From face masks to social distancing, there are many ways we are adjusting to the new normal in the age of COVID-19. As businesses reopen, many are asking customers and guests to sign liability waivers concerning COVID-19, including doctor’s offices, salons, gyms, restaurants, daycare centers, movie theatres, bowling alleys, and many more. Yet, it is unclear how much weight these waivers will carry in court, if any at all. Even if businesses ask each guest to sign a waiver, if the business is not complying with local, state, and federal health and safety guidelines concerning the coronavirus, they may still be found liable.
What is a waiver of liability?
A waiver of liability is a written contract between a customer, participant, or guest and your business. It is designed to educate the customer about the risks he or she undertakes when participating in the activity, such as visiting your retail store. When he or she signs the form, the customer agrees to acknowledge the risks and accept them. Upon signing this waiver, he or she waives the right to sue the business for injuries they sustain from the visit.
Broadly speaking, waiver of liability forms are designed to reduce the number of negligence suits filed against your business by injured patrons. They should shift some of the responsibility of injuries from your retail store to the participant, as the participant assumes certain risks associated with their visit and continues on. In this age of COVID-19, it is a way for businesses to open back up while allowing the customer to assume the responsibility of staying safe. What businesses must remember is that a waiver of liability is not a substitute for general liability insurance. Some customers who have signed a waiver may still file a claim or a lawsuit that businesses should be ready and capable of handling.
When creating a waiver, you must consult with an attorney to ensure wording is correct. Since these forms can be an enforceable and useful protection for every business, it is worth ensuring they are right. Discuss the following with your attorney:
- Any waiver regulations and validity concerns in your operating state.
- How the waiver will be narrowly customized to your business. It should clearly communicate to the customer the potential risks associated with their participation.
- The format. For example, the location of the language that absolves the part of the responsibility should be clear and easily seen. If it is hidden away within a lengthy document or is in a very small font, the court can determine that you did not give away your right to sue. The language should be easily found and in bold lettering so that the document can be easily enforced.
- The language of the waiver must be clear and not intentionally difficult or confusing.
- Discuss your options if a customer refuses to sign a waiver.
Work with the right insurance agent to secure reliable retail insurance that addresses retail liability concerns and risks.
ABOUT RMS Insurance Brokerage, LLC
At RMS Insurance Brokerage, our expertly crafted policies are written specifically for the hospitality industry. We offer custom-tailored solutions to meet any venue’s specific needs. For more information, contact our knowledgeable experts today at (516) 742-8585.