Yesterday morning I got up out of bed, made my coffee, got my kids up out of bed, and proceeded to get my seven year old son ready for the day. Yes, that blessed parents-only holiday had come: THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! As I watched him slowly eat his breakfast, dreading the day ahead, I was almost giddy as I double-checked his backpack and set out his shoes. I tried to pep him up by doing the running man and singing the “Time to Go to School” song that I wrote for this joyous occasion. He started screaming, “Mommy, STOP IT!!” Of course, I couldn’t imagine why my singing and dancing bothered him, but out of self-sacrificial love, I stopped … eventually.
So as a tribute to this fine day and, I wanted to post a very important, simple, but little know trick for a type of contract that all parents with kids in athletics frequently see and sign: the liability waiver. Actually, you pretty much see these any time you or your children want to do any activities that might be considered dangerous (a.k.a. “fun”). Simply put, they usually state that you acknowledge that what you’re doing could be harmful, dangerous, or fatal, and you can’t come after the school or business, whichever the case may be, if something bad happens because you have waived your right to sue them. Schools and businesses usually will not let you participate in the activity until they have a signed form from you.
Signing away any rights makes me very uncomfortable, and I don’t recommend it without careful consideration. So, you’re either going to sign it and your kid participate, or not sign it and your kid be relegated to the sidelines to watch all of his friends have fun. At least, most people think those are the only choices. The truth is, you don’t have to sign the form as it is because you can cross out the provisions that you don’t like. Yep, you sure can. Just make sure you initial every part that you have modified, but once you’re done, sign it and send the waiver back.
Most times the schools and businesses only check to make sure they have a signed form back, and fail to ensure that all of the terms remained intact. If this happens, great–you’re only on the hook for the terms that you left in the waiver. Some may come back and insist that you sign the waiver as-is. If this happens, the bright side is that you’re not waiving all of your rights to sue them. For instance, you cannot waive your right to sue if there was gross negligence, or intentional misconduct. Liability waivers usually are only valid against ordinary negligence. So even if you signed a waiver with language that prevents you from bringing any and all types of lawsuits, you probably will retain the right to sue them in limited circumstances.
So try this the next time you are presented with a liability waiver, and let me know how it goes! Until then, Merry First-Days-of-School, and Happy New School Year!