Are waiver of liability clauses legal in Maryland? What is an exculpatory or indemnification agreement?

Consult with a qualified Maryland attorney to determine whether an exculpatory clause applies to your case.

Most of us have signed a waiver of liability at some point. For better or worse, they have become a standard part of how companies do business. Liability waivers are contractual agreements designed to limit the liability of one of the parties signing the contract. If you signed a contract with a liability waiver before taking part in an activity, it may jeopardize your legal rights if you get injured.
Many people signing liability release forms ask themselves “can I give up the right to sue?” or “are waiver of liability releases legal?”

If you sign the waiver (sometimes called an “assumption of risk” or liability release) and nothing bad happens, you likely forgot about it. Catastrophic injuries, while rare, sadly occur during activities, which is why businesses often require that customers sign liability waivers. When tragedy strikes, the question of whether these waivers hold up in court becomes vitally important for you and your family.

Because the law applying to liability waivers continues to evolve at a rapid pace, this page does not represent legal advice. The law applicable to liability waivers is complex and it is important to seek legal counsel. We recommend speaking to a qualified attorney to determine whether a liability waiver impacts your legal rights. If you or a loved one has been hurt after partaking in an activity which involved signing a waiver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to talk about your case.

Waiver of liability clauses are legal and enforceable in Maryland (with important exceptions)

With important exceptions, Maryland courts have upheld liability waivers – leaving seriously injured individuals unable to file a legal claim for compensation. If you sign a liability release and get injured in an activity, Maryland law may prevent you from winning your personal injury lawsuit.

In Maryland, there are important exceptions regarding the enforceability of liability waivers. In, Adloo v. H. T. Brown Real Estate, Inc., 344 Md. 254, 266 (1996), Maryland’s highest court cited specific examples where plaintiffs may hold negligent defendants responsible even after signing a liability waiver:

  • Ambiguous language: Waiver of liabilities must specifically state that the defendant intends to release themselves from the responsibilities of their own negligence. Anything to the contrary may make the waiver unenforceable.
  • Willful, wanton, and reckless negligence: Liability for injuries sustained due to willful, wanton, and reckless behavior of defendants cannot be absolved by a waiver of liability clause (also called an exculpatory agreement).
  • Unequal bargaining power: Maryland law holds contracts are sometimes invalid if one party has grossly unequal bargaining power over another. Maryland courts have ruled such contracts would put one party at the mercy of another’s negligence.
  • Public interest: Contracts adversely affecting the public interest of Maryland are also not valid. This includes the performance of public utilities, common carriers, and other transactions important to the good of the public.

Liability waivers for children

Maryland’s highest court holds liability releases signed by parents are enforceable against minors

If your children play sports, you probably signed a liability waiver before they were allowed to play. Recent legal developments have significantly impacted the enforcement of liability releases signed on behalf of minors.

In November 2013, the Maryland Court of Appeals (Maryland’s highest court) held in Rosen v. BJ’s Wholesale Club that parents have the power to liability waivers on behalf of their children and that these clauses hold up in court. In Rosen, a child was seriously hurt while playing at a “BJ’s Incredible Kids’ Club” rec center located inside the BJ’s Wholesale Club in Owings Mills, Maryland. The court held parents have the power to sign contracts on behalf of their children, including contracts that include liability waivers. Therefore, liability waivers signed in Maryland by parents for their kids are enforceable (unless an exception mentioned above applies!).

Can you still file a personal injury lawsuit if you sign a liability waiver?

Exceptions to liability waiver clauses in Maryland apply and the law regarding injury release clauses may change. The Cochran Firm, D.C. attorneys monitor cases and legislative changes that could impact the enforceability of liability waiver clauses. If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury, contact the personal injury and premises liability attorneys of The Cochran Firm, D.C.

Our attorneys offer free legal consultations and can evaluate your legal rights if you’ve signed a waiver of liability clause preceding the infliction of your injury. The Cochran Firm, D.C. represents clients on a contingency basis, meaning there are absolutely no legal fees unless we win your case.

Strict deadlines apply when filing an personal injury claims and if you miss the deadline, you may be ineligible for a compensation award. Accordingly, please contact The Cochran Firm, D.C. at your earliest convenience. Call us during business hours on our local number at 202-682-5800 or call our 24-hour legal hotline at 1-800-THE-FIRM (843-3476). You may also fill out an online contact form in order to contact us for a free, prompt case review.

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