Liability waivers are legally enforceable contracts based in Nevada's "assumption of risk" laws. They are often required before a patron is allowed to engage in a physical activity that carries the risk of injury -- such as sports car racing, rock climbing or shooting automatic weapons at a gun range.
What is most troubling about these Nevada waivers of liability is that they not only prevent people who sign them from recovering damages for injuries related to the activity, but for unrelated injuries caused by the operator's or employees' negligence.
To help you better understand how waivers of liability work in Nevada, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. Do I have to sign a liability waiver?
- 2. When is a liability waiver enforceable in Nevada?
- 3. The difference between “ordinary negligence” and “gross negligence” in Nevada
- 4. Should I sign a liability waiver in Las Vegas?
- 5. How to prevail in a Nevada injury case if you've signed a liability waiver
Many operators of potentially risky activities in Las Vegas require you to expressly assume the risk of injury or death by signing a liability waiver. These agreements are often titled “Waiver and Release of Liability” or something similar.
Under a liability waiver, you agree that if you are injured while engaging the activity or on the premises you are not entitled to damages – even if the injury arises from the operator's negligence.1
These liability waivers are typically not negotiable. You either sign them or you are not allowed to participate in the activity.
In Nevada, a liability waiver is enforceable if:
- It can be easily understood by the average person;
- Its terms are not hidden in the fine print;
- The important provisions are not otherwise buried (for instance in light print on the back of a document); and
- The waiver does not excuse more than ordinary negligence.
Additionally, a waiver of liability affecting a minor child is unenforceable and a parent cannot sign his or her child's rights away.
Nevada law defines ordinary negligence as the failure to exercise that degree of care which an ordinarily careful and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.
Gross negligence, on the other hand, is generally defined as the absence of even a slight degree of care.2
- Example: During a routine maintenance check, a roller coaster operator does not notice that a safety bar is loose. This is most likely ordinary negligence. But if the employee didn't bother to conduct a scheduled inspection at all, a jury might find that the failure to do so constituted gross negligence.
A Nevada waiver of liability is enforceable solely to the extent it excuses someone from ordinary negligence.
A liability waiver cannot, however, legally require you to waive claims for gross negligence, recklessness or intentional acts. Courts consider such overreaching liability waivers to be against Nevada's public policy.
We can't tell you whether or not you should sign a liability waiver in Nevada. Only you can decide whether the activity is worth the risk of not being able to sue if you are injured doing it.
We can, however, recommend the following precautions before engaging in any activity that requires you to assume the risk:
- Check the safety record of the operator. Rideaccidents.com carries a fairly comprehensive listing of amusement park attractions. Googling the name of the specific attraction and reading online reviews can also turn up potential problems.
- Obey all the safety rules. Some rules may seem burdensome, but they are usually there for your protection. In addition, failure to follow the rules could give the facility owner or operator an excuse to fight your claim under Nevada's comparative negligence doctrine.
- Ask to examine the facility before you sign. A visual inspection of the property can often be a guide to how diligent its employees are. If you see signs that the property has not been well-maintained, consider taking your business elsewhere.
- Make sure your medical insurance is current. Some facilities boast that their admittance fee includes insurance. But even if the insurance applies, the limits may not be high enough to cover your injuries. Additionally, even if you ultimately prevail on a claim, the insurer is likely to delay paying you as long as possible. Having a good medical insurance policy will make sure you can cover your medical bills in the event you are injured, no matter who is responsible.
Winning a lawsuit in Las Vegas can be difficult if you signed a contract waiving liability. But it isn't impossible.
To prevail, you will usually need to establish that the owner, operator or an employee committed gross negligence rather than ordinary negligence.
You can also prevail by showing that someone else was reckless or intentionally committed a wrongful act (including, without limitation, a crime).3
Sometimes this will require testimony from an expert in the industry. In cases of wrongful death or catastrophic injury, it may require an accident reconstruction expert.
But often gross negligence can be established through an examination of the operator's safety record, maintenance records and/or employee checklists.
Videos, photographs and witness statements can also provide evidence to help you win or settle your Nevada personal injury claim.
Our experienced Las Vegas personal injury lawyers have a great deal of experience putting together cases. We also have relationships with top investigators in case further digging is needed.
Injured in Nevada? Call us for help…
The good news is that most Las Vegas businesses exercise a fair degree of care toward their customers. But accidents still happen.
If you or someone you care about was injured after signing a waiver of liability at a Las Vegas racing facility, gun range, gym or elsewhere, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys understand the keys to developing a powerful case for gross negligence. We can help you determine who is responsible for your injuries and the best strategy for getting you the compensation you need and deserve.
- See Nev J.I. 4.17.
- Nev. J.I. 6.21.
- See NRS 41.133. "If an offender has been convicted of the crime which resulted in the injury to the victim, the judgment of conviction is conclusive evidence of all facts necessary to impose civil liability for the injury."