How many things do we sign without actually reading them? We agree to all kinds of Terms and Conditions just by using a website or checking a box. We think they are too long for us to actually take the time to read. But every time we sign our name to something or check a box, we are agreeing to abide by the terms of that contract. So when we’re signing a waiver of our rights, it is critical to know exactly what we’re signing away and what we get in return.
Know what you’re signing.
The first thing you need to know before signing a waiver is what you’re signing. Make sure you carefully read and understand the entire contract before signing it. If anything at all seems the least bit fishy, or you’re having trouble understanding it, just ask. You have every right to ask for clarification and shouldn’t ever worry about looking bad when it comes to knowing your rights. If you sign something away without realizing it, you’ll feel worse.
You can make changes.
A lot of companies get away with including ridiculous clauses in their waivers because no one ever questions them. They may or may not hold up in court, even with a signature, but you shouldn’t risk it. If something doesn’t seem right, question it and don’t agree to it. Tell the other party you’re not agreeing to that part of the contract and tell them to remove the portion you do not agree to and provide a new version without the portions you disagree with.
You might also feel the need to do this if a clause is common in a lot of other instances, but doesn’t apply to your unique situation. Never be afraid to point this out and adjust the contract accordingly.
Ordinary vs. gross negligence.
Most waivers are designed to protect against ordinary negligence, which is a result of someone breaching a duty of care that they owe to others. This can include things like giving bad advice when they thought they were giving good advice; or using equipment they did not know was broken; or driving too fast on the highway. If someone is injured as a result, some waivers can protect the company or individual against a lawsuit by requiring certain actions from the injured party before pursing legal action.
On the other hand, gross negligence is when a company or individual recklessly disregards the consequences of an act or failure to act, a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care. Waivers do not generally include injuries that result from gross negligence, but be sure to check. Never sign a waiver that removes all your rights to recover damages, even when the other party knowingly failed to address problems, which knowingly put you in danger.
Do your homework.
Research the company or individual before you even consider signing their waiver. Accidents happen, but if it seems like they have more accidents than the average for their industry, that’s a red flag. Regardless of whether they were taken to trial or made to pay a settlement for the accidents, a string of them is an indication that their safety standards are more relaxed than they should be. In that case, it’s best to not take the risk so you can avoid getting injured in the first place.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or some other type of accident, you need the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer.