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It should not come as a surprise to any gym owner that they need a liability waiver.  At the very least, the liability waiver needs to put the person signing on notice that they are giving up certain rights as a result of being permitted to participate in the offered activity.  For example, the person signing is giving up a right to sue if they are injured.  However, the law is NEVER that simple.  This is where we see most gyms leaving themselves exposed through liability waivers.  The waivers we review may be one page and are a series of sentences sometimes making statements as simple as, “I waive my right to sue if I am injured.” Below are three paragraphs that every waiver needs. Below that are 3 additional provisions that almost every waiver is missing that can expand the waiver beyond simple injury.

3 Basic Provisions That Every Waiver Need

  1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF DANGER –  The person signing the waiver needs to acknowledge the actual dangers associated with the activity.  For example, if you are running a swim school, your waiver should state that someone can drown.  If you are running a cheer gym, then sprains, strains, and broken bones need to be mentioned in your waiver.  
  2. ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY –  The person signing must actually accept responsibility.  It isn’t enough to just acknowledge the danger.  The person signing must actually acknowledge that danger and then actively accept responsibility of participating anyway.  
  3. WAIVE LIABILITY –  Finally, the person signing must acknowledge in the waiver that they are waiving, or giving up, legal rights.  This is like the conclusion paragraph of the waiver.  First, they’ve acknowledged that the activity is dangerous, you’ve set the expectations about how they can be injured. Next, they’ve accepting responsibility for choosing to participate anyway. Finally, because of all of this, they are waiving my legal rights. 

3 Additional Provisions Your Waiver is Likely Missing:

  1. PHYSICAL TOUCH – Most gyms involve activities where the coach or trainer is going to physically touch the member.  Additionally, some activities may involve contact with other members.  Because of this, we need to set that expectation with members by adding it to our waiver.
  2. SERVICE ANIMALS – You can tell members that they cannot bring pets to our gyms.  But, if you are in the United States, you cannot prevent someone from bringing a service animal.  They are permitted by law to have a service animal with them at all times.  You can, however, place notices in your waiver that places certain responsibilities on the member.  For example, you can ask the person signing the waiver to acknowledge that the service animal must be certified, the member has to tell us before they bring a service animal, and they maintain responsibility if the service animal bites someone. 
  3. CONSENT TO MEDICAL SERVICES – This one is particularly important when gyms have services mainly directed toward minors.  The standard practice is to call an emergency contact to receive permission to contact medical services in the event of an injury.  However, that can cause some serious delays and potentially put the member at risk of further issues.  As such, you need to have a section in your waiver dedicated to giving you advanced permission to contact medical services in the event of an accident. 

Waivers are commonly looked at as universal documents. In other words, what works for every other gym, will work for your gym as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Just like Membership Contracts, some states have specific laws applying to waivers. If your waiver misses the mark, then it is not providing you the protection you need.

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