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What Is a Release and Waiver?

When people sign a release and waiver, they assume the risks associated with something themselves.
Waivers often need to be signed before participating in certain risky activities, such as whitewater rafting.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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A release and waiver is a legal form used to relieve people of legal liability in settings where they might otherwise be expected to be liable. The terms “release” and “waiver” are used interchangeably in some jurisdictions, making the concept of a “release and waiver” a bit redundant. Boilerplate forms are available in many books that provide basic legal forms for public use and people can also draft a custom release and waiver. It is advisable to have the document reviewed by an attorney to confirm that it is thorough, accurate, and legal.

In situations where people are assuming risks by engaging in a given activity, and the person providing the services or environment that make that activity possible does not want to be held liable, people can be asked to sign a release and waiver. Until people sign the form, they cannot engage in the activity. The form absolves the normally responsible party, protecting that party from suit and other legal problems that may arise in the event of injuries or damages.

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A common example of a release and waiver comes up on adventure trips, such as trips where people are taken whitewater rafting, hang gliding, or rock climbing. These activities are known to be dangerous and participants may be asked to sign a document indicating that they understand the risks and release the company operating the event from any liability associated with their participation. Companies that offer services like this must also indicate that they have taken reasonable steps to protect safety. While a rafting company cannot be held liable for something like a raft that capsizes, it can be held liable for providing faulty safety equipment or failing to exercise reasonable caution to protect guests.

When people sign a release and waiver, they assume the risks associated with something themselves. It is important to read the document carefully because signing the document effectively gives up certain legal rights. People can opt to refuse to sign, although people may also refuse to provide services to individuals who do not sign a release and waiver. People can also ask to have the form reviewed by an attorney if they are concerned about their interests.

While reviewing a release and waiver, people should pay special attention to the sections noting the risks. If the document refers to a another document or disclosure that has not been provided, it should be requested. If people feel that they have not been fully informed about the risks, they can ask for a more detailed explanation and can also ask specific questions for more information.

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