Parents are constantly asked to sign a “waiver” in order to enroll their child on a sports team, to participate in some challenging activity (e.g., rock-climbing), or even to play on certain gym equipment at a friend’s birthday party. In all likelihood, a great percentage of parents fail to read the fine print before signing the document. In many cases, people who sign waivers are obligated to adhere to the terms of the contract. But there are some instances where the waiver may not be enforced, especially in cases where a parent waives the child’s right to sue. If you have questions about whether you are entitled to recover for injuries sustained as a result of another person’s or business’ negligence, it is important to contact a local Chicago personal injury attorney to help you understand your rights.
A waiver is the voluntary and intentional act of relinquishing something, typically a potential right to sue a person, organization, or educational institution for damages sustained from an injury. Sponsors of an event, schools, or owners of the particular premises usually demand that individuals (or their parents) sign a waiver before students, visitors or other competitors participate in the institution-sponsored activity. A waiver is usually embodied in a document that is signed before any damage actually occurs.
There has been some suggestion that waivers signed by parents are generally not enforceable in Illinois. In a recent Chicago Tribune article, more than one attorney stated that, at least in Illinois, adults cannot waive the claims of a minor, or of any other person. Another person interviewed for the article said that the policy in Illinois is “stark and absolute.” The concept behind the policy seems to be that people don’t have the authority to waive the rights of others. Interestingly, many businesses and other organizations still hand out and require parents to sign these documents, despite what appears to be a trend in Illinois.
A waiver typically sets forth enough information to put the potential participant on notice of the type of activity it is referring to as well as a statement that the person who signs the document is aware of the risks involved. A waiver should: 1) describe the activity; 2) state that the person signing has a full understanding of the nature of the document; 3) knows of the specified risks; 4) despite these risks, still voluntarily chooses to assume the risk; and 5) agrees not to hold the organization liable for the consequences of participation in the identified activity.
If you sign a waiver, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be unable to bring a lawsuit against the business for injuries sustained on the premises. There are circumstances under which such a waiver will not hold up. Businesses may still be responsible if they acted in a reckless manner or harmed you intentionally. Also, a waiver may not be enforceable if the document fails to specifically state or explain the dangers of the activity. The law concerning the enforceability of waivers is complicated. The best course of action is to contact an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney to review your case to determine whether you are entitled to damages under the agreement.