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A release of liability, commonly referred to as a waiver of reliability, a release form, a liability release form, an assumption of risk form, a hold harmless agreement, or legal release, is a legal document between two parties, referenced as the Releasor and the Releasee. The purpose of a release of liability, is to free the Releasee from legal liability for any damages incurred by the Releasor. Put simply, it's an agreement not to sue if the person or business involved in a risky activity that's offered is somehow hurt or is subjected to some form of damage.
For example, let’s say two parties, A and B, are involved in a local soccer club. A represents the soccer club. B represents someone who wants to play in the recreational league. Using a release of liability written by or acquired by A and signed by B, if B is injured in some way either during practice or during a game, A will not be held legally responsible for those injuries.
This guide is designed to provide you with all of the pertinent information regarding Releases of Legal Liability. Whether you are acting as the Releasor or the Releasee, this guide will walk you through what Releases of Liability are, what to include if you have to craft one, the most common types of releases, and the risks of not using one. Our goal is to succinctly and clearly provide all of the information you need so you can confidently navigate dealing with these documents in an informed and confident manner.
If you own a business, you must understand the importance of a signed form to protect yourself from future claims, even if those are unknown claims. A waiver is a common legal document by which someone taking part in an activity (such as rock climbing) frees the business from legal responsibility for anything that may occur. It is easy to protect your business in this way since a free release is readily available online. There are, however, a few things that business owners should know before using one that they found online.
There are many common misconceptions about these releases. These erroneous beliefs seem to run in two opposite directions. While some people believe that using a sample release found online doesn’t provide a business with any protection, others believe a signed liability waiver form offers a business total “bulletproof” protection even if it is found online. Neither or these beliefs are true. So, what can a signed liability waiver form actually do for a business?
How well a waiver works to protect a business depends upon many factors. The first is the set-up of the form. Additional protective clauses may be included. These include, but are not limited to, disclaimers, indemnification agreements, informed consent agreements, and covenants not to sue. Including the clauses that are applicable to your business may provide maximum protection in the event of an accident or injury.
The second important consideration is your state’s laws. It’s important to find, read, and understand your state’s laws to determine the legal requirements to create a legally binding waiver. You may find it beneficial to talk with an attorney because the laws vary so drastically from state to state. For example, a waiver is almost always enforced in Alabama. However, they are never enforced in Louisiana or Virginia. There are also several states that sometimes enforce them, states that often (but won’t always) enforce them, and states that usually don’t enforce them.
Regardless of which state you live in, it is important to make sure that the free waiver you use includes a few key components. When these documents fail in states that tend to support them, it’s often because they are poorly written. As with any legal document, the free waiver form you use must be clearly written and comprehensive.
While it’s important to include the right provisions in your waiver, there’s something important you must know. It cannot and will not protect you or your business for all accidents or incidents. Nearly every state declines to support a waiver through which the business seeks protection from their (or their agent’s) gross negligence or reckless conduct. How your state defines both gross negligence or reckless conduct is something to consider.
There is also some concern over whether or not waivers signed by minors or signed for minors by a parent/guardian may be enforced. Fortunately for recreation-focused businesses, many states enforce parental waivers. It’s important to understand how a parent signing a waiver for a minor is handled in your state so you know how or if one will protect your business.
If someone filed a lawsuit against you, alleged that you didn't follow reasonable care standards, and won, you could have to pay for medical treatment and mental anguish. While a release of liability gives you a potential layer of protection, it doesn't totally protect you. Rather, it just makes it the client's responsibility to prove that they weren’t warned about the possibility and the degree of risk. The release of liability also alerts the signee that they want to participate in a potentially risky endeavor. This is why it's essential that you include all possible types of harm in your ROL wording (see below).
Think about activities, products, or services that could harm participants. These include any physically taxing or potentially dangerous activity, such as a sports game or traveling as well as any product or service not yet officially approved, be it a new cheese spread or an experimental airplane. Keep in mind that “harm” does not just mean fatal injury. If a celebrity sponsor wears an historically important diamond necklace and it breaks, that qualifies as a form of damage. Be sure you cover all your bases. If necessary, work with a consultant who specializes in determining risk. This can be very beneficial in helping you determine how to use a this sort of agreement.
All releases of liability should include the following information:
Here are the most common types of liability waivers:
Car Sale Waiver or Liability: When you sell your car, you are technically still the owner of the vehicle until the title and registration are officially transferred. In some states, like California, a waiver of release is required when you sell your car to transfer legal liability for the vehicle while the DMV processes the change in title and registration. Many waivers of this nature require you to provide odometer reading, vehicle identification number, and the vehicle sale date of the used vehicle. This is important because it allows the new owner to prove that they now own the motor vehicle. Below are the California DMV's two notice of transfer and release of liability pages:
For anyone in a managerial or supervisory position, it's crucial to have a thorough knowledge of legal protocols, regulations, and protections covering employees and the workplace. This overview covers the legal aspects of employment -- from basic employee/company communication to workplace conflicts and health issues. It is for informational purposes only. For legal advice, please consult with an employment lawyer in your state.
According to a recent Gallup poll of 7,272 adults, 50% of employees quit a job because of an bad experience with a manager. When it comes to creating a positive relationship between management and employees, constant communication is key. This communication must conform to professional protocols for it to be successful.
In the Gallup poll previously mentioned, employees said that daily communication with their supervisors kept them more interested and motivated. Likewise, employees whose managers held regular staff meetings were three times more likely to fully engage their roles.
Good managers build morale and a team spirit. Yet, within this team solidarity, each member needs a clear set of individual goals to contribute to the team's overall success.
Other tips to make employees feel valued include:
Today's companies realize the importance of investing time in community outreach programs and local volunteer services. Many businesses encourage employee volunteerism, and even pay staff members to volunteer for their favorite non-profit organizations during working hours. This creates a team spirit of altruism that has an enduring, positive effect on the work environment.
Treating employees fairly means more than just good treatment; it also involves factors such as:
Before employment, many companies also require new hires to sign an indemnity agreement that fully explains company liability and employee responsibility in cases of injury and illness.
It's important for managers to regularly review and discuss with their employees the following company forms to reduce their legal liability:
Ethical Hiring Guidelines
US equal opportunity employment laws include the following requirements:
Employers are legally required to provide the following amenities to their employees:
Employers must keep good records. This not only protects employees, but also helps protect the company in case of lawsuits. These records include:
Managers must stay up-to-date with employment laws. Employment laws vary from state to state. Even seemingly small infractions can result in heavy fines. The following practices can lead to trouble:
A workplace investigation may become necessary due to the following issues:
Federal and state laws require certain workplace investigations. Check with the State Labor Office to learn about any requirements you may have as a business owner. They typically involve:
In order not to breach privacy laws, managers need to be aware of their legal limitations during investigations.
Personnel files should only be accessed by authorized staff members for a job-related purpose. All information should be considered confidential. Employee information should be broken down into multiple files to prevent theft. Protected employee personnel files include the following:
Employees should expect privacy in their work space, but must be informed if there are areas (such as lockers and desks) that are legally eligible for searches.
Drug testing laws differ by state, but pre-employment drug testing is typically implemented, along with testing under conditions of "reasonable suspicion." Drug testing policies should be explained to employees. Results should always be kept confidential.
According to studies, these are the most common workplace injuries:
When an employee is injured it's imperative to act quickly by following these steps:
Companies can mitigate the risk of workplace injuries, which also means reducing legal liability or the likelihood they may face a lawsuit, by taking these steps:
By communicating openly with employees, providing a fair and ethical workplace, providing resources for employee well-being and staying on top of state and federal laws, managers can rest assured that they're doing everything they can to legally protect employees and the business. In addition, employees who feel valued and are well-treated and protected will not only stay with the company longer, but will also be more productive in their jobs.
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