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Release of Liability

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A release of liability is a legal document in which one party waives the right to hold the other party responsible for injuries, damages, or losses incurred. Protecting parties from legal claims is vital by acknowledging and accepting potential risks or damages associated with an activity or agreement. Read more about the release of liability in this blog.

What is a Release of Liability?

A release of liability is a legal agreement between two parties in which one party waives the right to hold another party responsible for potential damages or injuries. When a party (the releasor) signs the waiver of liability, they are acknowledging that they understand the risks associated with an activity and will not sue the other party (the releasee) should an injury occur.

Other Names of a Release of Liability:

What’s Included in Release of Liability?

A release of liability can be formatted as either a stand-alone document or as a part of a larger contract. The content of the waiver should be specific and customized to the situation for which it is being signed, but every general release form should contain the following key components:

  • Names and Addresses of Both Parties: It is important to make sure it is clear who the release applies to and which party is the releasor and which is the releasee. It is common to include a date in which the agreement is entered near the names of both parties.
  • Definition of Terms: A section defining words within the contract is helpful so both parties understand the meanings of all legal terms used. This avoids ambiguity or different interpretations of the contract.
  • Description of Possible Risks: It is important that the releasor is aware of the risks related to the activity and understands that by signing the waiver, they are now solely responsible for these risks.
  • Clear Statement of Release: A release of liability should include a statement that clearly articulates a statement of release. Below is an example of what a clear statement of release may look like: “The undersigned hereby assumes all risk of injury or harm as a result of the activities specified above and agrees to release, indemnify, defend, and forever discharge the releasee from all liability, claims, demands, damages, costs, expenses, and causes of action due to death, injury, loss, or damage to the undersigned."
  • Signatures: Every waiver of liability needs to include a signature block where both parties can sign and date the document. Some waivers will also require a witness signature, a notary acknowledgement, or both.
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When to Use a Release of Liability

A release of liability is appropriate anytime it's possible a person could be sued should something go wrong during an action being taken. Most commonly, a waiver of liability is signed before participating in an activity that involves some type of risk. However, these waivers can be used in a variety of situations. The following examples are the most common:

Example 1: Activities that involve risk

Signing a waiver to participate in a possibly dangerous activity is very common. Many people sign waivers to workout at gyms, play golf, rent a boat or other vehicle, go horseback riding, or to participate in local events sponsored by churches or other organizations.

Example 2: Photographic releases

A photographic release of liability allows a photographer to use or publish your photograph. A photo is often used for the purpose of profit like in an advertisement.

Example 3: Mechanic’s lien release

A mechanic’s lien release is a waiver by which a contractor forfeits their right to impose a lien on a property.

Example 4: Information releases

An information release allows a third party to release confidential medical, financial, employment, or other information.

Liability releases can also be a good idea to use in certain personal situations. If you loan your car or a piece of heavy equipment like a lawn mower to a friend or neighbor, you may want to execute a waiver that releases you from liability in the event someone else hurts themselves while using your property.

Babysitters or pet sitters may also want to legally protect themselves while performing their duties. In addition, if you hire someone to do work at your house, a liability release may be appropriate.

Are Release of Liability Forms Legally Enforceable?

Although it is prudent to have a release of liability, these waivers are not guaranteed to be enforceable in every situation or case. The enforceability of your agreement will depend on your state’s laws surrounding liability releases, the contract itself, and the level of negligence that caused the damages or injury.

Situations When a Release is Usually Enforceable

A release of liability will generally be enforced by courts if the agreement meets the following criteria:

  • The waiver contains proper language, is clear, easy to read, and unambiguous
  • The release does not violate any states laws or public policy
  • The injury that occurs is clearly described in the release and related to the activity
  • The injury did not occur due to gross negligence on the part of the releasee

Situations When a Release is Not Upheld

In most states, a release of liability cannot protect the releasee from their own acts of negligence or from gross negligence. It is important for people or businesses to be able to limit their liability, however, the public is entitled to be protected from negligent acts.

For example, if a gym knowingly provides faulty equipment, they should not be absolved of liability when a customer is injured because the gym’s conduct was grossly negligent. In addition, if the injury occurred due to intentional acts, the waiver would not be enforceable.

Some states have statutes that limit the use of liability releases for certain activities. If an activity is inherently dangerous, the court may not recognize the release because the defendant is responsible for making sure the activity is safe.

For example, most states will not allow the use of waivers by a construction company for their employees. Employees are entitled to be protected while working dangerous jobs.

If a release is unclear, ambiguous, or difficult to read, a court may not uphold the waiver. A release of liability should be easy to understand for a person not trained in law. If you are signing a document waiving rights, you should be fully informed and understand what it is you are signing.

The type of negligence that occurs may also play a role in whether a waiver is upheld in court. Some releases cite coverage for specific acts of negligence. If an injury occurs due to negligence not covered in the release of liability, a court may not enforce the waiver.

It is important to remember that even if a release of liability is signed, under certain situations, an injured party may still be able to sue for damages. Courts in most states heavily scrutinize waivers so it is important if you are using a waiver of liability that it meets your state’s regulations.

Benefits of a Release of Liability

Here are certain benefits offered by the release of liability:

  • Grants Legal Protection: Obtaining a release of liability from participants, clients, or customers is a formal declaration that persons or organizations have been aware of the risks associated with specific activities or services. Participants who sign the release forgo their legal right to sue the firm for any losses, injury, or damages that may occur from the activity or service.
  • Promotes Participation and Organizing Events: Release of Liability forms are frequently used by organizations, corporations, and event organizers to promote participation in activities that may include some risk. Without these releases, potential participants may be unwilling to participate in these activities owing to legal ramifications in the event of an accident.
  • Offers Financial Protection: In the case of a lawsuit, the party exposed to possible claims may suffer considerable financial implications if a release of liability is not signed. Legal bills, settlements, and even court-ordered damages are examples of these. Such expenses can be devastating, especially for small firms or individuals. In such cases, the agreement serves as a financial safety net.
  • Upholds Relationship Preservation: In many circumstances, the agreement permits parties to participate in activities or transactions without risking their relationships. Participants realize that they are taking risks in sports or recreational activities, and this mutual awareness helps preserve a pleasant mood and good relations among participants, organizers, and sponsors.
  • Fosters Encouragement of Participation: Having a well-written release of responsibility might entice more people to participate in adventurous or recreational activities where there may be a small amount of danger. Participants could feel comforted that their possible liabilities are dealt with and minimized, increasing their likelihood of participating in the activity.
  • Maintains Streamlined Procedures: Having a release of liability in place before a disagreement or accident helps speed up the legal procedure. It offers unequivocal proof of the participant's acceptance of risks, making disputes more amenable to resolution and obviating the need for prolonged litigation.
  • Reduces Liability and Financial Security: A Release of Liability is an important tool for corporations, sports organizations, recreational facilities, and event organizers to reduce financial exposure to potential lawsuits and settlements. It gives these organizations more confidence in their operations since they know they have taken proactive actions to control and minimize risks.

Key Terms for a Release of Liability

  • Informed Consent: The agreement states that the releasor has been fully informed about the hazards involved with the activity and willingly consents to participate or engage in it.
  • Assumption of Risk: The releasor acknowledges that they understand and actively accept the inherent hazards involved with the activity.
  • Release of Claims: This is the agreement's main point. It indicates that the releasor is waiving all legal claims, grievances, demands, or rights that they may have against the release due to specified actions or situations. Typically, this release is extensive.
  • Waiver of Rights: This provision expressly states that the releasor is preceding certain legal rights they would otherwise have under the law. It assures that the releasor cannot exercise such rights concerning the released claims.
  • Recitals: These are introductory comments in legal papers that give context and background information. Recitals in a release of liability agreement may clarify the facts or events that led up to the agreement.
  • Revocation: A release of liability agreement may include a clause that allows for its revocation under specific conditions in particular situations. It may be significant if circumstances change or if both parties opt to terminate the agreement later.

Final Thoughts on a Release of Liability

Modern risk management relies heavily on the release of liability, which is a valuable legal tool. It promotes a culture of safety, informed decision-making, and openness in various activities and services by developing a clear awareness of potential risks and obligations. A vital legal instrument with many advantages for people and organizations is the discharge of responsibility. Parties can safeguard themselves from future legal action, reduce financial and reputational risk, and foster trust in their interactions by expressly admitting and taking any potential risks connected with their activities or services. It is important to proceed with releasing responsibility with care and accuracy. As some situations or jurisdictions may restrict its application, legal guidance should be obtained to assure its legality and efficacy.

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I am an entrepreneurial lawyer in the Seattle area dedicated to helping clients build and plan for the future. I earned my law degree from the University of Chicago and worked in a top global law firm. But I found advising real people on legal issues far more rewarding. Reach out to discuss how we can work together!

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Tim advises small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups on a wide range of legal matters. He has experience with company formation and restructuring, capital and equity planning, tax planning and tax controversy, contract drafting, and employment law issues. His clients range from side gig sole proprietors to companies recognized by Inc. magazine.

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Liz is an experienced insurance professional, having worked with carriers and brokers for over 10 years. She can review or draft a variety of commercial agreements and is here to help your business. Specialties include: Master Service Agreements, business process outsourcing, marketing and partnership agreements, broker agreements, business associate agreements, and NDAs.

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Consumer

Release of Liability

Pennsylvania

Asked on Jul 7, 2023

Do I have a leg to stand on as a co-signer for my grandson's student loans?

I co-signed for my grandson's student loans. He defaulted on the Sallie Mae loans so my credit rating dropped form 825 down to 625! I picked up the payments in order to stop the fall of my credit. He promised to pay but I have not seen a penny. Also I have a parent loan I didn't know about that my daughter signed me up for so I'm paying that. My question is, do I have a leg to stand on with this fiasco. I will mention that I am going on 84 years old on a fixed income so this is a burden especially since the rest of his federal loans will need to be paid starting ion October because the pandemic forgiveness will be stopped.

Angela H.

Answered Jul 11, 2023

Depending on the circumstances, if certain payment requisites have been made, one can petition to have a cosigner released from the account.

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