If there’s one thing you can count on in business, it’s that you never know exactly what to expect. Anything can happen next week or next month, from great opportunities to financial dangers. One of the most important ways to safeguard your company legally is to use liability waivers. What are these forms, why do you need them and how can you use them?
Basics of Liability Waivers
Waivers, also known as liability release forms, are legal documents that help protect your business against lawsuits related to injuries or accidents. These accidents may happen on your business property or at a customer’s location. They may be caused by a member of your staff, one of your company’s vehicles or equipment that you own.
By signing the liability waiver, the other parties agree to release your business from legal responsibility for injuries, damages and accidents. They agree not to take you to court if something happens on the job. You also have to sign the waiver. Put simply, you agree to provide your services only if customers release you from legal liability for accidents.
Modern Options for Waivers
In the past, using liability waivers meant creating paper forms for your business and having customers sign them in person. Sometimes, it was necessary to mail out release forms weeks in advance and hope that clients remembered to sign and return them on time. These days, modern technology has improved the waiver process significantly.
Some point-of-sale systems even include waiver management as part of their suite of tools, alongside payment systems, accounting software and other business management features. For example, a popular release form management tool called Smartwaiver makes it easy for businesses to create, send, e-Sign and store liability waivers digitally.
These systems streamline the process of using waivers considerably for businesses of any size. It’s faster, easier and cheaper to email a link directly to clients instead of relying on paper documents, traditional mail or express delivery. Electronic signature tools allow customers to return signed forms in minutes instead of days. Less hassle can make clients happy, too.
Examples of Injuries and Accidents
The kind of accidents that can happen depends a lot on the type of services your business provides, but in general, every business needs to think about liability protection:
- Injuries at your place of business: Visitors can slip on wet floors, despite your staff placing marked signs nearby.
- Injuries at a client’s home or business: While your team is working at the customer’s house, people may walk into your worksite and hurt themselves.
- Injuries to other people: When someone rents an event space from you, their guests may accidentally hurt themselves, such as by jumping off of high areas or cutting themselves while slicing a cake.
- Injuries during activities: During outdoor activities such as biking or rafting, there are many ways for participants to injure themselves accidentally.
- Damages to customer property: While performing services for a client, your staff may accidentally damage a valuable item, such as knocking over a vase or damaging carpeting.
The Importance of Waivers in Business
The larger your work team, the greater the risk of accidents and injuries. It only takes one employee bumping valuable items or a single careless client walking into a dangerous spot to expose your company to a heap of legal trouble. Of course, it’s still smart to have general liability insurance, but waivers add an extra level of protection for your company.
Avoiding lawsuits is important for your company’s reputation. You also want to keep your business assets safe. If you’re a sole proprietor, legal liability for business can even affect your personal assets.
List of Businesses and Industries That Need Liability Waivers
Some business owners make the mistake of thinking that legal liability is only for large corporations. In reality, any company can face unexpected lawsuits from clients, including small businesses and service companies:
- General contractors and home remodeling businesses
- Janitorial, HVAC, plumbing and electrical businesses
- Schools and daycare centers
- Event venues
- Tourism providers or outdoor sports venues
- Gyms, personal trainers and fitness businesses
You can’t predict the future, so you need to take steps to protect your company in a variety of situations. Regularly use liability waivers. Train your employees to follow safe practices. Repair equipment promptly. Don’t wait for lawsuits to catch you by surprise.