There are many times when it is appropriate to use a liability release form to protect yourself or your business from inherent risks and to protect your business reputation. Some liability forms allow you to legally use images or content for business purposes, while others protect you from unreasonable liability claims.
Should your business be utilizing a waiver form and what key language should be included to make it valid?
What Is a Release of Liability Form?
A release of liability form is a legal document that outlines the limits of responsibility for one party where the other party formally waives the right to hold the other responsible for damages, losses, or injuries. By signing the document, it becomes a legal contract.
A general release of liability is a broad agreement that is appropriate in many situations, but there are many names commonly used for liability waivers. Some of these include:
- Hold harmless agreement
- Discharge of liability
- Liability waiver form
- Exemption from responsibility
- Exoneration of liability
- General waiver
Should You Be Using a Business Liability Agreement?
Business owners and freelancers use liability waivers and intellectual property releases to manage risks associated with their work. Having a signed agreement in place can reduce the risk of lawsuits, lower your legal costs if you are involved in a lawsuit, and protect your rights to intellectual property that you purchased or created.
Some examples of cases where a waiver of liability is commonly used are:
- Models and voice actors who sell images and content
- Graphic designers who create licensed logos for customers
- Rental venues who are at risk of being held liable for losses in their facility
- Companies or freelancers who are collaborating on a project
- Volunteer clubs or groups that organize activities and events
- Businesses that provide products or services with inherent risk
Informing Customers and Guests of Inherent Risks
You have probably signed the form at your local gym, golf course, or other business that requires you to acknowledge the risks involved in these activities and agree to hold harmless the venue or business owner if you are injured. Liability releases are necessary to protect businesses that:
- Rent cars, boats, personal watercraft, or bikes
- Offer skydiving, bungee jumping, or white water rafting adventures
- Offer horseback riding or animal therapy
- Allow the customer to engage in any activity that has a known risk
In all of these cases, the activity itself involves some risk to the participants, and signing the release not only protects your business but informs your customers or guests of the risk involved and allows them to make a decision whether to accept that risk or decline the experience.
How to Write a Release of Liability
For the protection of your business, you should use a general liability release form that meets the legal requirements of your state. You may need to have an attorney review your document and provide feedback, but you can modify a standard form or create your own with the following elements to get started:
- There’s a section that defines the terms used in the agreement (for example releasor and releasee) and its purpose.
- There’s a space for the names and addresses of the protected party (your business) and the person who is signing the release. Use the proper terms to designate your customer or guest as the releasor, and you and/or your business as the releasee.
- A clear and concise outline of any known risks is provided, which might include personal injury, copyright infringement, damage or loss of property, or other risks based on your specific needs.
- Use language that makes clear that the releasor is voluntarily signing the agreement.
- A clear release clause states you or your company cannot be held liable for the risks outlined above.
- Add a statement of indemnity, which means if the customer or guest does attempt to sue you for losses under this agreement, they are responsible for all court fees and legal costs you incur.
- Optional additions can include payment terms, time limitations, NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and other relevant information about the business transaction, collaboration, or agreement.
- A signature block is included for both parties to sign and date the agreement. In some states a witness signature or notary might also be required.
The Limitations and Pitfalls of Liability Waivers
Ultimately, your liability release form might be challenged in court. A well-written and legally sound liability release can go a long way in helping a court decide that the lawsuit is not valid or to reach a decision in your favor. However, as a business owner, content creator, or rental property owner, you cannot avoid your own responsibility to take reasonable care for the safety and rights of others.
- Make your agreement clear and do not hide important information about known risks or conditions.
- Do not leave blank spaces in the liability form and ensure it is signed and dated properly.
- Do not allow the releasor to cross out sections or make changes to the document before or after signing.
- Keep your release forms on file and be able to produce them in a timely fashion if a lawsuit is filed against you.
- Electronic release forms are usually considered binding legal documents as long as they are electronically signed and dated.
- No release form can protect you against “gross negligence,” which is failing to take reasonable actions and provide reasonable protections against known dangers or dangerous conditions.
- No release form will protect you if you or your employee causes intentional harm to someone or their property.
Register Your Business and Keep Filings Up to Date
The language of your liability release form should use your official business name as registered with the state. It might be a registered DBA or Doing Business As name, or both might be included for clarity. It is important that your business filings be up to date in the states where you operate, and all alternative business names be registered.
Check on your business licenses, obtain a certificate of good standing, and register your DBAs now with FastFilings’ easy-to-use online portal. Take the headaches out of keeping track of your business filings with multiple state websites and offices with our authorized services today!