Liability waivers and pre-injury release clauses are generally invalid in Virginia but there are important exceptions.
When you sign a liability waiver before engaging in a potentially dangerous activity, you might ask yourself, “can I waive my right to sue?” or “will waivers of liability hold up in court?” Pre-injury release clauses are an attempt to make you forfeit your legal right to sue if you are injured. In Virginia, the answer to whether these exculpatory clauses are valid and enforceable is generally a resounding “NO!” While important exceptions exist (your Virginia personal injury attorney can help explain them), liability waivers are generally unenforceable in Virginia. Therefore, even if you signed a pre-injury release clause and were severely injured in an activity, you may still retain a Virginia personal injury lawyer and file a claim for compensation.
Note that the law continually evolves and that the information provided here should not be taken as legal advice. Speaking to a qualified personal injury attorney can help determine if the injury you or your loved one suffered is an actionable claim. If you suffered a serious personal injury in Virginia, we recommend contacting us for a free case review. Because the law sets time deadlines for filing a claim, we recommend contacting us at your earliest convenience.
Unlike Maryland or Washington, D.C., Virginia is one of the few states that provides robust protection to injury victims who signed waiver of liability clauses. With some narrow exceptions, you do not sacrifice your right to file a lawsuit if you’ve signed a liability waiver in Virginia.
Virginia’s protection of injured victims’ rights dates back to 1890 when the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case of Johnson’s Adm’x v. Richmond and Danville R.R. Co., 86 Va. 975 (1890) “for one party to put the other parties to the contract at the mercy of its own misconduct…can never be lawfully done where an enlightened system of jurisprudence prevails. Public policy forbids it, and contracts against public policy are void.”
Another important case, Hiett v. Lake Barcroft Community Assoc., 244 Va. 191, 194-195 (1992), upheld the public policy established in Johnson of voiding pre-injury waivers. Robert Hiett, was a tri-athlete who signed a liability waiver shortly before competing in a triathlon in Fairfax County. He suffered a catastrophic injury after diving into shallow water in a lake, leaving him a quadriplegic. He sued the owner of the lake, alleging that the event organizers failed to ensure that the lake was reasonably safe, properly supervise the swimming event, advise of the risk of injury, and train them how to avoid serious personal injury. The Supreme Court of Virginia, affirming the 1890 decision in Johnson, held that the liability waiver signed by Hiett was against public policy and did not prevent him from filing a lawsuit.
In Virginia, indemnity provisions are one possible caveat to the general ban against enforcing liability waivers. Indemnity provisions are agreements between parties apportioning liability between them. Unlike liability waivers, indemnity provisions do not prevent injured parties from suing for damages after a catastrophic personal injury. Indemnity clauses, however, can sometimes obligate the injured individual to compensate the wrongdoer for expenses related to the personal injury lawsuit – rendering the end result of an indemnity clause indistinguishable from a liability waiver. A qualified Virginia personal injury attorney can analyze contracts, case law, and other applicable regulations to determine whether your legal rights are impacted by the indemnity clause exception.
A good example of indemnity clauses in Virginia is the case of Estes Express Lines, Inc. v. Chopper Express, Inc., 273 Va. 358 (2007). The case involved a contract where Chopper Express agreed to indemnify (repay) Estes Express for liability related to personal injuries. An employee from Chopper Express sued Estes for negligence after suffering an injury on the job. As a result, Chopper Express was forced to reimburse Estes for the damages as part of the agreed upon indemnity clause.
Even though liability waivers are generally unenforceable in Virginia, wrongdoers may still attempt to hold you to them. Speaking to a qualified Virginia personal injury attorney with The Cochran Firm, D.C. can help you get the justice you and your family deserve. Our attorneys are well-versed in premises liability, product liability and personal injury law.
If someone in Virginia refuses to compensate you for your catastrophic personal injury because they believe the waiver of liability you signed is enforceable, contact The Cochran Firm, D.C. We offer injury victims free, prompt, and confidential case reviews. We represent our clients on a contingency basis, meaning there are absolutely no legal fees unless you win. If you don’t win your case, you don’t owe us a dime.
Call us during business hours at 202-682-5800 or at 1-800-THE-FIRM (843-3476) to reach us 24 hours a day. You may also fill out a contact form on our website. Strict time deadlines apply when filing a personal injury lawsuit so please contact us at your earliest convenience in order to preserve your rights.