A recent poll commissioned, with findings published on August 16, 2017, by Slater and Gordon Lawyers of more than 1,000 Australians found that 60% did not realise that signing waivers would not necessarily stop a person from taking legal action in the event of a serious injury caused by an act of negligence.
According to Slater and Gordon, waiver forms are some of the most commonly signed legal documents in Australia but a new national survey found a large number of people have no idea what they are signing when putting pen to paper.
Waivers are clauses signed by individuals or groups that reduce the scope of a recreation provider’s liability, limiting a person’s rights to take legal action in the event of an injury or unforseen situation.
Slater and Gordon say that unsurprisingly, waivers are routinely used for dangerous recreational activities such as bungee jumping, jet boating and sky diving as well as for more every day activities such as joining a gym, visiting a trampolining centre, playing organised sport and consenting to your child’s school excursion.
But despite the commonness of the forms, the poll highlighted that 49.4% of people did not believe they had signed a waiver in their life while 30% said they had signed a waiver and 20.6% were unsure.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Barrie Woollacott said waivers were some of the most common legal documents in Australia, but acknowledged that those who had signed probably hadn’t taken much notice of the detail.
“These forms are usually the least read but one of the most signed. Unfortunately many people see signing these documents as a minor barrier to getting involved in an activity and often don’t bother to read them.
“However, what they’re doing is giving up many of their rights to be compensated should they experience a negative result, such as injury,” said Woollacott
Woollacott said there had been cases where due to the wording of a waiver form, combined with a clear act of negligence, people have been able to successfully take legal action.
“To this point, 40.5% of participants believed they were still able to seek damages even if they had signed a waiver.”
Woollacott says people need to read all documents before they sign, as some waivers are legally stronger than others and do take away rights.
“When people participate in these activities they are owed a duty of care, so if a person has suffered a serious disadvantage by participating in an activity then they still may have a claim.”
Image sourced by Flickr cc: Chris Betcher