If your organization hosts participant activities such as fitness classes, rock climbing walls, or charity runs, you should create a participant waiver.
A waiver transfers the liability risk to the participant and, when well written, clearly identifies the hazards and expectations of participating in an activity.
What a good waiver includes
If a waiver is generic and not specific to your operations, you could be vulnerable to liability claims. Just as laws vary from state to state, so do waiver requirements.
An attorney can draft wording that fits your operations, as well as local laws. For example, basic legal language would include a Hold Harmless Agreement and an Indemnification Agreement.
Ideally, the waiver should not be part of a larger packet of information. It is more likely to stand up in court when it’s a stand-alone document. If included in part of a large information packet, the injured participant could say they weren’t clear that the waiver was included.
How to use a waiver
Waivers must be signed by every participant, or by the participant’s legal guardian. Have them sign at the time of entry or registration into an activity. The simple act of going over the document helps them decide whether they wish to accept all risks involved.
Why waivers work
Often, a signed waiver is enough to discourage claims — if participants remember signing the waiver, many won’t file a claim. In this way, the waiver acts as a deterrent. And in the event a claim is raised, the waiver can help show that the participant understood the expectations and responsibilities. It can be used as a road map to determine a policyholder’s liability.
Please remember, waivers do not lessen your duty to provide safe programs.