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Are Waivers Legit and Can They Protect My Business?

contracts Jul 16, 2021

Have you ever been about to ride a horse, jump in a kayak or play hockey and someone sticks a clipboard in front of you at the last minute, asking you to sign a waiver?  

I have had the question many times - "Are these Waivers legit?  Do they work?" 

They can be if you are doing them right.  

Purpose of Waivers

If there is a particular risk in your business that you want the client or customer to be responsible for AND NOT THE BUSINESS, you can shift this responsibility in a waiver.

When to Get a Waiver Signed

One party - your customer - wants to participate in a risky activity (skiing, trampoline, zip line, etc.). and the other party - your business wants to protect itself from liabilities relating to this activity.

In exchange, the customer signs a waiver and release regarding liability claims in order to participate.  If they do not wish to sign, they can not participate.

This could be in a volunteer or business activity - it may be the main activity of your business (ski hill, trampoline park, kayak tours, yoga class) or it could be a special event or fundraiser (pie eating contest, 5 km run etc.)

What You Need to Do to Make a Waiver Enforceable

The waiver needs to be an enforceable contract so that the customer will be held to the promises that they make in the waiver.

In order for the waiver to be ENFORCEABLE, there are three key things you have to follow:

  1. The waiver needs to be drafted in clear language.
  2. The waiver is presented in a way that makes it clear that it is a legal document and has legal consequences.
  3. The waiver is duly executed (signed) by the person or if underage or does not have legal capacity their legal guardian.

Clear Language

  • Explain the risks of the activity in plain language that the participant can understand.
  • Have the participant agree that they are fit to participate in the activity and understand the risks.
  • Avoid too much legalese - make it clear that the participant is waiving their legal rights to sue for damages if they have an injury or loss from the activity.

Make it Clear It's a Legal Document

  • Present the waiver to the customer and explain it in a way that makes it clear that the participant is signing a legal document that affects their legal rights.
  • AND DO NOT say this doesn't mean anything when you hand it to your customer (I have experienced this!).  

Getting It Signed

  • Have the participant sign the activity waiver BEFORE the activity starts.
  • If the participant is a minor (under 18 or 19 - check for your province), have a parent or guardian sign the waiver.  May need to provide a copy in advance to accomplish this.

Summary of Waiver Tips

Identify risky activities in your business - either regular or special events, that may require a waiver.

Have a process for the participant to review and sign the waiver so that you meet the requirements to have it legally enforceable.

Use other methods as well as the waiver - contracts, signs, tickets - to remind of the risks and that the business is not responsible for injuries.

Store and file signed waivers in a safe place so that you could retrieve them if necessary.



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