Has this happen to you?
A new prospective client walks into your gym, sits down for a free No Sweat Intro, and agrees to get started. However, when you ask the new client to sign the waive, he or she refuses. The new client says the language of the waiver makes it sound too dangerous. You ask what specific language they are referring to. They point it out. They ask to reverse the sale and walk out. You lost the client because your waiver was too extreme. You quickly pull up your waiver template and stare at the language debating whether you should change it or not.
The Law Around Waivers
The law around Liability Waivers is vague. Unlike membership contracts, that have statues dictating what you can and cannot put in a contract, there are no such laws for waivers. Attorneys are left to reviewing opinions from judges to determine what language will and will not cover a business owner. While it can be difficult to craft specific paragraphs of a waiver, we can take general principles from these legal opinions.
Clear and Understandable
First, a waiver must be clear and understandable. Attorneys love to write contracts full of long drawn out paragraphs. Some paragraphs may even be one continuous run-on sentence. They like to use ”If-Then,” clauses and big legal terms. They believe that they have to cover all possible scenarios. This often leads to something that most people cannot understand. Have you ever tried to read your commercial lease front to back?
When it comes to waiver, we can’t draft them with this big legal language. It has to be understandable by anyone and everyone signing. The waiver also has to clearly spell out what the person is agreeing to. If the person signing is agreeing that they will not sue your gym for causing an injury, the waiver has to say that clearly.
Notice of Danger
Second, a waiver must put the person on notice of potential danger. The person has to understand that they are about to partake in an activity that could hurt them. Gym owners run dangerous businesses. There is not way around it. It is dangerous for someone to load a barbell with 250# and back squat it. It is dangerous to have 10 people in a room doing snatches. We cannot sugarcoat what we do.
What Does Your Insurance Say?
Finally, a waiver must be supported by your insurance company. At the end of the day, if you are sued for an injury, your only chance to survive is if your insurance covers you. Lawsuits are so expensive, even if you don’t lose, that you cannot afford to defend yourself. If your waiver doesn’t contain the right language, because you took it out when someone said it was too extreme, you can say goodbye to insurance coverage.
So, should you change your waiver language just because someone thought it was extreme? No! Your waiver must be clear, it must put the person on notice of danger, and it must be supported by your insurance. Otherwise, your waiver is not doing its job. Are you willing to stake your business on it?