A number of people are still skeptical of its rapid development, and there has been debate as to the culpability of vaccine manufacturers. Are pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, liable for the side effects of their vaccine? A release of liability form will no doubt help the companies in their push to have more populations vaccinated. At the same time, the inoculated patient must be informed of the possible risks and side effects in the name of public health. The truth of the matter is that any medical procedure carries with it potential risk, especially with regard to emerging studies like the coronavirus. All this then begs the question, to what extent can a vaccine maker be held responsible?  

What Is a Release of Liability Form?

A release of liability form is a legal agreement made between parties, that protects an individual or organization from being held responsible for any unforeseen incidents or threat to life. It is a mutual agreement usually made between two parties, referred to as the releasor and the releasee.

The Houston Healthcare Initiative published an online article explaining that if it were not for a vaccine liability waiver, there would be very few vaccine makers, as far as the United States is concerned. These vaccine waivers protect the pharmaceutical companies from liability. According to the article, throughout the 1950s to the 1980s, legal action against vaccine makers increased and subsequently discouraged any promising vaccine manufacturer. Nothing in the field of medicine is completely risk-free and the new coronavirus vaccine is no exception.

Areas Where Liability Release Forms are Commonly Used 

A release of liability form can sometimes be referred to as a liability waiver or a hold harmless agreement. Many industries often require liability waivers when it comes to their products or services. The following are a few examples of scenarios where a liability waiver may be beneficial:   

Sports Equipment or Rentals: When it comes to extreme sports such as bungee jumping or skydiving, there is obviously a great deal of risk involved. For the adrenaline junkie and the skydiving company, they both need to be transparent about the potential threats to safety and life. It is in the best interest of the company to protect itself against any legal action, in case of any incident and injury that might happen to the skydiver. Many resorts and hotels also have their guests sign waivers when renting out resort equipment such as kayaks, jet skis, scuba diving equipment, etc. School Events or Field Trips: Event organizers know this pretty well. When a school organizes an educational field trip outside school grounds, they are aware that it’s impossible to have total control over everything. In most cases, the school informs the students’ parents prior to the event and require them to sign a liability release form, in case something may happen to any of the students. Vehicles: For a buyer of a used car, he or she knows the potential risk that comes with a second hand vehicle. The car seller may see the need to have the buyer sign a liability waiver. This protects him from shouldering any responsibility or consequences; should any untoward incident happen involving his sold car. This saves him time, energy, and money, in the event that the buyer gets into an accident while driving the second hand car. It would be difficult for the buyer to sue for damage or injury because both parties had already entered willingly into a waiver of liability agreement. Photography: This is common in the fashion and entertainment industry, but is applicable to basically any scenario where public photos or videos are concerned. For most cases, the model needs to give written consent to the photographer or photography company to use their pictures for whatever public purpose- whether it be traditional print or online. In another instance, a third party agency that is hired to document an event, may need liability waivers for their clients to sign. Photos intended for magazines or websites usually require liability forms to grant permission to photographers to use the material. Property: In the service industry, a liability form is issued to protect the contractor or service provider from any legal action in case of unintended damage inflicted on personal property. For example, a construction company hired to fix drainage pipes in a building accidentally breaks several tiles and windows during installation. But since the building owner signed a waiver of liability agreement, the company is released of any damage to property and thus, cannot be held accountable for the broken windows and tiles.

Contents of a Release of Liability Form 

The content of your liability waiver form depends on the industry or specific activity. But regardless of the event or circumstance, the form must contain the general statement of release of liability. The following are some of the basic items contained in a liability release form:  

Name of Parties: Be sure to leave adequate space in the first few lines for the names of both the releasor and releasee. A releasor is the participant in an event, the purchaser or lessee of a property, and essentially anyone who is partaking in an activity that holds some amount of risk. The releasee, on the other hand, refers to the one at risk of being sued. This can be a private individual, company, school, or organization. Always include the complete name of the person, company name, and address in your form. Effectivity Date: It’s important to indicate a timeframe of the liability agreement. The coverage period must be stated in your form. For instance, a week-long event demands the effectivity date either begin on the first official event day, or during ingress and ends with egress or the last day of production. Description of the Event or Activity: Include a full description of the activity that the participant is engaging in. Provide accurate information regarding the location, organizers, date, duration, etc. The participant signing the document should be reminded of what he or she has signed up for. Declaration: This is the essential part of the liability form because it explicitly informs the releasor/signee of the potential danger and risks involved in the activity. The terms and conditions may vary depending on the industry. Sometimes compensation is involved to settle things outside a court of law. For example, the liability form could indicate that should both parties have a disagreement, none of them will resort to legal proceedings. What matters is your declaration should serve your interests and protect you from the threat of a lawsuit or legal action. If there is more than one condition, make sure to number the items or organize them accordingly. You want the reader to understand it in the most uncomplicated way possible. Signature Line: Both releasor and releasee must sign the document. In the case of school events or minor students, there should be a signature line for either the parent or guardian to consent on behalf of the child. Right to an Attorney: You can also include a statement containing the right to an attorney. It is not absolutely necessary; but it will remind the releasor of his or her legal right- that they are free to review and consult with an attorney, in case he or she may have questions or problems with the liability agreement. Acceptance of Terms: The last part of your liability waiver should state that the releasor fully accepts and understands the aforementioned terms; upon voluntarily entering or participating in the said activity. In some cases, the releasee clearly expresses the statement that the releasor is not entitled to pursue any legal action against them. Witness and Notary: This is also optional. Although some liability waivers can be notarized, they are not always required to be. However, if you need an attorney to draft your release of liability form, you are always free to consult and review the terms and conditions with them.

How to Write a Release of Liability Form

Before writing a release of liability form, make sure you know the scope and range that your industry may be held liable for. This may entail some research. The more detailed your liability form, the more assured you can be of your protection. Follow the step-by-step guide below when crafting your liability release form: 

Step 1: Establish the Basic Details

Your form should contain the liability title to inform the reader-releasor, even before he signs it. Include the date, title of the event, description of the service, and enough space for the participant to insert their name and other relevant information. It’s acceptable to create a generic form intended for all your clients. Just make sure they are all uniformed and contain essential company or event details.      

Step 2: Describe the Event or Activity

 Make sure to lay the specific terms and conditions in your form. Describe the nature of the event or activity. It is important to make the releasor aware of what to expect from the activity he or she is about to participate in. This includes the risk and responsibilities involved. A resort or ski lodge should describe in detail the consequences and guidelines that the guest or user must be aware of. If any untoward incident occurs due to skiing, or happens within the premises of the resort, the lodge should be able to indicate in the liability release form that accidents are outside their area of responsibility. In another scenario, the school administrators should duly inform the parents of minor children that by allowing their child to participate in a school-sponsored field trip, they are not holding the school accountable for any accident that might happen during the trip.   

Step 3: Uphold the Agreement 

When you have properly itemized and enumerated the conditions, conclude with an agreement statement. This is to confirm the expectation that the releasor who signs it, voluntarily accepts the terms you stated and has taken into account the risks involved. This declaration is important for both releasee and releasor; because it certifies that both parties entered into a mutual agreement. It is the duty of the releasee to protect against any threat of legal action by making certain that the releasor understands the aforementioned terms and conditions contained in the form. 

Step 4: Provide Signature Lines

Any formal document requires all parties involved to affirm their obligation by affixing a signature. Make sure to indicate clearly where the releasor should sign and place his printed name. Also ensure that there is enough space at the bottom of the form for witness lines or notary, if applicable.  

FAQs

What does release of liability mean?

In the simplest of terms, liability means responsibility. When two parties engage each other either for a mutual cause or common purpose, responsibility binds both but in different capacities. For instance, a company might sponsor a marathon that’s open to the public. Fitness enthusiasts and avid runners sign up and participate. If a marathoner is injured during the course of the run, the sponsor cannot be sued for anything because all participants were made to sign a liability waiver before the start of the race. This waives the right of the runner to protest against the company in court. At the same time, it releases the accountability of the company for the injury.

Do liability waivers hold up in court?

Generally, yes. However, your liability waiver needs to contain specific details and clear conditions if it is to be accepted in a court of law. Any vague, implicit, or weak statements may open the door for legal loopholes or challenges that may work to the others’ advantage. The waiver also needs to be proven and clearly signed by the releasor.

Is a release of liability a contract?

A release of liability is a formal agreement signed by two or more parties. In most cases, it is a contract between a person (i.e., the participant) and an organization or company that the person signed up for. In other instances, it is a contract between a customer or client and a service provider, as is in the case of a business owner and raw material supplier.

Am I liable for a car I sold?

If you are able to serve the buyer with a liability waiver, then you are afforded some protection against lawsuits. It is advisable to fully transfer your car title and registration to the buyer, as soon as you can. Some states require the seller to fill out a Notice of Transfer. It’s best to check with your local government if they require a waiver form for you to sell your car.

Whether it’s used for handling incidents better or having the benefit of insurance, having a release of liability form ready at all times can be advantageous. It not only protects you as a provider or company, but it establishes an understanding with the other party. The liability waiver promotes transparency and informs clients or participants of the necessary precautions and risks, so they have a full understanding of the overall situation. Customize your own liability release form by downloading a template now!