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Florida Boat and Jet Ski Rental Liability Waivers

How Can You Legally Force Me to Waive My Rights By Making Me Sign a Waiver?

Very simply, we can’t force you. If we did, anything you signed would be considered null and void.

However, YOU can voluntarily waive any right you choose to waive. If you are ever in the unfortunate situation where you are charged with a crime, the court may offer to let you waive your right to a jury trial or waive your right to legal counsel. In this case, they are not forcing you to waive your rights, you are doing so willingly.

When you are presented with a liability waiver prior to a boating or Jet Ski outing, you are not forced to waive any rights. We are simply telling you that successful negotiation of a waiver is required as a condition of your participation.

YOU must read the waiver and determine if it is in your best interest to make the waivers outlined in the document in return for the right to participate. Remember, any right you waive in a liability waiver is an absolute VOLUNTARY waiver of those rights.

We encourage you to think about your actions before you sign, and to obtain additional advice if you feel it necessary. Only after seeking advice and weighing the benefits of the waiver should you make a VOLUNTARY waiver of your rights.

Can I Disavow a  Liability Waiver After I Have Signed It?

That would be quite difficult, but it has been successfully done in some states. You would need to prove that there was some sort of trickery or fraud involved in the presentation of the waiver to you. Another cause to disavow might be that you were “coerced” into signing the waiver. One form of coercion might be that the waiver was presented to you too late for you to back out, effectively removing your right to decide if you should sign.

For instance, you would never be presented with a wavier to sign after the boating or Jet Skiing is underway. This is too late for you to have a sufficient legal choice.

In the case of minors, the ability to disavow a waiver is a little more lenient. There are many cases of successful disavowing of waivers, by minors, when the waivers were signed by parents or guardians. However, some courts do not make this a practice. If allowing minors to disavow became commonplace, the courts would eventually create a situation where minors were not allowed to participate in adventure sports.

Is Acknowledgment of Risk the Same as Waiving Liability?

Not at all. Reading or signing a document that acknowledges a certain risk is simply that… acknowledging risk. When you acknowledge risk, you are not necessarily waiving liability. The rental company will advise you of the risk and seek waiver from you for that risk. In situations where the signature of a parent or guardian is required for a minor’s participation, waivers will explain the special risks associated with a parent signing on behalf of a minor.

 Can a Minor Sign a Liability Waiver?

No. An individual who has not yet attained the age of 18 is considered a minor, unless legally emancipated by a court. A minor cannot enter into a contract, and a liability waiver is a legal contract.

 Does the Minor Sign in Addition to the Parent or Guardian?

Actually, that isn’t necessary. The courts don’t recognize any type of consent contract signed by a minor, so having them sign is a waste of effort.  Waivers require the participant to initial each paragraph of the waivers and then sign on the bottom of the waiver. Since a minor is incapable, under the law, of understanding the terms of the waiver, it is required that a parent or guardian initial the paragraph and then sign for the participant on the bottom of the waiver. In addition, the parent or guardian must sign additional statements, found as an addendum to the waiver, which outline the responsibility a parent or guardian undertakes when they sign on behalf of a minor.

Can a Minor Later “Disavow” a Waiver Previously Signed By a Parent or Guardian?

In some cases, the courts are fairly liberal in allowing a minor to disavow a contract signed by a parent or guardian on their behalf. While the case law is a little mixed on this subject, a minor would likely have to demonstrate to the court that the parent or guardian did not have the best interests of the minor in mind at the time of signing. This legal protection is afforded the minor to prevent damage should the parent or guardian demonstrate recklessness by signing a contract on behalf of the minor.

 Can An Adult Other Then a Parent or Guardian Sign a Liability Waiver for a Minor?

No. Only a parent or guardian can sign a liability waiver on behalf of a minor. Waivers signed by other adults are immediately null and void. In such a case, the law views the waiver as if it never existed, and the minor is restored all rights waived by the document.

The rental company waivers require that the signing adult prove that they are able to sign on behalf of the minor in question. If a person represents themselves as the guardian and signs a waiver on behalf of the minor without the legal authority to do so, the signer is guilty of fraud, a felony, punishable by stiff fines and a considerable jail sentence. In addition, it would be relatively simple for the rental company who originally presented the wavier to recover from the adult if any loss occurred as a result of the fraud.

Must Both Parents Sign the Waiver for a Minor for It to Be Enforceable?

In practice, only one parent or guardian is required to sign.  The signing parent or guardian affirms that they are signing for themselves and ON BEHALF of all other parents and guardians. If a signer affirms this, while possessing knowledge that there is some reason why they can’t sign on behalf of the other parent or guardian, they have committed contract fraud. This is a serious offense. Some rental companies require the parent and guardian signing to affirm that there is no ongoing custody suit with regard to the minor.

 What Consideration is Given Me In Return for Signing a Waiver?

There must be mutual consideration for any contract to be enforceable. The rental company makes the signing of a liability waiver a condition of participating in the boating or Jet Ski event. The consideration you are getting is the RIGHT to participate in the event and the fair value of the services rendered for your money. This consideration has been judged to be sufficient to satisfy the “mutual benefit” requirement of the law.

Can I Make “Markups” or Take Exception to a Particular Paragraph I Don’t Like in a Liability Waiver?

A standard tenant in contract negotiation that either party is free to make changes to a contract or to take exception to any terms and conditions outlined in a contract. You simply make written changes to the paragraphs or conditions in a

Will I Be Denied the Right to Participate If I Refuse to Sign?

Yes. Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to participate in an activity if you refuse to sign the liability waivers presented.

Will I Be Asked to Sign Additional Waivers During a Trip?

That is a possibility. You might be asked to sign additional waivers by a charter and travel vendors when you arrive. A good example is the waiver required by charter operators. They require a new release directly between them and you! These waivers must be presented to the charter operator when you check in prior to boarding.

Many waivers serve only a single purpose and additional protection may be needed for some other conditions not outlined in the original waiver. But don’t forget the most important issue when you are presented with a release… NEVER sign a release you don’t understand!

 

What If I Don’t Understand the Liability Waiver?

You have an absolute right to seek the advice of other persons prior to signing any waiver of liability. You should never be presented with a waiver at the “last minute”.  You should always have plenty of time to completely read and understand a waiver.  NEVER SIGN A RELEASE OR WAIVER if you don’t understand it or don’t agree with the terms contained in the release.

 Could I Seek Legal Relief in Another State Even If I Signed a Waiver in Florida?

This is a difficult question to answer. In theory, almost any state could rule that they have jurisdiction over an issue brought before them. If a waiver is not carefully worded, this is a possibility.

Some waivers will require that the signer recognize that the “situs” of the waiver is the State of Florida. Situs simply means the “residence” of the liability waiver and the place where jurisdiction is generally believed to reside. Waivers also require the signer to acknowledge that they will not bring any action in any court, Federal or State, other than those situated in the State of Florida.

Limited Damage Waiver

A boat rental contract provides that the customer is responsible for anydamage or loss to the boat or its inventory while it is in the customer’s possession, regardless of whether the damage is caused by negligence, third parties, pets, wild animals, underwater obstacles, wind, waves, or other causes.

The Limited Damage Waiver is not insurance. Optional liability insurance is available for rental houseboats from an unrelated third party insurance provider. If the Customer is renting a small boat or Jet Ski or other type of watercraft, or if the Customer decides not to purchase the liability insurance for his/her houseboat rental,  the Customer may purchase the optional Limited Damage Waiver. The Limited Damage Waiver offers limited coverage for damage or loss to the boat or Jet Ski under some circumstances. It does not cover all damage or loss.

The Limited Damage Waiver Does NOT Cover:

  • Negligence (whether by the customer, guests, or any third parties).
  • Use, operation, or occupation of the boat or Jet Ski in violation of the terms of the rental contract.
  • Failure to comply with waterway rules and regulations, including Coast Guard regulations.
  • Use, operation, or occupation of the boat or Jet Ski under the influence of drugs (including over-the-counter or prescription drugs) or alcohol.
  • Failure to comply with posted warnings on the boat.
  • Damage caused by pets.
  • Bodily injury (of customer, guests, or third parties)
  • Loss of the inventory or equipment.
  • Property damage, other than damage to the boat or Jet Ski, or inventory rented by the Customer.
  • Customer’s own property and property owned by third parties is NOT covered.

What Does it Cover?

  • If the damage or loss to the boat or Jet Ski is not excluded under “A” above, the damage waiver will cover damage to or loss of the rental boat or Jet Ski, or damage to the inventory or equipment of the rental, in excess of $500.00.
  • Notwithstanding the foregoing, the $500.00 deductible does not apply to propeller damage. This means that if the propeller damage is covered by the Limited Damage Waiver, the company will waive any claims against the Customer for damage to the propellers, regardless of the amount.

Conditions Precedent to Enforceability of the Limited Damage Waiver:

  • Customer must indicate his/her election to purchase the Limited Damage Waiver;
  • Customer must pay the fee for the Limited Damage Waiver; and
  • Customer must provide written notice of the damage or loss for which Customer seeks application of the Limited Damage Waiver, and such notification must be given within 24 hours after the incident giving rise to such damage or loss.

Orlando, Volusia County and Flagler County Boat Accident and Jet Ski Accident Attorneys for over 30 Years

For over 30 Years, Rue & Ziffra Law Offices and Attorneys have provided legal expertise and results for those who have been affected by a Boat Accident and Jet Ski Accident in Bunnell, Daytona Beach, DeBary, DeLand, Deltona, Edgewater, Flagler Beach, New Smyrna, Orlando, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Port Orange and Sanford.

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