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What is a Liability Waiver?

Participants in potentially dangerous activities agree to assume the risk of injury in California release of liability waivers. Liability waivers are often required by patrons of activities that could otherwise lead to lawsuits such as: gym injuries, rock climbing accidents, sports car accidents, and school sports injuries.

The agreement is also called an "assumption of risk" or an "assumption of liability" contract. Regardless of their name, these contracts only shield companies from liability for injuries caused by ordinary negligence. Generally speaking, California law does not prohibit people from suing for injuries sustained due to gross negligence, recklessness, intentional torts, or illegal acts.


Signing A Release Of Liability Waiver

Signing A Release Of Liability Waiver

A lot of California businesses require their patrons to waive their right to sue for injuries sustained from sports activities and other potentially dangerous activities. Patrons are required to sign a document titled "Waiver and Release of Liability," "Waiver of Liability and Assumption of Risk Agreement," or something similar before they can take part in the activity. Liability waivers are typically non-negotiable. Attendees are either required to sign the forms "as is" or are not permitted to take part in the activity. It is important to note, however, that a failure to provide a liability waiver does not automatically mean a company is responsible for patron injuries. According to California's law on assumption of the risk, participants in potentially hazardous activities (such as attending a baseball game) are automatically responsible for any injuries they may sustain.

Covered By An Assumption of Risk

Injuries Covered By An Assumption Of Risk Agreement

Typical liability waivers in California protect a company from all claims, regardless of whether the injury was caused by the activity. An example of a document might be a release of liability for poor premises maintenance, negligence in hiring and retaining employees, or accidents such as slip-and-falls.


A participant's liability may even be limited in some cases while traveling to an event (such as a sports competition). The patrons of a business need to understand that by signing a liability waiver, they are essentially agreeing not to sue unless someone affiliated with the business causes them injury intentionally or through gross negligence (as opposed to ordinary negligence).

Ordinary ” And “Gross Negligence”

Ordinary Negligence” And “Gross Negligence”

A violation of California law is "negligence" (ordinary negligence) when someone fails to take reasonable measures to prevent harm to themselves or others. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is generally defined as: The lack of any care, or An extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation to prevent harm to oneself or to others.

Liability Waiver Enforcement 

Liability Waiver Enforcement 

A liability waiver is enforceable only if it transfers the risk of ordinary negligence to the customer. Defendants' gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts cannot be excused by a liability waiver in California. Failure to comply with California or federal law will not exempt the defendant from liability. A waiver of liability must also be explicit, clear, and unambiguous in expressing the parties' intent to be enforceable in California.


If the waiver appears in a small or faint font or in an inconspicuous location (deep within a document, on the back of a page, etc. ), the waiver is likely to be unenforceable.

Minor’s and Liability Waivers 

Minor’s and Liability Waivers 

It is likely that a parent or guardian would sign, as long as you have parental consent. California also allows parents to sign a liability waiver on behalf of their children. Unlike many other states, California allows this. Contracts are generally invalid and unenforceable for minors due to their lack of legal capacity. Due to this, most laws allow children to disaffirm contracts before they turn 18. A parent can nevertheless sign a liability waiver / assumption of risk agreement that is legally enforceable in California.

Signing A Liability Waiver

Signing A Liability Waiver 

In California, we cannot advise clients whether or not to sign a liability waiver and assumption of risk contract. Participating in an activity is not worth the risk of being unable to sue if injured, but it is up to each potential participant to decide. Before signing or after signing an agreement, I can recommend certain precautions. Before signing, ask to inspect the premises and equipment. You can tell a lot about a company's safety management by looking at the facilities and equipment. Consider going elsewhere if the property does not appear well-maintained. 


Investigate safety violations and lawsuits on the internet. Reviews on review sites like Google or Yelp are often written by people who have had bad experiences. You can verify if a waiver seems overreaching by searching for the name of the business (or the type of business) along with keywords including "safety," "lawsuit," "injury," and/or "death.". Adhere to the business' safety guidelines. Sometimes, safety rules seem burdensome or too long to read. These rules exist for your safety. California's comparative fault law can be used to hold you partially responsible for an injury claim if you fail to comply with the rules. Ask whether an event organizer has accident insurance that covers participants. Participants may be covered by accident and liability insurance purchased by organizations. Confirm the policy is current, and verify the policy limits, by asking to see the certificate of insurance.  Ensure you have valid medical insurance. The best thing to do is to have current medical insurance with affordable co-pays and deductibles. Accident coverage may not be high enough to cover your damage. You should have good medical insurance in case you are injured, regardless of who is ultimately responsible. In California, if you contractually accepted a risk, you can prevail in a personal injury claim


Liability waivers and assumption of liability agreements make California personal injury lawsuits more difficult to win. It is important to keep in mind that waivers do not apply if a company committed gross negligence rather than ordinary negligence.

An injured person can also win if he or she can prove that the injury was caused by recklessness or an illegal or intentionally wrongful act. Expert testimony may be required in some cases, such as engineering or accident reconstruction experts. A catastrophic injury or wrongful death case in California is a case where this is especially true. The business' maintenance records, employee checklists, and witness testimony can sometimes provide evidence of gross negligence. A video or photograph can also provide evidence to a jury or insurance adjuster that the defendant caused the injury.

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