Waive Liability for People entering Your Property
You can ask people entering your property to sign a liability waiver. However, the waiver does not necessarily keep you from being sued if someone is injured on your property due to gross negligence, malicious or intentional actions, or reckless behavior on the part of you or your employees.
If you are concerned about liability on your property, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney familiar with California negligence and gross negligence laws can help. While a liability waiver can protect you from legal action in some situations, it doesn’t allow you to disregard the safety of anyone on your property.
What is a Waiver of Liability?
A Waiver of Liability, also known as a Release of Liability Waiver, is a contractual document between you as the property owner and the person entering your property. It is intended to protect you from legal action when a person is injured during activities they knew to be hazardous.
An example of an effective waiver of liability is when a rock-climbing gym has users sign a waiver to use the facility. The waiver outlines the risks inherent in the activity and states that the user understands and acknowledges those risks. Anyone injured while using the facility and equipment as intended (when there is no malfunction or maintenance issue related to the injury) cannot sue the rock-climbing gym for negligence.
While a liability waiver is an effective tool under certain circumstances, it does not cover gross negligence, willful misconduct, or criminal intent.
When is a Waiver of Liability Effective?
A release of liability is considered valid when:
It Clearly Explains Inherent Risks
When you create a waiver of liability for people entering your property, you must outline in that waiver the risks inherent in using your property. For example, if you operate a roller-skating rink and want users to sign a waiver of liability before they use the facility, you must clearly state the risks of using the rink.
It Details What the Waiver Covers
When you write your waiver, you must detail what the waiver covers. For a roller rink, this might include slips, falls, and injuries associated with using roller skates in a way that is reasonably expected.
It Does Not Exempt Your Own Negligent Actions
While you may be able to use such a waiver to acquit you of responsibility for someone’s injuries caused by their knowing participation in certain risky recreational activities, you are still responsible for ensuring the safety of individuals on your property. You cannot absolve yourself of that responsibility by including it in the waiver of liability.
For example, even if you state in the waiver that you are exempt from responsibility for injuries related to poorly maintained roller skates, someone injured due to poor skate maintenance could still sue you for their injuries since you cannot legally absolve yourself from your own negligent actions.
Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence
To understand the effectiveness of liability waivers, it’s important to note the difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence. Ordinary negligence can be covered by a waiver or release. It refers to actions or mistakes that arise from ordinary carelessness, without knowledge or intent to cause harm.
Gross negligence is more serious. It is largely based on intent and applies when the negligent person was aware of a risk to the health and safety of others and purposely disregards it.
While a waiver of liability may protect you from legal action for ordinary negligence, it does not prevent you from being sued for damages in the event of gross negligence.
You Can Still Be Liable For Creating or Allowing Dangerous Conditions
When you allow people onto your property, whether for personal, business, or recreational activities, you take responsibility for their safety. A release of liability waiver can mitigate some liability, but you are still liable if you create or allow dangerous conditions to exist on your property.
According to California Government Code § 830(a), a dangerous condition is a condition or state that poses a substantial risk of injury when someone uses the property with due care in a foreseeable manner. Examples of dangerous conditions may include:
- Wet or slippery floors, stairs, ramps, or other surfaces
- Elevated areas, pits, or holes without warning signs, guardrails, fencing, or other protections
- Broken pavement and cracks that create a trip hazard
California Civil Code § 1714 indicates that everyone is responsible for their own willful acts and any injuries that those acts cause. If someone is injured on your property due to a dangerous condition, you could still be held liable for the resulting injuries, even with a liability waiver. Your responsibility for individuals on your property extends to allowed visitors, employees, customers, and uninvited trespassers.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine and Trespassers
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine refers to dangerous conditions that could be particularly attractive to children. For instance, a swimming pool that doesn’t have a fence or locked gate could tempt children to come onto your property. Should a child be injured while trespassing on your property under such circumstances, you could be held liable, even though you did not invite or allow them on the property directly.
Similarly, if an adult trespasses on your property without invitation and are injured as a result, you can be held accountable for their injuries if you did not exercise reasonable care to warn of or fix dangerous conditions on your property.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Los Angeles With Your Waiver Liability Questions
Even with a clear and valid release of liability, you can be held accountable for injuries caused by your own grossly negligent, willful, or malicious actions or those of your employees. A personal injury lawyer familiar with liability laws and statutes can explain your rights and limitations under California law. Contact KJT Law Group online or call (818) 507-8525 to learn more about the benefits and limitations of having people entering your property waive liability.