It’s not uncommon for sports businesses such as training academies and facilities, to find themselves in compromising situations where athletes and parents sue the business for damages or injuries on the premises. It’s vital that sports businesses and trainers use waivers which are legal documents that absolve the provider of any fault or liability from the athlete in the facility, or wherever your training takes place. However, there are times when these waivers fail, and a business gets sued nonetheless.
Waivers can fail due to a number of reason and we always recommend consulting with a legal counsel. Here are some of the main reasons a waiver may fail to protect your sports business:
Poorly written: writing the waiver using poor, unclear, or ambiguous language increases your risk of getting sued in court for damages.
Extreme state laws: waiver laws differ according to states. Different states have different laws. In some states, the only law enforceable is for “negligence.” Make sure you’re aware of your state laws.
Conspicuous language: participants often present arguments in court that they did not know what they were signing. Use of conspicuous language gives the participant an advantage in court and can easily lead to a loss.
Inherent risks: failure to include inherent risks may also lead to a lawsuit loss. In this case, the signer can cite being unaware of the inherent risks involved. In a court, an argument like that could stand, and the sports facility will have to accept liability.
Now that we have an idea of some of the waiver elements you need to be cautious of, you can see why it’s crucial for a sports business to focus on writing an effective custom waiver and release based on its unique offerings and needs. So, what tips can sports facilities use to create the ultimate waiver or release?
- Critically examine your state laws
As stated above, state laws differ from state to state. The biggest difference in state laws occurs in the form of language used. While one state may require you to write precise content, another may not necessarily need you to be as specific, but a specific word choice may be necessary. Another factor when it comes to language - one state may view some information as ambiguous while another may see it as clear. Knowing the state laws will help create a waiver to protect yourself in the state in which your sports business is operating, and you avoid having your waiver termed as void or unenforceable.
- Stay Updated on Court Agreements
One of the ways to get yourself out during litigation is to know what the judge wants, before you find yourself before a judge. One of the means to know what the court requires about waiver laws is to read prior agreements before enforcing them on your waivers. By using agreements made by the court on your waiver, you work in line with the court requirement and hence have an advantage in case of litigation. You can keep yourself updated by viewing these materials online.
- Emphasize General Facility Use
You could find yourself in trouble if your sports waiver includes too narrow of a focus. The best way to ensure protection is to go broad. By broad, it means not just focusing on specific program, sports equipment, or participation, but also including general conduct in the sports facility, or wherever you run your training programs. By being broad, the waiver covers all activities in the facility including if a player were to slip-and-fall on pavement, locker room, etc.
- Whatever You Do, Don’t Forget “Negligence”
While laws vary from state to state, one aspect remains clear, the power of the word negligence remains constant in all state laws. While many states require specific language, the role negligence plays in a sports waiver always stands. Failure to explicitly use the term “negligence” in the waiver language puts the facility at serious risk of a lawsuit which will result in costs whether you win the case or not.
An important bit to take away is that the more language specific the waiver is, the more likely it will hold up in court.
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