ROSENKILDE & ASSOCIATES
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Useful Information for Business Owners
What is a Waiver?
With regard to insurance, to "waive" something is to intentionally give up some right or interest. Waivers are frequently used to benefit the person or organization that asks you to sign one. A popular reason for using a waiver is to avoid the legal consequences of sponsoring an activity or event such as the following:
- school or community league sports
- church related sports groups
- intramural sports
- sports clinics
- field days
- bicycle races
- sky-diving classes
- motorcycle training
- horse riding
- school, church or other association field trips
- aerobics/exercise classes
What Happened to Permission Slips?
The use of permission slips has decreased along with the willingness to assume responsibility for a given activity. Permission slips are ineffective when faced with a threat of a lawsuit. Therefore, activity sponsors and participants experienced the following type of forms evolution:
1. Permission slips allowing participation in an activity or event
2. Permission slips including authority to act in emergencies (but the sponsor may still be accountable for its action)
3. Permission slips waiving any right to sue sponsors for emergency actions
4. Waivers barring lawsuits involving accidents arising from both routine and emergency aspects of an activity
5. Waivers barring lawsuits involving accidents arising from all aspects of an activity and including the participant's agreeing to assume the sponsor's legal responsibility for the event.
Better Waived Than Sorry?
Sometimes, waivers are like advertising...they're only effective when you believe in them. For instance, the person signing the waiver may add a comment that he or she has only signed the waiver as a formality, or under duress or protest. Often there are flaws connected with the waiver, such as incorrect or even illegal wording. For instance, a parent is required to sign a waiver for possible injuries to a child but local or state law forbids a parent to waive a minor's rights. Another example is when state law may hold someone liable for certain acts, regardless of any waiver or agreement. There are other issues that may affect the enforceability of waivers such as:
- who is sponsoring the activity (profit or non-profit organization)
- the age of the persons being required to waive their rights (minors, adults, seniors)
- the nature of the activity (short trip to museum or horseback riding)
- the ability of the person waiving their rights to understand their actions
- the details surrounding any injury
- whether the parties affected by the waiver benefit equally from its use (for instance, a dangerous team-building exercise where an employee is required to participate or face termination)
- the qualifications of the staff holding the event
Read Before Waiving
Waivers are sometimes unavoidable, unless you choose to skip the event or activity. Other times, waivers are used when they are unnecessary. Regardless the situation, it is important to take the time to read and understand a waiver before signing. It may even make sense to get competent, legal advice. Perhaps you can't avoid assuming some risk or giving up your rights, but at the minimum, read before you sign so that you understand any consequences.
If you need further advice on insuring this exposure - please call our office at 410-833-7666 / 800-564-0169
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Rosenkilde & Associates | 11350 McCormick Road, Hunt Valley, MD 21031