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To mark his 90th birthday, former President (and former World War II fighter pilot) George H.W. Bush parachuted from a helicopter this morning with former members of the U.S. Army's Golden Knights parachute team.
And while we don't know if the former president had to sign a liability waiver before making his most recent jump, you in all likelihood will, should you ever choose to go skydiving.
But what do the various clauses in a typical skydiving liability waiver actually mean? Here are three of the most common legal clauses explained in layman's terms:
1. Assumption or Acknowledgement of Risk.
Assumption of the risk can be used as a defense in a personal injury lawsuit. But in order to claim that the person who was injured assumed the risk, the defense must show that the plaintiff actually knew, and was aware, of the risks involved in the activity and voluntarily accepted them.
By having you initial or sign a clause that explains all the risks inherent in skydiving and your acceptance of them, the skydiving company hopes that in the event of any lawsuit, they will be able to show that you voluntarily assumed the risk of the injury that you'd be suing for.
2. Release of Liability.
Most waivers for skydiving and other dangerous activities include a clause that waives any and all liability for any and all reasons. Does this mean that if you get hurt or killed while skydiving that you can't sue, no matter what? Not necessarily.
Liability waivers are generally enforceable; however, it can sometimes be argued that waivers of liability for all claims make the contract between you and the skydiving company unconscionable and therefore unenforceable.
Often, however, a release of liability that specifically mentions negligence and is otherwise worded properly will bar recovery in a negligence lawsuit. To bring a successful lawsuit, you may have to prove the skydiving center's actions were reckless or intentional, not just negligent.
3. Forum / Venue Selection.
Many skydiving waivers also include a clause stating that any suit must be filed in the forum specified in the contract, typically in the home county, state, or federal district of the skydiving company. Absent extenuating circumstances, these clauses may limit your options for where and how you bring suit.
Signing a waiver does not necessarily mean that you or your family will be unable to recover in the event that you are injured. An experienced personal injury attorney can carefully look over your waiver and help you assess your lawsuit's likelihood of success.