At one point in our lives or another, we have all signed something we did
not read. But there is a reason that we are told to read everything we
sign. One of those reasons is that we can actually sign our rights away
in some instances. In this article we want to give you an overview of
negligence waiver law in Florida. Hopefully after reading this article
you will be able to answer the following questions:
- Are negligence waivers valid in Florida?
- What rights can I sign away with a waiver?
- When are negligence waivers invalid?
- What is the overall law in Florida on waivers?
Florida Law on Validity of Waivers
To answer the first question posed, negligence waivers can be valid in
Florida. But for a waiver to be valid, it must meet certain requirements. In a
case from 1990 when a race car driver was killed due to the gross negligence
of the racing company hosting the race, a Florida court had to decide
whether the waiver signed by the driver waived the company's liability
for acting grossly negligent. The court stated that there are four parts
to whether a waiver for negligence is valid:
Is the waiver clear?
- The language of the waiver must be clear so that the person signing it
can understand what rights he or she is waiving.
Is the waiver unambiguous?
- The waiver must state in no uncertain terms that by signing the paper the
signer is waiving x,y, and z rights to sue in the case of injury.
Is the waiver unequivocal?
- The waiver must not allow for loopholes as regarding waiver of rights.
Is the waiver broad enough and specific enough to limit liability?
- The waiver must actually state what claims the signer is waiving. For example,
is the signer waiving regular negligence claims but keeping gross negligence claims?
In this case, the race car driver signed a waiver prior to the race that
was clear, unambiguous, unequivocal, and specific enough. Even though
the court stated that waivers such as these are not favored by the law,
since the person signed the paper, he waived his rights to hold the company
liable. The accident was disastrous for him and his family, and the waiver
was as well. Because of a signed waiver his family was not able to recover
for the pain and suffering that happens in a wrongful death case.
When Waivers are not Valid Under Florida Law
There are times when
waivers are not valid. For example, a waiver can not waive your rights to recover
for intentional torts such as fraud, assault, battery, and others. Additionally,
even if you signed a waiver, it has to meet the elements discussed above,
or it will not stand as valid in court. So for example, if you sign a
waiver but the language of the document you signed wasn't clear, then
a court may find that the waiver was invalid.
Contact Us Today
Hopefully this discussion teaches all of a lesson of how important it is
to read what we are signing, and know whether we are signing away rights
we may need later on.
Wes Pittman at The Pittman Firm can help you know whether a waiver will affect your
personal injury case or not.