Disclaimers – do they prevent the right to claim compensation?

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What is a disclaimer?

Disclaimers are used to provide a warning to people visiting a premises or partaking in certain activities. They are designed to make sure that people are made aware of foreseeable risks of injury, or where responsibility will rest if items are lost, broken or stolen. Often when we take part in a potentially dangerous activity, the organiser will ask the participants to sign a disclaimer to confirm that they are aware of the risks the activity presents.

Many such disclaimers seem to indicate that the business or organiser can in no way be held liable if there is an injury as a result of the activity. We have all read the wording ‘the Management accept no responsibility for injury or loss of property’. However, the fact is that displaying a notice, or asking someone to sign a disclaimer, does not completely absolve a business or organisation from being held liable should someone end up suffering an injury or a loss. We’ve succeeded with many claims for compensation in such cases.

Reduction of risk, not responsibility

Disclaimers should be seen in a good light when they are used correctly. Making sure that people appreciate certain activities are dangerous and that risks are understood is a good thing. We all want to reduce the risk of injury and see less accidents happening. When people know what the risks are, they are minded to act safely and follow instructions carefully. Even with obvious risks, we benefit from being reminded.

However, many businesses or organisations use disclaimers as a way of trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for health and safety. The wording is aimed to discourage people from pursuing their right to seek compensation for any injury they sustain.

Disclaimer should only be seen as a warning to patrons or participants, rather than a prevention of any liability and used only to make sure that when the instructions in any signed disclaimer have been followed, the risk of injury should be minimised.

Negligence overrides any disclaimer

The provision of a disclaimer sign, or being required to sign a disclaimer before taking part in an activity, does not absolve the organisation in question from being liable should someone then go on to sustain an injury as a result of their negligence.

When it comes to personal injury compensation, a disclaimer will not be worth the paper it is written on if the organiser of the event or activity has failed to ensure that they have adequately prepared for the risk of injury, or failed to provide the correct equipment, guidance or training needed to minimise the risk of injury.

The responsibilities to ensure that equipment is correctly maintained, properly serviced, risks adequately assessed, safety equipment provided and that hazards are marked and removed where possible, remain regardless of whether or not a disclaimer is signed or displayed. In cases where someone is injured when a business or organisation has failed in any of these areas, liability is likely to attach to that organisation and a claimant will have a strong prospect of succeeding with a claim for personal injury compensation.

On the other hand, if someone has been made fully aware of the risks of an activity and given very specific safety instructions to follow in a disclaimer, and they then chose to ignore that warning and suffer an injury, the injured person would have no viable grounds to pursue a claim for compensation as they have failed to heed the adequate warnings given to them.

A common example

Take a lookDisclaimers - do they prevent the right to claim compensation? at the picture giving an example of a disclaimer sign shown here. The business in question states that they accept no liability for injury, loss or damage arising from the use of this terrace unless prescribed at law. What does this mean? Does it really mean that they have no responsibility for your safety when visiting their premises?

The disclaimer shown is of no use to the business. It does not absolve themselves from the responsibilities that they and any business faces with regards to health and safety. Simply displaying a warning sign doesn’t mean they don’t have to make sure their premises are safe for use.

For example, if a business had erected this sign and then left their terrace littered with tripping hazards, sharp edges or any other risks to injury, and one of their customers were then injured in a fall or suffered a nasty laceration, the business would still be liable for the injury and loss incurred.

What to do if you are injured after reading or signing a disclaimer

If you have been injured after signing or reading a disclaimer, you can still look to make a claim for personal injury compensation. At Direct2Compensation we can quickly assess whether or not you have a viable claim. In a brief telephone conversation, we’ll be able to advise you whether the disclaimer will be a barrier to you claiming compensation for your injuries and losses.

28 questions have been answered below, why not ask your own?

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Questions & Answers

  1. Chris

    Hi Ian

    We live in a small private road with 5 houses, there was a plot of land left undeveloped due to planning restrictions that was retained by the developers. The developer then auctioned that plot and 3 out of 5 of the residents purchased that as joint tenants. The land does not have a fence or any other barrier to entry.

    My main question is can we protect ourselves in any way from possible claims made by the other residents should they injure themselves on this land ?
    One of the owners has told other non-owners that they and their children may enter the land, does this make them lawful visitors and could we reverse that ?

    I am aware of many potential hazards scattered around the site inherited from the developers; bricks, concrete, broken glass etc.. I am concerned that we will have to remove all of that in order to defend a claim.

    Finally, probably an unusual question, there are a number of sharp 2” bramble stumps around the site created by us mowing over them and chopping them down, if someone was to trip and cause serious injury on one of these would they be considered a natural hazard or Our responsibility because we created the hazard by partially removing the brambles

    Thank you

    • Ian Morris

      These are difficult questions to answer definitively. With regards to protecting yourselves from any future claims, you could erect some warning signs that there may be hazards/tripping hazards and other risks of injury and place such signs clearly at all entry points. As the land is essentially private, you could consider fencing it off and indicating that access is not permitted to the site?

      However, you could still face action in terms of a claim if you allow any known hazards to remain present without having taken any action to remove them or indicate their presence to any persons accessing the site.

  2. Clive

    I have recently visited a private island in the river Thames where I moor my boat.

    The island is a mixed wood and grassland landscape with a path down the middle and mowed paths to the boats.

    The island ( limited company) has just installed a sign warning of “uneven ground and trip hazards”.

    Does this disclaimer protect them from liability if I trip and fall whilst attending my boat?

    • Ian Morris

      The disclaimer is worthless if the landowner is then negligent with regards to the maintenance of the public spaces on their property. In this case, the island owners need to carry out routine inspections of the site to identify any hazards and then carry out repairs on those hazards in good time. They may also rely on visitors reporting hazards to them and if so, must repair those hazards.

      • Clive

        So is there any point in the sign remains up?

        It is generally considered to be unsightly.

        The company has operated for 40 years without it, it has been up for two days.

        Basically will the company come to any harm if they now remove the sign?

        • Ian Morris

          The disclaimer is a useful tool in reminding people that there may be risks that cannot be mitigated, so having such a sign is a sensible move. However, as previously said, the sign is only one part of the tool kit when considering prevention of injury or loss.

  3. Maria

    Hello Ian.
    In our nearby estate park, local council owned area, one of our neighbours added a swing in one of the big trees.
    Initially, it was for his child but other kids used the swing and it did have a disclaimer that the use was at swing user’s risk.
    All was well and as a neighbourhood we were happy, until someone left their kid unattended and they hurt themselves by not using the swing as intended. (The kid tried to climb from the swing to tree brunch and fell.)
    Now, we are hearing of being sued and us being complicit as we didn’t report the swing to the council.
    Is there a case? Is the neighbour and us responsible?
    I feel like someone leaving a bike in a park, someone uses it without permission, hurts themselves and the bike owner being responsible.
    What can we do as a neighbourhood but also assist our dear neighbour who went to the trouble of erecting the swing.

    • Ian Morris

      There is no way that you could be brought in to any claim – even if one was made (which I can’t see being viable!) – as you didn’t erect the swing and have no duty to do anything about it.

  4. Mrs Jay Topham

    Hello Ian
    I have been discussing with a fellow lady business owner about putting up a disclaimers re corona virus – she runs a hairdressers and I run a small pub.
    Whilst I will be ensuring that people area seated 2m apart and that I carry out all the necessary cleaning etc etc would it be advisable to have a disclaimer displayed. The last thing I want to have is someone claiming they caught the virus in my pub and then getting sued. What do you think?

    • Ian Morris

      The chances of anyone being able to make a claim against a business or public venue if they then contract Covid-19 are extremely small, especially if the business or venue is open legally and following whatever government advice is in place at the time. Considering the fact that it would be almost impossible to prove that someone had caught Covid-19 in your premises and that the risks of infection are present in just about any part of society, a Solicitor would not wish to pursue a claim and a claimant would not be able to find a Solicitor willing to act on a No Win No Fee basis in such a claim.

  5. Mahmoud hamdy

    Hello Dears,

    i have a case-study and they asked me if there is a sign in a coffee area stating the following: ‘the defendant accept no liability for death or personal injury howsoever and wherever caused’.

    I read that under Consumer rights act 2015 (s65) a trader can’t exclude his liability for personal injury or death and parties can’t contract out of this law. therefore, my question is if the warning signs never release the guilty party from liability according to this law even if the injured party knew about it. Am i right?

    • Ian Morris

      Nobody can escape liability if it is shown that they were negligent and could have prevented an incident that lead to an injury if they were not negligent. A disclaimer cannot remove someone from the risk of being liable for causing injury or death. A disclaimer can be seen as part of the process of ensuring that all the risks posed by a certain activity or working practice are appreciated as dangerous and reminding individuals of their own responsibilities. However, you cannot escape liability by way of having erected a disclaimer notice.

  6. Neal

    We are a community of 10 houses set in a private estate, and we share the estate equipment (joint ownership), including driveable (sit-on) lawnmowers, and petrol powered chainsaw, hedge trimmer, and grass strimmer. We operate as a Ltd Company (no profits or shares) under a Memo of Articles, thereby ensuring we meet estate administration costs, Combined Liability & Employers Insurance, and maintenance of fencing, grass cutting and bush/tree pruning. We also employ a part time groundsman, who is trained to operate all the equipment, and in practice no-one actually cuts the grass. We also keep a maintenance log to verify serviceability, inspections and safe operating state.
    Should we have a disclaimer or waiver for its use by any of the private (owner) residents, or is is better to ensure some sort of training or competency of use is in place first?

    • Ian Morris

      Given the fact that the employed groundsman has been trained and you keep a log of servicing of any equipment, it would appear that you are in ‘good shape’ with regards to your approach to Health and Safety.

      There would be no harm in placing a clear, but simple disclaimer at the access point to the equipment that states that any faults or repairs required should be reported immediately and that nobody other than those authorised and trained to use the equipment should use it.

      It would be sensible to employ a bi-monthly inspection of the equipment likely to cause injury (power tools, mowers etc) where you check for any obvious issues in need of repair or maintenance and keep a log, along with the annual servicing that any equipment would have.

      There is certainly no harm in having a ‘training course’ for any persons wishing to use the equipment safely and perhaps an annual refresher checklist to sign off.

      By undertaking these tasks, should someone then sustain injury and make a claim against you, you are likely to be in a strong position to defend any action as you can demonstrate that you have appreciated the potential risks, made people aware, tried your best to minimise the risks and keep people safe.

      Of course, it does not guarantee that you won’t face acton or indeed, that you won’t be held liable – it really depends on the nature of any incident or injury sustained. Therefore, as ever it is wise to ensure that you are appropriately insured. Your insurers should be happy with the recommendations we have suggested and this should help to reduce premiums accordingly.

  7. Rodney

    My local golf course now has many people wandering across the fairways, sitting around the greens and amongst the trees. It is a private course with public footpaths running across, if a ball was to injury a member of the public not on a footpath would I or the club have any liabilities, I do have golf insurance.

    • Ian Morris

      It is unlikely that an individual golfer would face any liability should one of their ‘shots’ hit a walker and cause personal injury. Of course, both golfer and walker need to use common sense and look ahead before either taking a shot, or crossing a fairway. As for sitting around the green, that should not be allowed as it is asking for trouble!

  8. graham

    All members of our allotment would like to use the grass cutting machines as and where they need to around their individual area. At the moment they are not allowed access and only three or four insured users may operate the machine.
    This problem started several years ago with the rapid climb in injury claims against allotment organisers.
    My question is …if all the users are registered as the owner of the machine/s is anyone particular individual liable for another persons injury in a court of law?

    • Ian Morris

      In general terms, so long as the lawnmowers are regularly serviced and checked for any faults and every person wishing to use the machines has been trained in the safe use of them, there should be no grounds for anyone to pursue a claim against the owners of the machinery.

  9. Lesley

    I own a holiday cottage in my private land, the land is 40 acres and fenced in
    , no animals or activities only a walk way, how do I ensure I am covered for any guests if injured. Do I put up a disclaimer sign and also add. Disclaimer to my Terms of contract ?

    Thank you

    • Ian Morris

      This is a matter you need to discuss with your public liability insurance provider. However, you do need to ensure that the property is well maintained and that you make the process of reporting any potential repairs or defects clear to your renters and that you identify any potential hazards to health. Given the description of the land, you probably have no issues to consider with regards to the land itself, but you should ensure that the walkway does not have any tripping hazards or slip hazards.

  10. Steve

    We live in a set of converted barns and the properties have shared access and use to the central court yard area as well as the access into the courtyard from the main road. Because these facilities are on private (unadapopted land) and common to the properties a Ltd management company was set up (at property development stage) to manage the shared facilites with regards to upkeep and maintenance etc.

    Would it be appropriate for a disclaimer to be displayed on behalf of the management company at the entrance to access and courtyard advising users to enter and use these areas at their own risk? And to what degree would the Management Company be liable if an accident were to occur?

    • Ian Morris

      Disclaimers are useful reminders to individuals to take care and can limit the liability of a landowner. However, simply erecting a disclaimer won’t absolve the management company of liability should someone sustain personal injury due to any negligence or if the management company allow the area to be in disrepair and for hazards to be in situ.

      The safest way forward is for the management company to operate a monthly inspection of the area in question to check whether there are any obvious risks of injury – tripping hazards, disrepaired ground surfaces, protruding metal etc etc. If appropriate records are kept for all inspections and appropriate maintenance work is undertaken for any identified hazards, it is most likely that negligence would not attach should someone subsequently sustain injury as it would seem clear that the management company had employed a regime of inspection and maintenance that was of a sound nature.

  11. Jim

    I run public events in a council run village hall. The hall’s built in ventilation and heating plant needs repairing, which means accessing the loft space.
    I have a detailed knowledge of the plant and am very happy to access the loft to assist engineers assess quotes for repairs, replacements and for servicing.
    The council have now instructed me not to access the plant areas on health and safety grounds, yet it is in the interests of hall users that I give the technical lead here.
    I am more than happy to take full responsibility for my own safety in the plant area and would not dream of making any claim should I suffer any injury whilst involved with this work.
    How can I write a disclaimer which would be accepted by the council to allow me to continue with my voluntary work in the plant areas?

    • Ian Morris

      The responsibility for the way in which the premises is managed, maintained and to what extent access to certain areas within the premises is granted rests with the ‘owners’ of the premises. In this case, the council appear to be in control of the area and if they do not believe it is safe for you (or any unqualified non-professional) to access the loft space, they have the right to make such a decision.

      As you have been refused access, you would be unwise to ignore that. Firstly, if you were to suffer injury you would be unable to take any action (we note that you have indicated that you do not wish to take such action) but if you were to cause damage to the property or machinery in question, you would personally be liable for the costs of damage.

  12. Fiona

    I signed a disclaimer at a trampoline park but subsequently broke my leg very badly just bouncing on a trampoline. My issue is that I was asked to move off the trampoline after the accident, resulting in severe pain and distress. I could not move, was asked if I needed an ambulance cause it could take 4 hours! They told my son they did not believe it was broken and I would just ‘walk it off’ 5 months later I still cannot walk. I have a tibial plateau fracture type 6 which is a catastrophic break. I would like to know if I can make a claim against the trampoline park?

    • Ian Morris

      The fact that you signed a disclaimer, would not (in and of itself) rule out the prospect of you ever being able to take action against the organisation that is asking you to sign the same. However, to pursue a claim against the trampoline park you would need to be able to establish that their negligence lead to you sustaining your injury. The disclaimer you would have signed in this case would confirm that you have acknowledged that there is an inherent risk of injury in taking part in such activities as trampolining. Therefore, in such a case our view is that you would only have valid grounds for a claim if your injury was caused due to a fault with the trampoline (such as it breaking or tearing when being used). It would appear that there was no such issue in this case.

      The further issues you mention regarding their approach to first aid is somewhat of a red herring. Whilst they may well have handled your injury poorly, the staff at the trampoline park are not medical professionals and although they could and should have been more caring, their actions did not cause your injury.

  13. Melanie Attwater

    Hello, I am an equal shareholder in a management committee of 5 flats. Each flat has a director that sits on the committee. Myself and another flat have purchased a playhouse for children. This is purely for the use of the residents children. If we put up a sign saying we accept no responsibility for any injury and that all children must be supervised whilst playing on the playhouse – does that suffice?

    • Ian Morris

      Simply erecting a disclaimer notice will not prevent you from being liable should an injury occur as a result of negligence on your part. To make sure that you can not be held liable for any injuries that occur, you must ensure that the play house is regularly maintained and that any potential hazards are removed or repaired.

      It would be wise to have a regular inspection regime in place where the play equipment is checked for faults and that any repair work can then be instructed. This should be done weekly with a written record as to who inspected the equipment and what is inspected. Hazards to look for with such equipment will be loose screws, sharp edges, broken materials.

      Your disclaimer should state that the equipment should be used appropriately and provide details as to how to report any faults or hazards. If any hazards are reported, the equipment should be cordoned off from use until repaired.

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