any personal injuries or damages that may occur. However, a waiver does not necessarily absolve the party providing the waiver from all liability, particularly if there is negligence or other factors at play. 
  • Release: A release is a legal document that terminates or discharges a claim or demand that one party may have against another party. Release is a broader term than waiver and generally applies to the release of any type of claim, not just those related to personal injury or harm. When a person signs a release, they are relinquishing their right to bring legal action or seek compensation for any past, present, or future claims arising from a specific event or circumstance. A release can protect the releasing party from liability for various types of claims, including property damage, contract disputes, or other legal matters. 
  • Hold Harmless: A hold harmless clause, also known as an indemnification clause, is a contractual provision that shifts the responsibility for certain risks or damages from one party to another. It states that one party agrees to assume the liability and protect the other party from any losses, claims, or damages that may arise from a particular activity, transaction, or relationship. In essence, the party providing the hold harmless agreement agrees to “hold harmless” or indemnify the other party from any harm or losses resulting from the specified circumstances. 

These differences are just the beginning of developing a form that effectively protects a particular business. The age of participants, the nature of the activity, and the location of the business also drive who needs to sign and the enforceability of the waiver form.  

We protect businesses so you can focus on what matters most. 

Natasha M. Nazareth, Esq.



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