The Importance of Participation Waivers for Recreation

men playing football

Participation waivers are critical for any recreational event. They help protect organizers from liability and clearly lay out risk. Learn more about these forms below.

If you’re an organizer or host of recreational events, you should be familiar with a standard participation waiver. Most organizations hosting recreational events use these waivers, regardless of whether they operate commercially or host events in community, social, or private settings.

If you’re new to the world of sports, recreation, or community organizing, these participation waiver forms may be new to you. If you’ve never explored the world of waivers, you’re in luck. Today, we’re here to delve into the details of participation waivers. We’ll explain why they’re so crucial for recreational activities and show how you can use them to protect your business from liability.

What is a participation waiver?

A participation waiver is a legally binding document that your organization can use to protect itself from liability. When a participant or their parent/guardian signs the form, they acknowledge they understand the potential risks of participating and agree to assume any associated liability.

Typically, there are three essential clauses found in most recreation and sports participation waivers. These include:

  • The exculpatory clause. Once signed, this indicates the participant waives their right to sue due to ordinary negligence.
  • The indemnity clause. This indicates the individual signing the form is prepared to take on liability.
  • The assumption of risk clause. Signing this clause indicates the individual is aware of any inherent risks associated with participating in the activity.

Although all organizations should have participation waivers customized to their needs, most forms will contain these clauses.

What recreational activities require participation waiver forms?

Many different recreational activities require waiver forms. Even ones that appear relaxing and harmless, like massages or participating in photo shoots, require waivers. These forms release the operator from liability and help the participant understand what will happen next.

Here are some common activities where you’re likely to find participation waivers. 

Sporting events

If you’re organizing sports through a school, an amateur league, or a neighborhood association, chances are you’ll be asked to use sports participation waivers. You never know when an accident will happen, and ensuring participants are aware of the risks help keep the activity fun for everyone. 

Gym or fitness activities

Joining a gym? The initial paperwork typically contains some form of liability or participation waiver.

Adventure activities

Many adventure activities like rock climbing, parasailing, or even hiking can be dangerous. If your organization operates any of these activities, you’ll likely be required by your insurance company to use waivers.

School field trips

Any activity involving young people should be handled with special care. That’s why waivers for school field trips and any other activity that takes place away from school grounds are so essential. 

What recreational activities should have waivers?

Wondering whether your organization should use liability waivers? If the activity you offer carries any degree of risk (even if the risk is minimal or infrequent), you should be using waivers for all your participants.

Additionally, you should also consider the demographics of your participants. Is the activity open to anyone? If so, there’s a chance you’ll be working with people who are older, medically fragile, or have conditions (both known and unknown) that could put them at increased risk. Any activity offered to children or teens under the age of majority should also require waivers.

How to protect your business from liability

Waivers are a great way to protect your company from liability. They both inform the participant of the risks involved, and require them to transfer that liability away from your company.

Without a waiver, your company is at risk for lawsuits brought on by individuals harmed due to ordinary negligence. When you use waivers, your organization can only be held to account for injuries or accidents caused by gross negligence. This is defined as a “lack of care that demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety.” 

Want to learn more about how waivers can protect your recreation or sports organization? Check out this sports participation waiver template that can be customized for your business.