Waivers (also known as releases) are written agreements that say the sponsor of an activity will not be liable for harm suffered by participants. Although waivers are primarily legal tools, they also serve an educational purpose by making people think about the potential risks of an activity. Often that's all it takes to get people to avoid accidents.
Waivers should be used whenever you are sponsoring an event in which:
- Participants engage in performances, competitions, or other physical activities that could lead to injury (races, basketball tournaments, softball or soccer games, bounce houses, etc.)
- Participants use equipment like sound systems, movie projectors, or tools
- Guests are taken away from their home location
- Participants are minors (anyone under the age of 18)
Only the participants in the activity have to sign the waiver. Onlookers do not have to sign waivers unless it's reasonably foreseeable that they could be hurt just by being near the activity.
A generic waiver is available to download. The wording was developed by UC's Office of General Counsel and is meant to withstand legal scrutiny when challenged in court. It's okay for Registered Student Organizations to plagiarize the generic waiver form as long as they include "The Regents of the University of California, its officers, employees, and agents" as parties covered by the waiver. To customize the waiver for your activity, fill in the appropriate information on the two red lines.
- Waivers should be on a separate sheet of paper and in 12-size font or greater. This makes it harder for participants to claim later that they didn't know what they were signing.
- Participants under 18 must have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian.
- Waivers should be stored for three years past the date of the activity (or until the minor turns 20, whichever is longer). After the event, it's okay to scan the waivers and store them electronically.
- Anyone who refuses to sign a waiver should not be allowed to participate in the activity.
- Include "The Regents of the University of California, its officers, employees, and agents" in all waivers.
Waivers do not make you legally bullet-proof. You can't knowingly endanger somebody and then defend yourself by saying "they signed a waiver." But they do provide you with strong protection against risks inherent in the activity (for example: someone who trips and falls while dancing).