Hi. I’m John Medler, personal injury lawyer with The Medler Law Firm – Personal Injury & Accident Attorneys. Today I’d like to talk to you for a minute about liability waivers. So many of you may have participated in certain recreational sports. Let’s say you went rock wall climbing, or you went skiing, or you went snowboarding or something like that, and often you have to sign what’s called a liability waiver saying that you won’t sue if there’s an accident. Are those types of waivers valid?
Generally speaking, liability waivers can be valid. However, there are numerous exceptions to that rule and you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you walk through that. Some examples would be if the person that is participating in that activity increased the risks that are normally attendant with that sport.
- For example, let’s say you went horseback riding. Your walking along the trail with your horse and you’ve got an instructor that is guiding the horses slowly down the trail. One risk that would normally be attendant with horseback riding might be falling off the horse and getting injured. So if you fell off the horse, you normally wouldn’t be able to sue. However, what if your instructor suddenly convinces all the horses to start galloping down the road? That might be increasing the risks that are normally inherent with a simple walk of your horses down a trail. So that could subject the horseback operator to liability, and there are other exceptions like that.
- For example, let’s say the liability waiver is written in very, very small print that’s very difficult to read. That would be an example where the court might not enforce the liability waiver. Another example for liability waivers not applying would be if the operator was engaged in what’s called ‘gross negligence.’ Under California law, if the operator is engaged in gross negligence, the waiver doesn’t apply. Another example where the waiver wouldn’t apply is in the case where the defendant’s negligence actually violated a criminal law.
- A famous example is a person who went to a health club and the health club had done such a poor job of maintenance that it allowed algae to grow by its pool. The person walking around the pool slipped on the slippery algae and was injured. When the plaintiff sued the health club. The health club argued, “hey, you signed a liability waiver.” But the plaintiff was able to successfully argue that allowing the growth of algae near the pool actually was illegal because it violated the safety and health code of the city. Because it was an illegal act that liability waiver did not apply.
These are just some examples of where liability waivers may be argued to be inapplicable. You need to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you get around the liability waiver problem. If you’ve got any other questions about liability waivers and personal injury practice, please consult our website at www.MedlerLawFirm.com or call The Medler Law Firm – Personal Injury & Accident Attorneys to speak with our Orange County personal injury lawyer. Consultations are always free of charge.