A studio with a poorly written dance studio liability waiver is setting itself up for problems. Recreation Management explained that the most common reason that liability waivers don’t hold up in court is that they’re unclear or ambiguous. Even if you aren’t going to write your dance studio liability waiver, it’s crucial to understand the basic guidelines to ensure your waiver covers all the legal bases.
A properly written liability waiver, also called a “release of liability” form, protects your dance studio from being held financially responsible from any run-of-the-mill injuries that occur. In a nutshell, it states that your students (and their parents) understand there are certain inherent risks that come along with dancing, and that you and your teachers are not responsible for any injuries that come from the studio’s typical activities. Sounds easy, right? It would be if it were that simple!
Limitation of Liability Waivers
Unfortunately, there are a number of limitations to a liability waiver. Rocket Lawyer explained that even if students sign a release of liability, your business can still be held accountable if you are shown to be negligent. This can occur in a number of situations, including if your facilities are unsafe or if students were not being properly supervised.
Another limitation involves the language used in the release form. As mentioned above, the waiver must be legally sound to hold up in court. Recreation Management noted that different states require specific language to be used in a release form. For example, in New York, liability waivers must include the word “negligence.” If that specific term is not included, an otherwise sound contract will fail. You’ll need to be familiar with your state’s specific laws to write a legitimate waiver.
Properly Formatting a Waiver
After you’ve conducted research about your state’s liability laws, you can begin to draft a release of liability form or adapt an existing waiver. Recreation Management suggested that your form be a document of its own, not included in the application. This isn’t necessary, but courts are known to prefer stand-alone contracts.
If your studio teaches students under the age of 18, you’ll want to draft a parental waiver. You need parents to sign a liability release, not students. If you’re using a waiver template, make sure to accurately describe the risks of dancing in detail. According to Rocket Lawyer, the more specific you are, the better. This will ensure participants know exactly what dangers are involved, and you’re less likely to be held liable when the documented events do occur. Athletic Business recommended you use bold, italics or underlining to emphasize key exculpatory phrases.
When you have a complete waiver drafted, read through the text and ask yourself if parents will understand what’s being said. The majority of the form should be written in common language – in other words, it shouldn’t take a lawyer to decode! Athletic Business also suggested that you keep the form under three pages. The longer the waiver, the less likely it is that parents will read through the whole document.
Administering a Release Form
You’ll want to have your final dance studio liability waiver looked over by a lawyer. Spending the money to get legal advice when you open your studio will be worth the investment if an accident ever occurs. When handing out waivers, be sure that parents have time to read and digest the form. Make yourself available to answer any questions they may have. Finally, establish a secure system of storing your waivers. A liability release won’t hold up in court if you can’t find it!