You’ve probably seen a liability waiver form before. If you’ve ever joined a gym or signed up for a physical training session, you likely signed an activity waiver before working out. Similarly, if you ever rented bicycles or went on a family trip to the corn maze, these situations probably called for a liability waiver form.

This document is a special type of contract that is meant to do two things:

  1. Educate the participant about the inherent risks associated with the event or activity
  2. Waive the participant’s right to sue the business owner as a result of any injury or property damage they incur from the event or activity

By signing on the dotted line, the attendee agrees both stipulations have been met on the release agreement.

The question then becomes: Why do you need to know about liability waiver forms?

Types of liability waiver forms

As a small business owner, you’re on the other side of this contractual agreement. You’re now the one asking participants to read through the rules, guidelines, and waiver release form, and sign at the bottom.

To that end, there are many different types of liability waiver forms. These include but are not limited to:

  • Event liability waiver
  • General liability waiver
  • Legal release form
  • Liability release form

Here’s the industry secret: These are all different names for the same thing. The language might vary slightly (an event liability waiver will be more specific to events, while a legal release of liability form might use more general language), but these are still doing two things: educating the signee and waiving the right to legal claims to avoid a lawsuit.

When do businesses need these waivers signed?

Scenarios where a liability waiver form is recommended

As a small business, you might not understand when a liability waiver form would ever be needed. Truthfully, they’re helpful more often than you might imagine.

First, let’s begin with the obvious scenarios: small businesses with inherent risk.

If your services involve physical activities, such as a fitness center or rock climbing gym, injury is going to be a major liability factor. Ensuring members participate in an introductory safety class and sign a liability waiver form can help them understand the risks and safeguard your business should any mishap occur.

If you own an ice skating rink or a private pool, this comes with the risk of accidents that could involve medical expenses. While participants see a fun daytime activity, you see a long list of potential liabilities as the service provider.

If your business involves working with young children, such as a youth ballet company, a liability waiver form can help cater to parents who are particularly protective (and litigious) as bodily injury may occur.

But small businesses don’t need to be in an injury-prone industry to use liability waiver forms. In fact, almost any business can find themselves in need of these contracts. Imagine these scenarios any business might find themselves in:

  • Putting on an event – A local charity that you love has just asked if you would like to sponsor an event. You’re in charge of everything from raising the money to planning the activities. Guests of this event will participate in games, enjoy food, and (hopefully) donate to a good cause. To protect your business while being a great host, you ask everyone to sign a liability waiver form before entering the event.
  • Setting up a conference – You’re striving to become a thought leader in your industry. The first step: becoming an expert within your local community. This might involve setting up a conference for local players to network, give talks about the current state of affairs, and enjoy food from vendors. You have the attendees sign a general liability waiver form, and the vendors or independent contractors sign their own business liability waiver form, ensuring you’re protected from all angles.

If you’re selling tickets to an event or conference online, you can (typically) have them sign the waiver at the same time.

Quick tips for your business’s liability waiver

The language in the liability waiver form is to protect you from third-party claims that you realistically shouldn’t be held accountable for. To that end, the attendee should know what they are responsible for when signing. Make sure to follow these tips and guidelines when drafting your liability waiver form:

  1. Don’t try to hide anything in fine print or bury any important points in the text. Remember, these forms are meant to educate the signee. Should a mishap occur and the document is brought in front of a judge, you want to be able to point to the clear language that protects you.
  2. Avoid complicated legal jargon. Piggybacking off the first tip, avoid using terms you barely understand. Leave the legal terminology for the lawyers, and draft a release form that both you and the attendee can understand.
  3. Keep an electronic copy of the waiver. Either have a tablet or mobile device that allows guests to sign electronically, or scan every waiver to ensure you have a saved digital copy.
  4. Don’t leave any blank spaces to be filled in later. If there are things you fill in later, the attendee can claim that they didn’t know the full scope of what they were signing, thus voiding the whole contract.

This will help protect your small business on top of the coverage you gain from having the right insurance. Speaking of…

Does a liability release form act as insurance?

Many business owners make the mistake of conflating the liability release form with general liability insurance. These two are not the same and do not provide the same level of coverage:

  1. The liability release form does not protect you from third parties making a claim against you, and even taking you to court (even if you’re in the right)
  2. The contract is not insured against an entity, meaning that your legal defense expenses are not covered
  3. If it’s found that there was gross negligence on your part (lack of proper care or diligence), then the liability release form won’t help against a lawsuit

If general liability insurance and professional liability insurance is what you’re after, then meet Thimble. As the ideal choice for small businesses and independent contractors, we offer affordable policies with on-demand coverage. This means you can purchase insurance by the hour, day, week, or month. It’s insurance that works when you do. 

60 seconds is all you need to go from zero defense against liability to having a Certificate of Insurance on hand. 

Pairing this coverage with a liability release form will ensure you have the protection you need should any legal claims be made against you. That’s Thimble—covering all angles.