What is the legal definition of a waiver?
By definition, a waiver is a legal document asking you to agree to relinquish your right, privilege, or claim in a specific situation. Often, waivers disallow certain legal actions even if the other party acts negligently and causes injuries. Some waivers are much more formal than others, but most are enforceable if written by a competent lawyer.
People use waivers for hundreds of reasons. You probably encounter some form of one on a regular basis. Most commonly, they limit liability.
For example, a company that rents boats may require you to sign a waiver before you can take one of their vessels out on a nearby lake. By signing this waiver, you relinquish the right to file a lawsuit against the rental company if you suffer injuries during a boating accident. If you refuse to sign, they will not allow you to rent the boat. Most people sign the waiver without giving it a second thought.
Not all waivers ask you to assume all risks during a dangerous activity. Some ask you to relinquish other rights, such as the right to privacy when a third party needs access to your medical records.
Why are waivers dangerous?
Anytime you sign a waiver, you are giving up a right, privilege, or opportunity. This can hurt you in a number of ways. This is especially true of waivers that relieve the other party of liability. While these waivers are sometimes difficult to enforce, they can limit your ability to file a claim or recover the compensatory damages you deserve after an injury. This may mean they leave you holding the bill for any injuries you sustain, even if they played a role in causing them.
You need to be careful about giving up important rights when you sign a waiver. After a car accident, for example, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may try to convince you to sign a waiver that relinquishes you of your opportunity to file a claim or a law suit.
What should I do if I am asked to sign a waiver?
Some waivers are probably relatively safe to sign. Your child’s permission slip for a school field trip might be one example. These often include waiver-like language that relieves the school of liability while they are off-campus.
Other waivers, though, require a call to your personal injury attorney. If you are in the middle of an auto accident claim and the insurance company asks you to sign a waiver before they write your settlement check, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you understand the language in the waiver and explain what you are sacrificing by signing it. This type of waiver is common at the conclusion of a car accident claim, but you need to ensure you got the payout you deserve before giving up your right to file a lawsuit.