Waiver forms are some of the most commonly signed legal documents in Australia but according to a new national survey, a large number of people have no idea what they are signing when putting pen to paper.
The poll – commissioned by Slater and Gordon Lawyers – of more than 1,000 Australians also found that 60 per cent did not realise that signing waivers would not necessarily stop a person from taking legal action in the event of a serious injury caused by an act of negligence.
Waivers are clauses signed by individuals or groups that reduce the scope of a recreation provider’s liability, limiting a person’s rights to take legal in the event of an injury or unforseen situation.
Unsurprisingly, waivers are routinely used for dangerous recreational activities such as bungee jumping, jet boating and sky diving as well as for more every day activities such as joining a gym, visiting a trampolining centre, playing organised sport and consenting to your child’s school excursion.
But despite the commonness of the forms, the poll highlighted that 49.4 per cent of people did not believe they had signed a waiver in their life – alternatively 30 per cent said they had signed a waiver with 20.6 per cent unsure.
Interestingly, the statistics showed that people over the age of 55 (55.1 per cent) were more likely to believe they had never signed a waiver compared to those aged between 16 and 54 (44.7 per cent).
However, it seems that men and women were on the same page with both genders equally admitting to either signing, not signing or being unsure.
Slater and Gordon Lawyer Barrie Woollacott said waivers were some of the most common legal documents in Australia, but acknowledged that those who had signed probably hadn’t taken much notice of the detail.
“These forms are usually the least read but one of the most signed,” Mr Woollacott said. “Unfortunately many people see signing these documents as a minor barrier to getting involved in an activity and often don’t bother to read them.
“However, what they’re doing is giving up many of their rights to be compensated should they experience a negative result, such as injury.”
But Mr Woollacott said there had been cases where due to the wording of a waiver form, combined with a clear act of negligence, people have been able to successfully take legal action.
To this point, 40.5 per cent of participants believed they were still able to seek damages even if they had signed a waiver.
Mr Woollacott urged these people to read all documents before they sign as some waivers are legally stronger than others and do take away rights.
“When people participate in these activities they are owed a duty of care,” Mr Woollacott said. “And so if a person has suffered serious disadvantage by participating in an activity then they still may have a claim.”