As the 2016 school year commences, so does the inevitable marathon of school activities that your kids will be taking part in. The unavoidable reality of school activities, ranging from field trips to athletics, is the presence of liability waivers. While it is understandable that schools try to shield themselves from liability, these instruments do have their limitations. The saying, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” is appropriate when it comes to liability waivers. Every parent should be aware of the different types of liability waivers and the limitations that go along with each one.
One of the most commonly used waivers is the blanket or general consent waiver form. These waivers are pretty straight forward. You are relinquishing your right to take legal action against a party in the event that a harm takes place to yourself or to someone else in exchange for something tangible or intangible of value. This is known as “consideration.” For example, if your child wants to try out for the high school basketball team, the school will have you sign a document that waives your right to take action if your child gets hurt. In exchange, your child gets to try out for the basketball team. A general consent waiver without consideration like this is less likely to be seen as valid. Another thing to consider with general consent forms is that many states frown upon these kinds of liability waivers. The rationale of some jurisdictions is that these waivers ask parents and children to relinquish important rights and allow schools to skirt liability for accidents or injuries that could have been prevented. Looking for a sample of a general liability form, like this one, will give you a better idea of what they look like.
Another liability waiver you are likely to see is the informed consent waiver. These forms typically try to limit the liability of the school by informing the person of their responsibilities and the risks they assume when they participate in a specific activity. A waiver like this only shields the school from liability if your child gets hurt doing something directly related to the activity. For example, if your child is on a field trip to a zoo and he or she gets bit by an animal on display, even though the supervising teacher has properly warned every one of the danger surrounding the animal, then the school is likely not to be liable. However, if that same animal bite takes place without proper supervision or precautions by school staff, the school could be liable. Informed consent forms do not shield schools from liability for injuries to a child that occur due to negligence of the staff. Typically, if your child brings a form home to take part in an activity that looks like this, you are looking at an informed consent waiver.
When dealing with any kind of liability waiver, don’t be afraid to have your attorney look it over before signing it. If your child has been injured in a school related accident, please reach out to the Law Offices of Michael Cordova to consider your options pertaining to your child’s injuries.