Overcoming Liability Waivers

Overcoming Liability Waivers

May 10, 2023

Participating in activities that involve some level of risk, such as skiing, scuba diving, or even going to the gym, often requires signing a liability waiver. This waiver serves to release the venue or service provider from any responsibility in the event of injury or harm, protecting them from legal action. However, it’s important to understand that not all waivers are enforceable, particularly when gross negligence or other factors are involved. In this article, we will explore the limits of liability waivers and discuss whether you can still sue even after signing one.

Avian Law Group, a California law firm, can provide invaluable guidance and support in navigating these complex legal waters. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to compensation, regardless of whether you signed a liability waiver or not. Contact Avian Law Group to schedule a consultation and discuss your legal options.

What Makes a Liability Waiver Enforceable?

A liability waiver is a legal contract that absolves the venue or service provider from any responsibility for injuries or harm incurred while participating in the activity. However, for a liability waiver to be enforceable, it must meet certain requirements, such as being prominently placed, clear and concise, aligned with public policy, explicit and comprehensive, and read and signed by the claimant.

Unfortunately, some companies may try to diminish their liabilities by printing disclaimers in small, unreadable print, or hiding them in places where readers may overlook them. However, California law prohibits such practices, and all legally binding documents and disclaimers must be prominently placed and written in bold print.

Moreover, any contract or clause going against the public laws and policies of California or any other state are negated and often ineffective. Additionally, any risk not clearly stated in the contract cannot be waived, and a contract can only be enforced if it is signed by the claimant. A company cannot enforce a contract signed by any other party than the claimant.

Can You Still Sue After Waiving Your Liability?

While liability waivers can be enforceable under certain circumstances, they are not always airtight. Even in states known to strictly enforce contract law, such as California, a personal injury case can still be filed and won if you can prove one or more of the following:

Vague or Ambiguous Language Was Used

Any contracts waiving responsibility for the health and well-being of the signees are considered unenforceable if vague or ambiguous language was used. In such cases, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to successfully pursue damages resulting from injury regardless of the signing of said document.

Violation of Public Policy

Liabilities cannot be waived for any injuries if any documents signed go against public laws and policies. Any written provisions should be diligently reviewed by a California attorney with a firm understanding of public policy and contract law.

Unsigned Document

Any document not signed by you, the claimant, is inadmissible and considered null in void. You must provide a signature representing your understanding of the risks of injury and who is and isn’t liable for damages should an injury occur.

Defendants Were Grossly Negligent

Even if you signed a liability waiver, it doesn’t absolve defendants of their legally obligated duty to provide claimants with the safest possible operating environment and conditions. Anything contrary to this can be construed as gross negligence. However, in order to prove the defendant was grossly negligent, you must prove that they failed in their duty of providing the right level of care for the claimant, either through outrageous conduct or overtly poor safety standards.

For instance, a business owner can be held liable for their negligent actions, such as failing to properly maintain equipment, train staff, follow federal, state, and local laws and guidelines, actively attempt to prevent latent dangers, or have adequate first aid equipment available. In order to argue the claimant was “grossly” negligent, a reputable personal injury attorney will look for evidence of outrageous conduct or overtly poor safety standards. More often than not, in order to prove this, expert witness testimony is needed to refer to regulations, standards, and guidelines as well as the defendant’s deviation from them.

Examples of Gross Negligence

After reviewing hundreds of cases throughout California and the country, a pattern of conduct emerged highlighting certain key aspects capable of rendering a liability waiver useless and null and void. They include:

  1. Failure to follow federal, state, and local laws and guidelines
  2. Failure to clean, inspect, maintain, and repair or replace equipment
  3. Failure to actively attempt to prevent latent dangers
  4. Failure to properly train and supervise staff, especially if certification is required
  5. Failure to have adequate first aid equipment available

If you or someone you love was injured while participating in an activity or class, it’s important to hire a California attorney right away. An experienced, well-qualified California personal injury attorney who understands the terms and conditions of the gross negligence standard will help you receive the compensation you deserve and need.

What to Do After Signing a Waiver

Suffering an injury after signing a document waiving your right to sue is never fun, but you may still be able to pursue compensation for your injuries, especially if negligent conduct was to blame.

If you’ve been injured, the first step is to get medical attention. Then, contact an experienced California attorney to evaluate your personal injury case. If evidence of negligent conduct, intentional conduct, or a poorly written document exists, you have a valid right to pursue the compensation you deserve.

Key Points in Your Favor Under California Law

In California, there are some additional key points working in your favor when trying to receive compensation for your injuries despite waiving your right to sue.

Most Waivers are Overly Vague and Poorly Written

The law requires all contracts and legally enforceable documents to be concise and clearly written. In particular, the activities to be undertaken, the inherent hazards the activities pose, and your responsibility for any incurred risk should be clearly defined.

Disparities in Bargaining Power

Someone cannot be “strong armed” into signing or put in a disadvantageous position without doing so, especially if they need the organization’s services and have no viable alternatives.

Grossly Negligent Acts are Not Covered

Nothing you sign overrides someone’s obligation of providing a certain standard of care towards others. This means a business owner can be held liable for their negligent actions, such as failing to properly maintain equipment, train staff, and so on.


Liability waivers can be a useful tool for protecting businesses and venues from lawsuits in the event of injuries. However, they are not always enforceable, particularly when gross negligence or other factors are involved. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to the negligence of another party, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable California attorney who can help you navigate the legal landscape and pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact Avian Law Group today to schedule a consultation and discuss your legal options.

Posted by

Michael Avanesian

Michael Avanesian, the founder and driving force behind Avian Law Group, is a passionate and dedicated attorney with a strong background in personal injury law. As a partner at JT Legal Group, Michael led the growth of the personal injury practice from a single employee to a team of over ninety professionals, securing over $2 billion in settlements for clients in just three years.

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