Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense & Personal Injury Attorneys
What You Need to Know About Liability Waivers

What You Need to Know About Liability Waivers

My family and I were recently at an indoor entertainment center for kids. These days, almost all those types of places require that you sign releases, also commonly known as liability waivers, which protect the business from being sued if someone gets hurt on their premises.

As you’re probably aware, you generally have to sign some form of release or waiver to do almost anything that involves the slightest of risks. And we’re often presented with these important documents immediately before the activity in which we’re participating. Most of the time, we all (including me) are so excited or in such a hurry that we don’t even bother to read what we’re actually “waiving.”

And while, fortunately, the majority of the time we never have to think twice about it, sometimes those pesky waivers become an issue in our lives and we regret not having read them in advance.

In my family’s case, the “sometimes” came to fruition at the above-referenced entertainment center. More specifically, it came to fruition thanks to their ball pit. Our kids were having a blast messing around, but of course, wanted their mommy to join in the fun. So my wife, always wanting to accommodate, climbed the steps and leapt right in. What the center’s waiver didn’t include was any warning about the shallowness of their ball pit. So the fact that it was about 18 inches from the top to the hard wooden floor at the bottom did not make for a cushiony landing. One broken foot bone later, I was certainly left wondering about that waiver.

The main question these situations raise is obviously whether standard liability waivers are valid or binding on the participant signor (us). In other words, if we do get injured after signing them, do we now have no recourse? As is almost always the case in law, and especially in personal injury matters, the answer is the very unsatisfying “it depends.” And it depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the following: was the language of the waiver clear and unambiguous, did the wording comply with any state or local laws or regulations, did the waiver try to protect the company from just ordinary as opposed to gross negligence, did the waiver warn of the particular types of risks that may be experienced, etc.

The good news is that in Florida, these types of provisions that try to release a company from liability for their negligence (i.e. failing to warn that its ball pit was too shallow for even a dachshund to safely jump into) are generally disfavored. And thus, while each situation is, of course, dependent on its own unique facts, if you or a loved one is ever injured after signing a waiver, do not despair. We will dissect every word of an applicable waiver and passionately contest a company’s refusal to accept responsibility when our client was injured because of their negligence.

Most of all, take these things away regarding this issue. First, try to get in the habit of reading those waivers (and if you feel comfortable, even ask for a copy of them and keep for your records…you’ll start to sense which ones seem more reasonable than others and which are absolutely absurd in how much they try to avoid responsibility). But most importantly, if you or a loved one are unfortunately injured during an activity after signing a waiver where you believe there was negligence of any kind, do not automatically think that the waiver somehow prevents you from being properly compensated. To the contrary, document as much as you can. Take pictures of the possible negligence (the shallow ball pit, the slippery floor, the very old and rusty equipment, etc.), the injuries, and get names and numbers or emails of potentially helpful witnesses. And please contact us as early as possible so we can assist and act promptly to protect your rights.

As for the ball pit saga, my wife healed quickly and was gracious, telling me she’d rather we use our resources to fight for our clients who count on us.

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