Personal injury or liability waivers that parents sign for children are all the rage these days. Understandably, business owners are trying to avoid liability for child injuries that happen on business property.
Are these parental waivers enforceable in Utah? The answer is easy – no. (There’s one exception for equine activities.)
The Utah Supreme Court has made it clear that when a child is injured due to the negligence of another, a parent cannot waive that child’s right to recover damages. Below is a summary of the latest Utah law on personal injury waivers for children.
What Is A Personal Injury Or Liability Waiver?
A personal injury or liability waiver (sometimes referred to as a “release”) is a document that waives legal liability for injuries that happen because of the business’s negligence. The customer signs a form that states, in exchange for using the business’s service, the customer agrees to not make an insurance claim for injuries.
Trampoline parks, bounce houses, ziplines, indoor rock-climbing locations, and pools are common examples of businesses that require a parental waiver or release to enter the premises. It’s no surprise that businesses that have the most injuries want to avoid liability.
Why Do Companies Keep Making Parents Sign The Personal Injury Waivers?
We can think of two reasons:
Many business owners, parents, and the general Utah public are unaware that personal injury waivers are unenforceable.
Businesses use the waivers as a deterrent from injury claims and lawsuits.
In speaking to the first bullet point, Utah law is not always trending news on social media or local news channels. Unless you are a business or parent that’s dealt with a child injury claim (or the neighbor of a local injury lawyers), there’s less of a reason you’d know the law.
Regarding the second bullet point, parents that have knowingly signed a release for their child are less likely to make an injury claim. Parents just assume that there’s no way around the personal injury or liability waiver. Consequently, they just let it go. Businesses figure they can benefit from the parent’s ignorance, so why not make them sign it?
Our Advice To Business Owners…
Take responsibility for your negligence. Don’t seek waivers from children. Train your employees properly on safety. Make sure your equipment is safe. Continually check the equipment for defects. If your paying customer is injured because you messed up, reimburse them for their damages. Don’t seek to avoid liability for your negligence.
In the event you reasonably removed dangerous conditions, and your employees acted reasonably, then defend your position. Explain to the customer why you were not negligent and did not cause his or her injury.
Our Advice To Parents Of Children…
If you can avoid it, avoid businesses that require a release or waiver for your child.
If it’s unavoidable, make sure the location is safe. Point out unsafe conditions to an employee and to your child. Watch your child. Make sure they aren’t doing anything that could be unsafe. Explain the rules to your child, and make sure they are following the rules.
In the event your child is injured, talk to an attorney. The waiver you signed is unenforceable. If the business was negligent, your child is entitled to compensation.
A Final Point About the Statute of Limitations
In most personal injury cases, you have 4 years to bring a claim for personal injuries before its barred. This is the statute of limitations period. (Go to this link for specific details on statute of limitations periods in Utah.) For children, the 4-year clock does not start ticking until the child turns 18 years old. For example, Susan is 10 years old when jumping at a bounce house. She jumps onto a trampoline, and the springs break. Susan breaks both legs from hitting the ground. Susan has until she is 22 years old to sue the bounce house for here injuries. Once she turns 18 years old, the 4-year clock starts ticking. So, she has until she is 22 years old to bring her injury claim.