Can you sue after signing a waiver?
Personal Injury - November 2, 2023
When was the last time you went to a trampoline park or rode a jet ski? What about visiting a haunted house or an escape room? You may remember signing a waiver before the fun, but what exactly did it mean?
Waivers are meant to provide legal security for those managing risky activities, but these documents aren’t always ironclad. If circumstances contributed to your injury that the company could have prevented, you may be able to seek compensation for your medical bills and other expenses. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with our Chicago personal injury attorneys today.
Whom does a waiver protect, and how?
Waivers, when written clearly and within the bounds of the law, are meant to protect the company providing access to activities like zip-lining, skiing, or paintball. The customer is expected to use safety gear and follow the rules. The company is responsible for keeping its property free of hazards and providing equipment and instructions.
The question of whether you can sue if you signed a waiver comes down to an investigation of what happened and who contributed to the injury. When you sign a waiver, you agree to take personal responsibility for any accidents and to not hold the company liable.
However, if they failed to remove a hazard that led to your injury, you could still have a valid personal injury claim, even with a waiver. Bringing a case against them will rely on collecting the right evidence to show they knew about the problem or should have and failed to correct it.
Example of a valid personal injury claim after signing a waiver
Suppose you go to a paintball arena for a day of fun with friends. You don all the safety gear, including goggles, helmets, and body armor. You adhere to all the rules and play responsibly. When an opponent fires their first shot at you, the hit is so powerful that you are knocked to the ground and break your arm.
After getting medical treatment, you hire a personal injury lawyer to investigate the case. They discovered the compressed air power regulator that day was set way too high by a new employee. This caused you and others playing that day to suffer different injuries caused by the unexpectedly high pressure. Your attorney gathers additional evidence showing the company should have known about the issue that made their premises unsafe to the public.
When you can show that the company failed in its legal responsibilities to keep customers safe, the waiver can likely be fought successfully in an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Can you still sue after signing a waiver?
Negligence covers both actions and inactions regarding an employee’s duties. In our paintball example, the fact that the new employee didn’t know how to check the pressure regulators could be considered a failure in their duties. Even more damaging is that the worker wasn’t trained correctly, and no supervisor checked behind them.
When a company fails in its duties to prevent harm, it can be found liable, and a waiver will not offer legal protection from negligence. Any actions that lead to injuries, including intentional ones, put the employees and the company at risk of paying damages to you in a lawsuit.
What happens if I don’t sign a waiver?
Refusing to sign a waiver usually means the company has the right to refuse entry and may even call the authorities to have you removed. However, many waivers are written so poorly as to be legally worthless.
Illinois requires that waivers have language that is concise, clear, and explicit. Waivers must be signed voluntarily and with full awareness, or the waiver will not be upheld in court. Other reasons include:
- The language is overly long or technical, with excessive legal wording that is confusing to the average person.
- You asked questions that were not answered clearly.
- You were given incorrect or intentionally misleading answers to your questions.
- The waiver didn’t indicate the level of risk for the activity in question.
- You were pressured to sign the document to speed up the entry process.
- You were under duress from others (such as from employers in a team-building retreat) to sign and participate.
- You didn’t physically sign the waiver.
- You were underage when you signed.
Illinois courts have held that a waiver signed by a parent for their minor child is not binding. Generally, a parent doesn’t have the right to relinquish the child’s right to legal action if they are injured during an activity. This stems from Meyer v. Naperville Manner, Inc., 262 Ill.App.3d 141 2d Dist. 1994.
Learn more about waivers and lawsuits today
Signing a waiver doesn’t mean you sign away your right to justice if the company failed in its duty. If you want to learn more about whether your injury could be a valid claim for a lawsuit, schedule a free consultation with a Chicago personal injury lawyer at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates.
Call our offices at (800) 985-1819 or use our online form today.