Liability Releases – Worth the Paper They're Written On?
Many photographers who run workshops or invite customers onto their property ask their clients to sign liability releases. The releases purport to relieve photographers from a legal duty to the clients. Do they work? In some cases.
The law does not like exculpatory agreements because they encourage a lack of care, but courts recognize them in certain situations. To be effective, a release must state that the client’s decision to sign the agreement was voluntary and with full knowledge of its legal consequences, among other things. Regardless of what it says, however, the agreement can release the photographer only from liability when it was caused by “ordinary negligence,” not by “gross negligence” — where the photographer showed reckless or willful disregard for the client.
Many releases claim to discharge the photographer from liability for damages that the client and the client’s heirs may incur. But a release can bind only the person who signs it. As a result, some courts have found that a liability release does not extinguish a client’s heirs’ claims for wrongful death.
What should you do to protect yourself? Get a lawyer to draft your release, have your clients sign it, operate your business as safely as you can, and get insurance just in case it’s needed.
Take my advice; get professional help.
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