What Are COVID-19 Waivers?
COVID-19 continues to present new and unique challenges for businesses. With lockdown mandates being lifted and business owners reopening their doors, no one wants their customers to contract the virus while on their premises. That risk could lead to a lawsuit if a customer ends up sick with COVID-19 because the business did not take the proper precautions.
With the risk of getting sued, many businesses have started using COVID-19 waivers. Customers are asked to sign these waivers with the intention to absolve the business from liability if they get the virus. But, it’s unclear the extent to which these waivers will be enforced by state and federal courts.
COIVD-19 Waivers May Not Provide Absolute Protection
Because wavier requirements and laws vary by state, it’s important to know that COVID-19 waivers may not fully protect your business from lawsuits. Some questions that can determine a waiver’s enforceability include:
- Does the waiver use clear and unambiguous language?
- Was the waiver signed voluntarily?
- Did the person signing have adequate time to review the waiver?
Here are three things to keep in mind if you’re planning to ask your customers or clients to sign a COVID-19 waiver:
1. The Basics of a Good Waiver
It’s important for you to give your customer an opportunity to review and sign before entering the building. Use clear and unambiguous language in your waiver. Specifically mention COVID-19 and other basic information, like:
- The highly contagious nature of the virus
- Possible ways a person can get infected
- Risks a person takes on after entering the business
You’ll also want to make it easy for your customers to understand that they’re agreeing to waive their legal rights to sue for negligence. You can do this by putting the waiver language in larger, bolded or capitalized font.
2. Enforceability of COVID-19 Waivers Vary by State
Some states don’t permit waivers for personal injury claims. Others have specific wording or other requirements for a waiver to be enforceable. For example, a state may not enforce posted waivers.
Because waiver requirements and enforceability differs between states, it’s critical to make sure you understand your local laws.
3. Use Legal Counsel for COVID-19 Waivers
Make sure to work with legal counsel when drafting your COVID-19 waiver. They can give you advice on what to include in your actual waiver and whether it’s likely to be enforceable. Your legal representative can also let you know if your business qualifies for immunity for negligence for COVID-19 transmission.
COVID-19 Waivers as Part of a Risk Reduction Plan
Even if a COVID-19 waiver isn’t enforceable in your state, you can still use it to educate your customers about risks and steps they can take to stay safe.
The information herein is intended to be general in nature. It shall not be considered legal advice. The views contained herein do not constitute The Hartford undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that by adopting such views your business practices will be in compliance with any legal obligation or standard. Readers seeking resolution of specific legal or business issues or concerns regarding this topic should consult their attorney and other advisors.
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