Personal Injury Lawyer
Although people may not know it, personal injury waivers are a common part of life. These waivers are the forms that people have to sign before undertaking some potentially high-risk activity like renting a jet ski, sending kids to camp, or even just joining a gym. Of course, many people skim over these agreements and then sign them, only to have their signature crop up again later after they have hurt themselves. After realizing what they signed, many people wonder whether they have any options left for recovering from their injuries. As it happens, they may. A personal injury lawyer can help.
Personal Injury Waivers and Public Policy
When interpreting contracts like these waivers, one of the things courts will do is look to public policy to see if the agreement is the sort that the government wants people to be able to make or whether people’s ability to make contracts should be restricted for the good of the community. Courts generally find that public policy leans somewhat against allowing people to waive personal injury claims. While courts will still enforce the contracts in many circumstances, they will often read them narrowly, and in some cases invalidate them altogether.
The main problem courts have with personal injury waivers is that, if left unchecked, they could provide companies with a get-out-of-jail-free card whenever a customer hurt themselves. This would shunt the cost of medical care onto either the victims, the government, or hospitals, rather than forcing the careless company to cover the costs of its own negligence. Consequently, many courts have developed a special framework for interpreting and enforcing personal injury waivers.
How Courts Treat Waivers
Courts look for four things when determining how to enforce a waiver. First, the terms need to be clear and precise. Second, the clause has to cover the type of activity that both parties expect to engage in. Third, its enforcement must not be against public policy. Fourth, there must be nothing in the relationship between the two parties that pushes against enforcing the agreement. It is the last two factors where most courts look in order to avoid enforcing personal injury waivers. For instance, courts will look to the bargaining power between the two parties. If the person who signed the waiver was at a severe bargaining disadvantage, courts may refuse to enforce the agreement. Similarly, if the person was a minor, or an employee of the other party, or was contracting for something where they had no other alternative, then courts may strike the waiver down.
Although there are many circumstances in which courts will uphold waivers, they are not by any means ironclad. If you have been injured after signing a personal injury waiver and want to learn what your legal options may be, contact a seasoned personal injury lawyer.