Last week I took my oldest daughter on her first whitewater rafting trip. We went down Bighorn Sheep Canyon on the Arkansas River. After we signed the waiver and got geared up, we were off with a fantastic guide and a group of my daughter’s friends. I thought it was a fun trip; everyone got to swim in calm sections of the river, and there was lots of splashing and laughing, and just enough rapids to make it interesting. Whitewater rafting is one of my favorite things to do, so I was thrilled when my daughter’s only complaint after the trip was that the rapids weren’t big enough. It sounds like I will have to take her on some of the harder and bigger runs soon.
As with any adventurous activity, we had a liability waiver, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Every time I go on one of these trips, or participate in anything else adventurous, and sign the waiver I chuckle at what some other lawyer has put into it. I understand why whitewater companies, and other companies that offer services that are inherently dangerous, require a waiver. It is a good business practice on their part to make sure that I understand the risks I am about to take. If I went whitewater rafting, skydiving, zip-lining, or participated in any other risky activity and didn’t understand that there is a risk of serious injury or death, that would be a problem.
But signing a waiver does not mean that if something goes wrong you are without recourse, even though that is often what the waiver says. If the company or an employee of the company makes the activity more dangerous than it needs to be, and more dangerous than what you agreed to in signing the waiver, the waiver may not protect the company from liability for injuries they cause. For example, a company that doesn’t take steps to make sure its guides are sober while working will likely not be protected by a waiver if someone is hurt on a trip with a drunk guide.
If you are hurt in an activity that was made more dangerous than necessary due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a case even if you signed a waiver. If you find yourself in this situation, find a lawyer you can trust to discuss your options and whether or not you may have a case.
By: Craig Valentine