As business owners begin to recover from COVID-19 (coronavirus) and start opening up their businesses, they’re turning to liability waivers to ensure that their business is protected from potential lawsuits.
A signed waiver can’t prevent lawsuits, but it can help you win any that may come your way.
A liability waiver will inform your customers of the risks that they face upon entering your premises while placing the responsibility back on the customer. This means that the customer takes responsibility and won’t be able to sue your business for injury or illness.
In this article, we’re going to look at what a liability waiver is and how your business can protect itself from lawsuits through the use of waivers. We’ll also provide you with sample waiver forms and tips for creating a good liability waiver.
What is a liability waiver, and how are they used?
A liability waiver is a legal document or contract that is signed by both parties involved. By signing one, the participant gives up (“waives”) their right to sue for compensation in the event of injury, illness or death.
The primary purpose of a liability waiver for COVID-19 is to have legal proof your customers have been warned of the risks, and agree to waive their rights to sue in the event of illness.
If a customer gets sick after visiting your business, you can prove they gave up their right to sue for compensation.
Often, a business will use a liability waiver when there’s a risk involved with using their service, platform or product. Rock-climbing, rafting, zip-lining and other high-risk businesses commonly use these to protect themselves.
In this case, your liability waivers will be protecting your business from lawsuits that could result if any customers contract the coronavirus.
Should your business use a liability waiver?
If your business works closely with customers, such as retail or services like salons and spas, you’ll want to use a liability waiver to protect you against lawsuits.
Many businesses have customers or visitors sign a waiver before they let them in the door.
While you’d like to believe that customers are safe when they visit your business, there’s always a chance that they could get sick or injured — especially for as long as COVID-19 lasts.
Here’s what to include on your liability waiver:
The name of the person that is promising not to take legal action or sue the owner of the business for illness, injury or death.
The name of the company or organization that is in charge of the activity and risks being sued if the releasor gets sick or injured while on their premises or participating in an event held by the releasee.
The date that your waiver came into effect, and the date that the releasor signed the waiver. This will be important for legal accuracy if your business gets sued by a customer, vendor or other visitors.
Event & location
The location of your store or event, and a description of any activities that may be happening at that location.
The legal details and local laws that pertain to your circumstances. These will act as the ‘terms of service’ that can help resolve any legal disputes and win potential lawsuits.
The signature of both parties involved. Without signatures, your waiver may not be valid, which means that your business won’t be legally protected from lawsuits.
Two sample waiver forms
Here are some sample waiver forms that you can look at to understand what your liability waiver should look like:
- COVID-19 Liability Waiver
- COVID-19 Liability Release Waiver
- COVID-19 Sample Dental Practice Release Form
Completing one of these before you visit a local attorney might save you some time (and money) in having a liability waiver drafted for your business. Involving an attorney will ensure that your waiver is valid and compliant with local laws and tailored to your specific circumstances.
Keep in mind that this is much cheaper than dealing with a lawsuit because your waivers aren’t legally binding.
Best practices for COVID-19 liability waivers
When you’re creating a liability waiver, you’ll want to use best practices to ensure that there are no legal loopholes that your customers can slip through to sue your business.
Here are just a few ways to protect yourself:
1. Be crystal clear about the risks
If a customer sues your business, you don’t want them to be able to claim that they were unaware of the dangers. You’ll want to place signs and warnings in prominent places to ensure that everyone is aware of the potential risks of being on your premises.
Make your waiver readable
You’ll want to make your waivers readable so customers can quickly read the agreement and understand what they’re signing. You can do this by using readable fonts and text size while ensuring that your waivers are written in a way that is concise and straightforward.
Insist on signatures
Your waivers are no use unless you can prove that your customer agreed to the terms that you’ve set in place for them to patronize your business. You’ll need signatures on your waivers to prove that your customer agreed to the ‘terms’ on them.
Make it mandatory
Your business will only be protected from lawsuits if every single customer, supplier and anyone else who enters your premises signs your liability waiver. You’ll need to enforce the waivers without exception so that no one can successfully sue you if they get sick.
Get professional help
As mentioned before, you’ll want to seek professional help from a lawyer within your state or province. This will ensure that your waiver is effective and in compliance with your local laws, which is essential for winning any lawsuits that you may face.
Keep in mind that a liability waiver won’t prevent customers from filing a lawsuit against your business if they get sick. However, a well-drafted liability waiver will get these lawsuits dismissed and protect your business from expensive lawsuits.
Better safe than sorry
We hope that this article has helped you understand how to create a liability waiver for your business. Always remember to seek professional help to ensure that you comply with local laws and regulations. You’ll likely want to use waivers until the curve of COVID-19 cases has dropped, or until your attorney advises that it is no longer needed.
This post should not be taken as legal advice. It is best to consult a legal professional before drafting or using a liability waiver.