Selecting the Best Liability Waiver: 5 Questions to Ask
Guest Writer, Daryl McCarl - SmartWaiver
Some businesses and activities come with an inherent risk which, to some extent, guests must choose to take upon themselves in order to participate. If you work in the ranching industry, you certainly know this.
For example, imagine you own and manage a guest ranch called Happy Horse Dude Ranch. A visitor decides to go horseback riding on a nearby trail. Before they're able to get into the saddle, however, it’s important that they sign an equine tour liability waiver. After all, between the rocky terrain and uncontrollable nature of animals, there’s no way to know for certain what may happen, no matter how many safety precautions you take.
Unfortunately, the rider seemed to be in a bit over their head and ended up falling off the horse, resulting in some minor injuries. That’s where your waiver comes in— to protect your ranch from potential legal troubles. And if this guest does decide to sue, you’d better have employed the industry’s top-of-the-line waivers.
That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure you’re using the best tools before something like this happens at your ranch. Whether you’re choosing a release of liability waiver for the first time or you’re looking to improve upon existing safety measures, this guide can assist you as we walk through some top questions to ask about any waiver options:
- Will paper or digital waivers work better?
- Is the waiver legally effective?
- Can the waiver be signed ahead of time?
- Does the waiver have advanced security features?
- Does the waiver offer contactless signing?
The right waiver has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in legal fees, so it’s a good idea to do your research ahead of time to find the best solution for your business. Ready to jump in? Let’s get started.
1. Will paper or digital waivers work better?
Paper waivers have been the go-to solution for “high-risk” businesses for years. However, recent developments show that they’re not necessarily the best solution anymore. In fact, digital waivers have become quite the popular choice in the past several years, with their adoption only continuing to grow.
Paper waivers are typically more cost-effective than a digital solution. Essentially the only costs are those included in drafting and printing. This can be attractive to many businesses, especially smaller and growing ones, but does the inexpensive price outweigh any potential drawbacks?
Digital waivers, on the other hand, can offer:
- Effective storage and retrieval: If you have any experience with paper waivers, you likely have a filing cabinet or two filled to the brim with previously signed forms. Not only is this a waste of valuable working space, it can also pose issues when a particular form is lost or misplaced. Just imagine what would happen if you’re unable to locate the waiver from your injured guest at Happy Horse Dude Ranch!
With a digital counterpart, all waivers are stored in an easily accessible digital waiver vault. Any form, even ones that date back years, can be pulled in mere seconds with a few clicks of a button. Once a waiver is signed and submitted, it will be stored safely within your database.
- Collection and organization of consumer data: With paper waivers, guest information likely sits on the form, locked away in your filing cabinet, going to no use. If you do decide to pull information, it will have to be transferred manually from the paper to your computer— which takes a considerable amount of employee time. That’s why digital waivers pull and sort this information automatically!
Did you know that, when used correctly, visitor data listed on your waivers can be one of your most powerful marketing tools? Collecting and analyzing this data can give you key insights into consumer trends that you can utilize to better understand and relate to your guests. Check out this guide from AccuData on top data marketing strategies for more information and ideas on how you can leverage guest information from your waivers.
The decision concerning paper vs. digital waivers is one of the most important ones that you make. Here at Smartwaiver, we strongly suggest that you make the move to digital liability waivers and explore all that they have to offer you!
2. Is the waiver legally effective?
Legal effectiveness is of utmost importance, because if your waivers aren’t legally effective, there’s likely no reason to have the waiver in the first place. Take a look at these general guidelines for drafting an effective and legally-binding waiver:
- Warn the guest to read the waiver carefully.
- Clearly state any risks involved.
- Remind the guest that they’re assuming the risks.
Some might question the validity of a digital liability waiver, asking whether it will hold up in court as well as a traditional paper form might. That answer is yes! According to the E-sign Act of 2000, digital signatures hold the same legal standing as handwritten ones, so long as the waiver:
- Is presented in an unalterable digital format.
- Is accessible to the consumer.
- Requires the consumer to consent to signing electronically.
Because your waiver is a legal document which can significantly impact your business, we strongly suggest consulting a lawyer for wording advice and other specifications. However, this advice stands for any waiver, regardless of the format or software provider you choose.
Otherwise, you risk going to court only for a judge to throw out your waiver on some technicality— only to find you at fault for the guest’s injuries!
3. Can the waiver be signed ahead of time?
Another important consideration is the convenience factors offered by your waiver solution. For example, being able to sign their waivers before arriving at your ranch can be a huge perk for guests.
This way, you can avoid long lines at the check-in desk, and guests can start enjoying their visit sooner. That makes it easier on your staff while simultaneously boosting customer satisfaction! After all, many guests like for everything to be squared away before arriving, so they can spend their visit relaxing and having a good time.
This is where digital waivers come in handy. By adding your liability waiver to your website, guests can sign online in a matter of minutes from wherever they are, even on a mobile device.
However, it’s a good idea to have an in-person waiver-signing station for those who opt not to sign beforehand— such as an easy-to-use waiver kiosk on the property. For more information on ensuring a streamlined and efficient registration process, check out this guide to top software solutions.
4. Does the waiver have advanced security features?
One benefit of digital waivers that’s not offered with traditional ones is the additions of top security features. Here are two of our favorite high-tech advancements that can bring your liability waivers to the next level:
- Auto photo capture: Digital waivers can offer a unique and innovative feature that snaps a picture of each guest while they sign their digital form. That can go to remove any uncertainty surrounding the validity of the form with photographic evidence should a case go to court.
- Embedded safety video: If you want to make sure a participant watches a safety or instructional video prior to partaking in the activity, you can require that the video is viewed before the guest can access their digital waiver. This way you know that by the time the waiver is signed, they’ve successfully watched the video.
With the constant development of new technology, it only makes sense to leverage those advancements with a top-notch digital waiver. That way, your business and your visitors can be as safe as possible.
5. Does the waiver offer contactless signing?
This question has become a lot more prevalent in recent months due to the wide-spread coronavirus outbreak, and businesses of all sorts are looking to implement as many “hands-free” processes as possible. That includes waivers!
This guide to hands-free waiver forms from Smartwaiver explains three key options you have for adopting contactless signing, including:
- Online waiver signing: Encourage visitors to pre-sign their waivers online, whether through the registration process itself or in a follow-up email.
- Text waiver signing: You can even text your waiver directly to each participant before their scheduled activity. This way, they can complete the waiver any time and any place with their handy smartphone.
- QR code waiver signing: Finally, for guests who arrive without signing the waiver first, you can provide a simple QR code to scan with a mobile device. Guests will be able to quickly and easily pull up the right waiver on their phone.
With these hands-free digital waiver offerings, there’s no longer a need to pass around unsanitized clipboards and pens. Each guest can instead opt to utilize their own mobile device or computer.
Whether you’re putting a waiver in place to guard against traditional ranch-related risks or new concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic (or a combination of both!), choosing the right waiver is crucial. Once you’ve answered each of these questions, you should have a solid understanding of the benefits offered by your waiver solution and thus, be able to make an informed decision. Best of luck!