As businesses across the country reopen after shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, immunity waivers are becoming more commonplace. Given the fact that the virus continues to spread, many businesses are trying to protect themselves by asking customers to waive their right to sue if they contract COVID-19 on a business’s premises. Companies are similarly asking employees to sign similar waivers. However, we are going to focus on customer waivers. There are some things you should keep in mind before signing an immunity waiver.
Signing a liability waiver is nothing new for consumers. If you decide to zip line or skydive, you’re likely asked to sign a waiver. You are accepting that the activity involves a degree of risk and that you won’t hold the company responsible for the injury. What’s new is that customers of businesses that don’t seem risky, such as restaurants and hair salons, are now being asked to sign waivers.
- Think twice before signing—your default position should not be to automatically give up your rights. Be aware of what you’re signing and weigh whether it’s worth it for what you get in return. Do you really need that haircut? Legal experts agree that if the waiver involves an essential business such as a grocery store or a pharmacy, a court is less likely to enforce a waiver. Before signing a waiver, you should also consider whether the business is being safe. Are employees wearing masks? Are they limiting the number of customers inside? The waiver should describe steps the business is taking to keep customers safe.
- Understand what a waiver can do—if a business is taking reasonable steps to protect customers from the virus, then it is unlikely that any lawsuit involving COVID-19 would be effective anyway, given the many potential ways one can contract the virus. If the business is disregarding basic safety precautions, they are likely acting recklessly or grossly negligent, and the waiver may not be enforceable anyway. It might make sense to sign a waiver if you have no choice, feel that the business is being safe, and are willing to take risks for the outcome you would receive.
- Try to negotiate first—this may not be possible, but if you can cross out things and modify language that seems one-sided. Make a record of your changes by taking a picture with your phone.
- Take legal action anyway—if you contract the virus and believe it was the fault of the business, don’t be afraid to take legal action in spite of the waiver. Businesses are still required to follow guidelines for keeping customers safe, and they can’t expect you to absolve them of this responsibility.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you contracted COVID-19 and believe it was the fault of a business, you should contact an experienced attorney. Gregg Goldfarb has been helping the injured for over 20 years. Contact us online or call us at 305-374-7000 to schedule a free consultation.