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What Is a Legal Disclaimer?
A legal disclaimer is a legal statement or text that states that you and your business are not responsible for something.
A legal disclaimer could be as simple as a statement on your website that everything included is your opinion only and that visitors or readers should not assume that anything there is a fact without independently verifying it.
Businesses have a disclaimer for all kinds of things, usually to limit legal liability and shield the company that has created the disclaimer from legal claims and actions.
Or a disclaimer could be associated with a user and third-party risk, such as a product disclaimer stating that the product manufacturer is not responsible for any losses or injuries related to improper use of the product.
In other words, a legal disclaimer doesn’t go quite as far as a release of liability or a liability waiver, usually signed. Still, it can provide some protection to businesses when it is drafted correctly.
What’s Included in a Legal Disclaimer?
Every business is unique and offers a different mix of products and services to a different group of customers. As such, there’s no hard and fast rule for what should be included in your legal disclaimer.
This kind of legal statement or text should always be customized to your business, taking into account things such as:
- The laws that are in force in the area or areas you operate in
- What kind of business do you have
- What kind of risks might your customers be taking by using your products or services
No blanket legal disclaimer will cover every company for every eventuality, so this really does need to be tailored to your specific situation.
Here is an article to learn more about writing a legal disclaimer.
Purpose of a Legal Disclaimer
The purpose of a legal disclaimer is to ensure that users of your product or service are aware that there is a risk associated with doing so and that they should take care to use the product or service only as intended.
By notifying customers of risk and providing instructions about what they might do to mitigate that risk, you can protect yourself from some legal action if they suffer a loss or injury related to using your product or service.
However, disclaimers cannot protect you from legal action if you make false claims or statements, if your product does not meet quality standards requirements, or if you are providing an illegal product or service.
Legal disclaimers offer protection from some types of legal claims and legal liability, but they are not a silver bullet. So you still need to ensure that you offer the best quality products and services and the most accurate and complete information.
Who Needs a Legal Disclaimer?
Every business that offers products or services to the public should, at the very least, have a legal disclaimer.
In some cases, your business might need to go further by requiring customers to sign a liability waiver or release of liability agreement. This kind of document ensures that you can prove that you made the legal statement or text and that your customer read, heard, and understood the contents of those statements.
One example of this might be an operator of a bungee jumping company. It is not enough to have a legal statement or text on your website outlining the inherent dangers of the activity. You should also tell your customers about the risks in person and have a release form that includes information about the risks and is signed and dated by the customer.
A lawyer can usually advise you how far you need to go, whether a legal disclaimer will offer protection, or if you need a waiver and release agreement.
Image via Pexels by Mikael Blomkvist
Examples of Legal Disclaimers
Every business will need a slightly different legal disclaimer based on the products and services they offer, their customers, and where they operate. However, while very disclaimer is different, there are some similarities between the waivers certain types of businesses use. The following are some examples of legal disclaimers.
Legal Disclaimers for Websites
When you own and operate a website, the primary product or service you are offering to visitors is information. As such, your legal disclaimer will usually be related to the information on your website.
Your disclaimer might state that while you do your best to ensure your site contains only factually correct and accurate information, visitors use that information at their own risk and should verify all information independently.
Imagine you run a website offering financial advice, and you have an article about investing that is slightly outdated. Suppose a website visitor uses that obsolete information and suffers a loss. As a result, they might attempt to make legal claims against your website for providing that information.
In that case, a legal disclaimer would offer some protection because the visitor was told to verify all information before using it.
Legal Disclaimers for Emails
We’ve all hit send, only to realize we’ve sent an email to the wrong contact. Usually, the result is nothing but mild embarrassment, but sometimes, there could be severe consequences.
Legal disclaimers for emails usually state that the emails are intended for the named recipient only and should be deleted if received by anyone else. They might also state that any opinions expressed are those of the sender and not necessarily endorsed by the company that employs them.
Many email disclaimers also include information about anti-virus measures and warn recipients only to open attachments if they expect them and trust them. For example, suppose a virus has infected your email network. This could help to protect you from legal liability related to opening infected attachments.
While a legal disclaimer won’t always protect you if you send confidential information to the wrong person, it can still insulate you from some repercussions.
Legal Disclaimers for Products
Legal disclaimers related to products usually tell about the proper use of the product in question. In addition, manufacturers typically include user manuals and information in product packaging when they sell them, but that does not mean people won’t misuse them.
When creating a legal disclaimer for a product, it's important to ensure that you include information about proper and safe use, product limitations, and the potential consequences of improper use.
Remember that a legal disclaimer won’t protect you if your product is inherently dangerous or unsafe. Still, it can protect from claims associated with the user and third-party risk when that user did not use the product correctly.
Legal Disclaimer Sample
Legal disclaimers don’t always have to be a lengthy or complex legal statement or text.
Sometimes, something as simple as “the owner of XYZ Corporation, which owns and operates XYZ.com, does not assume responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions related to the site's content. All information is provided on an “as is” basis, and XYZ Corporation does not guarantee the content's timeliness, completeness, accuracy, or usefulness.
Do Legal Disclaimers Hold Up in Court?
How well your legal disclaimer will hold up in court depends greatly on how well it is written, how much it applies to your business, and whether you have done as much as possible to mitigate risks for your customers.
A legal disclaimer will not protect you if you sell an inferior or unsafe product or provide subpar service. However, it might limit legal claims against your company if you have done as much as possible to provide quality products and services, detailed instructions to your customers, and support if needed.
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