Signing a Waiver Does not always Eliminate your Right to Sue for Injury
If you have ever engaged in a dangerous activity, or allowed your children to do so, you no doubt are familiar with waivers. In many cases, you didn’t even sign anything. The disclaimer is instead in small print on the back of a ticket. In many of those cases, the activity didn’t seem particularly dangerous…until you got hurt. Fortunately, sometimes, disclaimers are unenforceable and you still have the right to sue if you are injured.
In Pennsylvania, a disclaimer on the back of a ticket is unlikely to prevent you from suing. This is because, in Pennsylvania, you must have been aware of and understood the nature of the waiver. Most people never look at a ticket, and venues generally do not require a signature to show acceptance. You will generally encounter this sort of situation would be at a concert, sporting event or other similar types of venues. What this means is, if you are whacked in the head with a bat or a baseball because of negligence on the part of a stadium, you are likely to be able to hold the stadium liable for your injuries. However, there are some venues, for example many ski slopes, where the information is on the back of the ticket, but you are required to sign it. That falls under the signed category.
When you sign a waiver, the analysis is a bit more complex. In such a case, whether the contract will be enforceable against you depends on exactly what it states and the circumstances surrounding your injury. You commonly see these kinds of agreements at gyms, locations where you drive go-carts, places where you bungy jump and so on. It is, however, the job of the venue to prove that the waiver should be enforceable against you. Your lawyer will analyze your situation by looking at 3 major factors.
- Were you aware of the waiver and did you understand it “before [you] entered the facility.”
- Is the contract enforceable? Is there a problem with it in terms of how it was drafted, public policy or for some other reason.
- Was the cause or type of damage you experienced covered by the waiver? The language of the waiver must be factually analyzed in relation to what happened to you to determine if it is applicable in your specific situation. For example, if the agreement covers regular negligence by an employee, but does not cover gross negligence or recklessness, the waiver may not protect the venue where you were injured.
Signed a Waiver? Don’t Give Up Right Away!
If you were injured after you signed a waiver, don’t assume that there is no chance the venue could be made to compensate you for your injuries. The first step, of course, is to get medical treatment. The second step, when you are able, is to speak with an attorney. You will want to provide detailed information about how you came to sign the waiver and what your understanding of it was. In addition, the attorney will need to review the document to see if it is an enforceable contract and whether it applies to your particular cause and type of injury.
About Lowenthal & Abrams
Lowenthal & Abrams is a personal injury firm with offices throughout Pennsylvania. Our premises liability team handles all kinds of cases involving injuries at businesses, including sporting venues, amusement parks and more. Contact us today for a free consultation.