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Is a Waiver of Liability Enforceable in Maryland if you are Injured?

Many Americans choose to spend their free time doing thrilling and exciting things, ranging from skydiving to going to amusement parks to BMX biking and beyond. Countless more have jobs that may involve some dangerous activity, like working at a construction site. Of course, all of these activities run the risk that you may get injured, perhaps seriously so. Accordingly, people who partake in these activities may be asked to sign a “waiver of liability.” This is an agreement that essentially claims to say that you cannot take legal action against certain entities if you get injured during a certain activity.

However, these waivers of liability are not always enforceable. Some injuries are such that they are not covered by the waiver, and some provisions in some waivers may not hold water if taken before a court of law. Thus, in some cases, you may be able to sue someone even though you signed a waiver stating that the entity cannot be held liable.

For a free evaluation of your situation, call our Maryland personal injury attorneys from Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.

Waivers of Liability Explained

A waiver of liability is a legal document which states that the undersigned person or entity is accepting certain risks about a certain thing, activity, or decision, and cannot sue the entity that is responsible for the activity/thing. One of the most common reasons for waivers of liability is for activities that are likely to cause injuries to happen. For example, if you go on a snowboarding or ski trip, the resort may have you sign a waiver so, if you happen to get injured while doing activities at the resort, you cannot sue the resort.

These waivers can have different names. They may not be called specifically a “waiver of liability.” For example, such a waiver could also be called an “assumption of the risk” agreement or a “liability release.” The important thing to look for is that the wording wants to exculpate a party from legal repercussions. So, if a document or piece of paper says you are going to “hold a party harmless” or waive certain remedies, it may be a waiver of liability. If you are concerned that a certain document may be a waiver of liability, you should have our Baltimore personal injury attorneys examine it.

Are Waivers of Liability Enforceable in Maryland?

Now that we know what waivers of liability are, the question then turns to whether they are actually worth anything if you get injured. In Maryland, the answer is that waivers of liability are enforceable most of the time. Therefore, you need to have some careful consideration when deciding whether to sign a waiver of liability or not. If you do, you may potentially stop yourself from holding someone accountable for your injuries in court.

However, there are some circumstances where a waiver of liability is not enforceable. The controlling court case for when waivers of liability are not enforceable is Aldoo v. H.T. Brown. In that case, a brokerage had a provision that placed a lock box on a client’s house so that it could be shown to potential buyers without anyone being present. The contract with the realtor also stated that the listing broker would not be liable for any vandalism, theft, or other damage that resulted from the lockbox. When someone used the lock box to steal lots of valuables and cash from the homeowners, they sued.

The court came to the conclusion that the “exculpatory clause” – what could be called a waiver of liability – did not protect the brokerage from liability. This was due to several things, which are supposed to be analyzed in every waiver case, including ones dealing with injury waivers:

Vague Language

If a liability waiver is vague, it is less likely to be enforceable. A waiver cannot absolve someone of their own negligence unless it is expressly stated in the waiver. Therefore, if a party is negligent and injures you, they may still be liable even if you signed a waiver of liability.

Power Imbalance

Another important factor is the balance of power between the parties in the agreement. If there is what is called “unequal bargaining power” between the parties, not just waivers of liability but whole contracts can be considered void in Maryland.

Willful Conduct

Liability for reckless behavior cannot be waived away in an exculpatory agreement. For example, if a welder signs a contract with an employer that waives liability, but the employer does not provide proper safety equipment to the welder, the employer may still be liable despite an existing waiver of liability.

Things that May Have or Require Waivers of Liability in Maryland

Now that you have some understanding of how waivers of liability work in Maryland, our Olney, MD personal injury lawyers have compiled some examples of things that may require waivers of liability. While the examples below are certainly not exhaustive, they will help give a picture of when you may need to sign a waiver of liability.

Sports and Athletic Activities

It is common to sign waivers of liability for sporting activities or other pastimes that may cause injury. For example, you may have to sign a waiver of liability when signing a child up for a tackle football league so the league cannot be sued if the kid gets injured while playing.

Dangerous Jobs

Some jobs that have a known high risk of injury may require a waiver of liability in order to be employed. For example, a job that uses a lot of heavy machinery may have a clause in the employment agreement doing away with liability for injuries using the relevant machinery. Remember, though, that this does not get rid of liability for reckless conduct on the employer’s part.

Talk to Our Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys Now

Rice, Murtha & Psoras’s Bethesda personal injury attorneys are ready to hear about your case when you call us at (410) 694-7291.