My state has a comparative negligence law. How does that work and who decides how much I was at fault?
In our society, we, as parents are fortunate to have a vast array of commercial activities available to help enrich our childrens’ lives. These run the gamut from football and baseball camps to dance studios and cheer leading schools and everything in between. Most of these establishments are well run and well meaning. Almost of them will require the parents or guardian of the enrolled child to execute a pre-injury waiver, which is an attempt by these companies to free themselves from any liability for any harm that may come to your child while engaged in the companies programs.
All too often, our children our suffering serious injuries as a result of poorly adminstered programs or over zealous trainers. When questioned, the companies will always make reference to the waivers and attempt to escape liability on that basis. Do not be fooled by this tactic. Many of these waivers are not enforceable and may not operate to allow the company to escape its legal obligation to your children.
For example our Florida Supreme Court decided in 2008 that these pre-injury waivers or releases were unenforceable because the parent, by signing them, was not protecting the child, but was instead protecting the interests of the business. Thus, for a period of time, all of these waivers were of no effect. Unfortunately, in April of 2010, the Florida Legislature passed a law that did allow a limited waiver of liability. (FL Statute sec. 744.301(3)). That law allows waivers of liability only from injuries arising from an inherent risk of the activity itself.
For example, football is a contact sport, thus an injury arising from regular football activity may be subject to this limitation, but certainly injury from dehydration would not. Similarly, falling of a wake board in a wake board school is an inherent risk, but being run over by the tow boat surely is not. Also, the law specifically states that this waiver does not insulate the companies’ personnel from acts of their own negligence. Further, the law dictates specific language that must be contained in the waiver for it to have any effect.
Finally, the effective date of the law is April 27, 2010. Thus, injuries pre-dating that date may not be subject to this law. If your child has suffered injury at one of these providers, consult an attorney who understands these laws before you forfeit your child’s valuable legal rights.