Can You Sue for Premises Liability If You Signed a Waiver?

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By now, you are probably familiar with the injury waivers that are put in front of you under many circumstances. Property owners often try to get you to waive your legal rights as a condition of being on their property.

While signing a waiver may make your case more difficult, it is not an absolute bar to financial recovery. An experienced premises liability attorney can assess your legal options and advise you whether you can still sue. Contact the attorneys at Horton & Mendez in Wilmington, NC today to learn more.

Companies Think that They Can Always Protect Themselves with a Liability Waiver

Businesses want you to sign waivers whenever possible, especially when you would be engaging in dangerous activities. However, they take things one step further.

Some even try to get you to waive your own legal rights when you park your car in their garage. In other cases, a children’s play center makes parents sign a waiver that would keep them from suing when their children are injured.

These waivers are always drafted by a lawyer who has been tasked with preventing the company from being blamed at all costs. They try to draft the language as broadly as possible to protect against all possible forms of liability. However, there is such a thing as overreach, and businesses cannot get away with everything.

Premises Liability Waivers Do Not Give a Business a Blank Check

Businesses cannot simply get you to sign a waiver as a condition of your using their premises and expect to be able to do anything that they want.

Even if they are able to successfully disclaim liability for common negligence, they can still be accountable when they have blatantly and intentionally violated norms and pay no regard whatsoever to your safety,

Businesses also may not be able to disclaim their own negligence and not have to pay when they have injured you. It is certainly valid to seek a waiver for foreseeable risks that are associated with an activity. However, it may not be valid when a business is trying to disclaim responsibility for their own negligence, which is not taken lightly.

Waivers May Be a Contract of Adhesion

In addition, there is another principle in contract law called a “contract of adhesion.” A business that has disproportionate bargaining power cannot simply hand you a contract that includes grossly unfair and unbalanced terms.

Contracts of adhesion are not always enforceable. A common example of a contract of adhesion is language on the back of a sporting event ticket that claims that the host is not liable for injuries that you suffer on their premises.

To put it lightly, judges often take offense when a large business is trying to protect itself at the expense of an unsuspecting customer who has never really agreed to anything.

What Courts May Look At in Enforcing a Waiver

Courts may consider a number of factors in determining whether a contract of adhesion is enforceable, including:

  • Whether there is a potential for an unfair surprise
  • The nature and the burden of the contract
  • Lack of notice to one party
  • Substantive fairness
  • Unequal bargaining power

The Exact Language of a Waiver is an Issue

Like other waiver situations, courts will consider the equities and fairness of the situation in deciding whether a waiver is valid. If an unsuspecting customer had an unfair contract forced into their hands with grossly unbalanced and unfair terms, a court may decline to enforce it and allow a plaintiff to recover financially.

You can also expect the court to closely scrutinize the exact language of the waiver. A court could decide that your injuries are not covered by the waiver, allowing you to sue. The waiver could have ambiguous language, making it a close call of whether it is enforceable.

You may expect a court to interpret any ambiguities against the party that drafted the contract. You could also expect that the court may try its best to be fair to you and keep a commercial interest from being able to protect itself at your expense. Nevertheless, you should not count on any result in any personal injury case.

The fact that a waiver is involved can impact your case and make it more difficult. You should always contact an attorney after you have been injured to learn whether you may still have a legal right to financial compensation. Let an attorney help make the determination whether a waiver is airtight. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Always Contact a Lawyer to See if You Have a Case

Just because you have signed a waiver, do not assume that you have completely signed away your legal rights. There are always exceptions, and principles of fairness, that could still mean that the responsible party must pay you for the damages that they caused.

You should always consult with at least one lawyer to learn whether you have a possible legal case. Your lawyer can review the language of the waiver and the facts of the situation to help determine whether you can file a lawsuit. You could still very well have a large personal injury claim, notwithstanding the fact that you signed a waiver. There really are some cases when the waiver is not worth the paper on which it is written.

Contact a Wilmington, NC Premises Liability Attorney Today

The premises liability attorneys at Horton & Mendez fight for clients who have been injured on the premises of another. We do not simply accept what one may think is the status quo, or the way things are. It costs you nothing to speak with a lawyer and get our legal opinion. In fact, it costs you nothing to have our assistance unless you win your case.

To schedule a free initial consultation, you can call us today at 910-405-7751, or you can send us a message online. As our client, we’ll leave no stone unturned in pursuing justice on your behalf.

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