Have you ever signed a piece of paper before entering an event? You may have signed a liability waiver. These supposedly “legally binding” documents are commonplace at events and workplaces. But do they actually hold up in court?
Facing a personal injury is never easy, and businesses will use a variety of scare tactics to force you to abandon your claim. In Louisiana, liability waivers aren’t as legally sound as they may seem. In fact, the liability waiver you signed may not be worth the paper it was printed on. Here’s what you need to know about liability waivers in Louisiana.
What Are Liability Waivers?
Liability waivers (also called liability forms) are contracts used to release one party from liabilities relating to injuries or harm at certain events. In the world of business, liability waivers are common. In fact, you’ve probably signed a liability waiver in the past. Certain sporting events, equipment rentals, and business events require you to sign a liability waiver to discourage litigation. Typically, liability waivers educate you about the risks you’re assuming and have you sign an agreement not to hold the business responsible for any intentional or unintentional harm.
In practice, liability waivers are only supposed to afford protections to businesses from ordinary negligence¹ in risky atmospheres. They do not protect from gross negligence² or intentional injuries. Additionally, liability waivers can only be signed by an adult, not a minor. In fact, courts have ruled that parents and guardians cannot sign away their child’s right to sue for negligence. So, liability waivers signed by either minors or their guardian are almost always thrown out of court.
¹ Ordinary negligence refers to a failure to use the reasonable care that an ordinary person would. For example, a store failing to put out a wet floor sign may have practiced ordinary negligence. An ordinary person would have put out the sign to prevent a slip-and-fall.
² Gross negligence refers to willful disregard of reasonable care. For example, drunk drivers are often charged with gross negligence. They know that driving drunk is dangerous and illegal. But they still did it.
COVID-19 & Liability Waivers
Recently, there has been a massive surge in liability waivers due to COVID-19. Many businesses are requiring people to sign liability waivers before events to protect them from COVID-19 transmissions. So far, only a few states have passed limited liability acts for businesses to protect them from COVID-19 lawsuits. In Louisiana, Governor Edwards signed Act No. 336 into law in the summer of 2020. This law helps protect businesses from COVID-19 related liabilities, but it also has two major exclusions:
- Businesses must comply with “applicable COVID-19 procedures”
- Businesses are not protected from gross negligence or reckless acts
In other words, businesses may be protected from liability relating to COVID-19, but only if they comply with COVID-19 procedures and without gross negligence. While some businesses may attempt to circumvent these two caveats using liability waivers, those waivers will likely not hold up in court.
Are Liability Waivers Enforceable in Louisiana?
Liability waivers are null and void in Louisiana. In fact, Louisiana is one of only three states that do not uphold liability waivers in court. Louisiana Civil Code Article 2004 states that “Any clause is null that, in advance, excludes or limits the liability of one party for causing physical injury to the other party.” In other words, liability waivers have no legal grounds in Louisiana, but this doesn’t prevent businesses from using them to psychologically prevent event attendees from pursuing legal action.
What If You Signed a Liability Waiver in Louisiana?
It’s incredibly common for businesses to require liability waiver signatures in Louisiana. Many businesses are not fully aware of Louisiana law, and others use them as a scare tactic. But none of these waivers hold up in court. If you were injured as a result of a business event or business’s actions, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer familiar with Louisiana law. Any liability waiver you signed will have little-to-no impact on your case.
Can I Still Pursue Damages Related to COVID-19 If I Signed A Liability Waiver?
In most states, liability waivers offer a level of protection to businesses with injury cases involving ordinary negligence. However, Louisiana does not recognize liability waivers in a court of law, and they afford businesses no protection against injury claims. Still, it’s important to remember that COVID-19-related injury claims are unique. You will need to contact your injury lawyer to discuss specifics. If the business did not follow the proper COVID-19 guidelines, it may be liable. This is an entirely new legal landscape, and cases are still developing.
There are plenty of examples of businesses bending the rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, managers may require employees with COVID-19 symptoms to come into work. This directly violates the CDC’s 14-day quarantine recommendations. Additionally, some businesses are ignoring COVID-19 PPE guidelines, potentially putting employees and customers at risk of exposure.
What If A Business Tries to Use A Liability Waiver Against You?
If you signed a liability waiver, there’s a decent chance the party responsible for your injuries will use it against you in court. Remember, a good personal injury lawyer familiar with Louisiana law will be able to swiftly get that waiver thrown out of court. In personal injury cases involving liability waivers or COVID-19, it’s incredibly important to work with an attorney familiar with Louisiana law. In fact, you should choose a lawyer familiar with the legal landscape of your specific area. Liability waiver laws and COVID-19 regulations vary by region.
Were You Injured As A Result of Negligence?
Despite businesses regularly requiring employees and participants to sign liability waivers, these waivers don’t hold up in court in Louisiana. If you were injured due to the negligence of a business, you may deserve compensation. At AKD, we specialize in fighting businesses to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or at 504-200-0000 for a free consultation.