When dealing in the event space, there are a host of risks you need to be aware of. From bodily injuries to third-party property damage, just about any mishap can occur at an event. And if your business is the one throwing the party, you need to make sure you’re covered.
One way you can help protect yourself and your business is by having your guests sign an event liability waiver.
This signed document ensures participants acknowledge the risk factors (however minor) of the event and waive their rights to make claims against the hosting party (in this case, you).
What makes up an event liability waiver and when do you need one? Let’s dive in.
An event liability waiver explained
Starting with the basics: an event liability waiver is a signed document that helps protect businesses or event organizers if injuries or property damage occur during the event.
Those who want to participate will need to sign this release of liability form before entering the event or, in some cases, before purchasing a ticket. This is a common legal document. You may have signed one of these liability waivers, if you ever:
- Entered an amusement park
- Went skydiving or bungee jumping
- Attended a massive concert or music festival
- Signed up for horseback riding on the beach
- Participated in an exercise program or workout class
It’s why event liability waivers are often called “event participation waiver forms.” There is language built-in to protect the host of the event in most cases of injury or property damage. These forms acknowledge the assumption of risk.
What does an event liability waiver say?
There are a few key claims made in an event liability waiver.
First, the overarching theme is for the participant to acknowledge that, by participating in the event and signing the waiver, they are entering the premises and actively volunteering in the activities at their own risk. This is an important distinction, as it places the responsibility on the attendees’ shoulders if any mishap occurs to them, thus affecting their physical condition.
Second, as an extension of this responsibility, an event liability waiver will usually go on to state the participant is thereby waiving their rights to claims of:
- Personal property loss
- Damage to personal property
- Injuries Death
Third, this language of participant responsibility is further pushed by restricting the actions of the attendee. By signing the event liability waiver, the participant is agreeing:
- To follow all company policies and guidelines (even ones not stated specifically on the liability release form)
- To not break any laws (local, state, or federal) while they’re attending the event
- To follow the instructions of the event staff in an event of emergency
While in any waiver, you will see a lot of legal jargon, these three core concepts create the foundation that protects businesses from liability.
Acting in good faith: When would an event liability waiver not cover you?
Though an event liability waiver has language that the signee “understands that they are entering the event at their own risk,” that doesn’t mean they have zero protections. This is where another term enters the discussion “acting in good faith.”
From a pure definition perspective, Law.com defines good faith as:
“Honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person or to fulfill a promise to act, even when some legal technicality is not fulfilled.”
What does this mean?
If your company is throwing a major event and you expect families to show up, you might rent an inflatable bounce house and a carousel for the kids to enjoy. When the parents sign the event liability waiver, they’re doing so assuming you’ve acted in good faith, ensuring that the equipment is safe and usable.
If something malfunctions and an injury occurs as a result, the business won’t be able to point to the event liability waiver and say, “you entered at your own risk.” Instead, a claim can be filed for gross negligence.
Gross negligence is the conscious disregard for the safety or reasonable care of others (both their person and their property).”
What types of events are liability waivers needed for?
As a small business owner, you know how important it is to avoid lawsuits. Lawsuits and personal representatives are expensive, and you probably don’t have capital to burn. Thus, any time your business is throwing an event, it’s best practice to be extra cautious and cover places you’re exposed. Be sure to have an event liability waiver for any event ranging from:
- Music festivals
- Charity fundraisers
- Company parties
- Sponsored dinner events
- Large conferences
Does an event liability waiver protect you from lawsuits?
In short, no. Event liability waivers don’t guarantee that an attendee doesn’t sue you, but they can significantly help you win your case during a lawsuit. Attendees can still sue over:
- Gross negligence (as highlighted above)
- Tort-related cases (when the event organizer or a representative of the business intentionally harms an attendee or an attendee’s property)
This is why it’s important to always have small business insurance with general liability insurance (and professional liability insurance, if needed). These will help protect your business if any mishaps occur.
If you plan on hosting an event where a crowd of people are expected to gather in one place, you need to be ready to acknowledge the assumption of risk.
Protect yourself & your business: small business insurance
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Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.