For school kids, it's as ubiquitous as pencils, paper, and notebooks. (Wait, do kids even use pencils, paper, and notebooks anymore?) The school liability waiver.
For field trips, sports, and other extracurricular activities, schools say not signing the waiver means your child can't participate. But do you really have to sign? And what does signing the waiver mean?
What Does the Waiver Cover?
Liability waivers are intended to prohibit lawsuits against the school for injuries to students. In some cases, like sports and field trips, the control that schools have over an event is diminished, so schools try to limit their legal liability as well. But there are limits to waivers.
For example, if you sign a school sports waiver so your daughter can play soccer, you may not be able to sue the school if she twists her ankle during a game. However, if your child is injured on the way to the game due to negligence on the part of the school, coach, or other school representative, you may still be able to sue the school. So just because you signed a waiver that covers some injuries doesn't mean you can't sue for other injuries when negligence is involved.
Are All Waivers Always Enforceable?
In some cases, courts have found that school liability waivers are unenforceable, meaning that the entire waiver is invalid. So parents who sign a field trip waiver may still be able to sue the school if their child is hit by a car during the field trip.
While the general rule is that the terms of waiver are enforceable, some courts have limited their reach as a matter of public policy, and not allowed parents (and children) to sign away all of their legal rights.
You should read any waiver very carefully. First, you should make sure it is absolutely essential to the activity -- if your child can participate without the waiver, you probably shouldn't sign it. If it is mandatory, be familiar with all the terms of the waiver and know that just because you signed a school liability waiver doesn't mean you can't sue the school if your child gets hurt.
If you have more release form questions, or if your child has been injured at school, you may want to consult an experienced injury attorney.