The pandemic has changed many parts of the events industry. It’s affecting everything, from how people attend functions to the fundamentals of how the event-planning process occurs. One key element of many different types of events is the waiver. Every event can benefit from having waivers and disclaimers in place, but they may look different in the post-COVID-19 world.
One effective way to update your warnings and notices to protect your event business is through the use of electronic liability waivers (e-Waivers). But how can you do that? Here is some information on what you need to know about e-Waivers, why you may need them, and how they’ll need to change to fit the post-COVID-19 events industry.
What is an e-Waiver?
Waivers are legal documents that can be highly useful for events. They’re written notices or disclaimers that inform potential attendees about the risks they might experience while attending an event. Waivers also include liability clauses. These contain legal language that states the attendee may be limited if trying to sue you for damages associated with those risks. The attendees need to sign the waiver to demonstrate that they understand the risks and wish to attend anyway.
You can use waivers to help protect your event from potential lawsuits. Once every event-goer has signed a release, you can legally use this document as a piece of evidence to reject a suit. You can also use it to argue a lawsuit should one of your attendees decide to take legal action against you.
You can do the same thing with an e-waiver, which is simply a waiver that people can fill out online. Digital waivers are more convenient and easier to store and track than paper waivers. Plus, you can quickly send and receive e-Waivers anywhere in the country, so you can avoid having to mail your releases.
It’s also important to remember that waivers do not provide complete protection from all forms of liability, as every legal scenario is unique. However, they can be highly beneficial when lawsuits arise because they can serve as evidence.
When Are e-Waivers Beneficial?
You should use a waiver whenever you’re hosting an event that may include risks. Nearly every type of event (food festivals, concerts, endurance events, etc.) can have risks associated, so waivers are almost always helpful.
E-Waivers make adding warnings to your event much easier. You can add the waiver to the digital ticket-buying or registration process, so people can only purchase a ticket if they’ve signed it or accepted your terms. Using an event management platform like Events.com, event organizers have the ability to add customizable waivers for buyers and attendees in the registration process. Whether the ticket purchaser is just registering him/herself or purchasing multiple tickets for additional attendees, Events.com’s waiver functionality was built with attendee ease of access and signature in mind. It also offers tailored data collection forms and waiver acceptance sent directly to each attendee.
In addition to the waiver collection function, event organizers have access to real-time reporting on waiver acceptance and can receive reminder notifications with just one click. When adding a waiver on the Events.com platform, event organizers have the option to either collect an electronic signature or have attendees accept terms by checking a box. The option you choose depends on your event’s desired degree of legal protection.
How Waivers and Disclaimers Will Likely Change Post-COVID-19
The pandemic has made it clear that there are some risks for which no one was prepared. Before 2020, even the best waivers didn’t typically include the risk of disease or illness. Many didn’t cover sudden cancellations or plans for changing events to entirely online alternatives.
This caused problems for event venues and hosts alike. Many venues were forced to use force majeure clauses in their existing contracts, which permitted them to cancel events entirely. A force majeure clause provides protection against unforeseen “acts of God” such as natural disasters or, in this case, a pandemic. Meanwhile, event hosts were often forced to choose between attempting to host in-person events and risking infections or refunding hundreds or thousands of tickets.
That’s why something has to change. Here’s how waivers will need to look different in the post-pandemic world for the events you want to host.
Concerts are a prime example of events with large crowds and very little social distancing. That’s a recipe for transmitting COVID-19. As a result, it’s a good idea for your future concerts to include waivers covering transmissible infections.
Many concerts are part of a touring series, so they’re difficult to reschedule. It’s typically easier to convert a concert to an online event than to reschedule or cancel since live-streaming these events is simpler and cheaper than refunding thousands of tickets or working with a touring band’s schedule. It’s worthwhile to include a clause in the waiver that explains what attendees should expect.
Academic and professional conferences are valuable experiences, but they’re also easy to convert to online formats. That means that the best thing you can do for your conference is to include an alteration notice in your waiver that alerts attendees to the circumstances under which your event will convert to a virtual format. Your e-Waiver can make this clear through highlighting and individual agreement checkboxes.
An endurance event can be anything from a 5K run to a triathlon. These events are typically held outdoors, so they have fewer risks of COVID-19 transmission than other events. Still, if a city or state goes into lockdown, even outdoor events may need to adjust their plans.
One of the most effective methods to do this is by using a virtual race platform like Events.com EveryChallenge™. Include a notice in your e-Waiver that you will convert your event to an online-only version in certain circumstances. Then, develop a plan for your virtual fitness challenge. Events.com EveryChallenge™ allows you to boost engagement from your attendees without losing value. There are many different types of challenges that this tool allows you to create, including distance, time, and calories goals. Participants can also track their physical activity through native integration with fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit, Garmin, and Strava, as well as view a leaderboard of results.
A waiver for an endurance event should always include a clause that acknowledges the medical/physical risks of said event and releases the organizer from liability. In races, for example, participants can sustain injuries and health issues such as muscle cramps, trips and falls, heart attacks. They can also become injured by an animal that runs onto the course.
Many fundraisers rely on in-person attendance to build excitement and encourage donors to offer funds. If you want to keep donors engaged, you need to plan to keep the event running regardless of external conditions. Your e-Waivers after COVID-19 can cover your robust plans for reorganizing the event in case of a problem. This can thus reassure attendees that they will still receive a fun event in exchange for their donations.
The proper waiver can protect your fundraiser in two ways. First, you can ask attendees to agree to strict disease prevention guidelines so you can keep the event in person. Otherwise, you can explain your plans for a virtual event and the circumstances in which you’ll go online only. Either way, the goal is to keep your potential donors interested in attending while still trying to minimize legal problems for your organization.
A trade show has plenty of moving parts. You need to produce e-Waivers for both attendees and merchants who are reserving booths. The waivers for guests can look like ones for professional conferences since the two are similar in many ways.
For your merchants, however, the waivers need to include a few extra details. It’s worthwhile to be specific about whether and how they will be refunded for their booths if you reschedule and they cannot attend. You can also include clauses that offer favorable terms to any merchant who commits to coming to your rescheduled trade show.
A gala or any other social event is all about the chance to talk with other people. You can certainly convert a gala to an online event. However, you may want to consider making it clear in your waiver that this is a possibility. When you’re writing your e-Waiver, list the situations in which you’ll convert your event to a safe virtual experience and the benefits the attendees will receive. The proper disclaimer can encourage people to attend your adjusted event and help you prevent the need to refund too many tickets.
It’s important to create waivers for career fairs and recruiting events carefully because people attend these events to make important professional decisions. Previously, recruiting fair waivers covered issues like confidentiality. Now, they also need to include considerations like health and safety as well. You can explicitly state whether you require people to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to attend the event, how you’ll check, and what consequences there will be if someone is unvaccinated.
What to Include in Post-COVID-19 Waivers
You may have noticed that all these event waiver changes have some common threads. After the pandemic, it’s going to be essential to include three major elements in your waivers:
Disease waivers: A disease waiver covers the considerations you’ll take regarding COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses and protects your event from lawsuits. A disease waiver can cover things like social distancing, masking, testing, vaccination, and attendance requirements. For example, you may require people to show a valid vaccination card before they can attend. The disclaimer should also include a release removing liability if someone contracts a disease at your event.
Alteration notices: An alteration e-Waiver informs attendees about the conditions in which you’ll alter your event. To attend, they need to sign the waiver agreeing to these changes. You can use this type of waiver to permit rescheduling the event, changing its format to online-only, or change what it includes.
Cancellation terms: In some cases, you may have no choice but to cancel events entirely. The pandemic has made this much more common, unfortunately. For that reason, it’s a good idea to improve your current waiver’s cancellation clauses and familiarize yourself in advance with your refund policy and plans. The same is true for your insurance policies. We recommend you contact your insurance broker and/or advisor to review your policies. You may also want to review and enhance your legal waiver and associated text to ensure your protection as an event organizer.
Duty to self-monitor: This type of clause is used to indicate that all event participants and volunteers agree to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and nausea. Everyone is also responsible for alerting event organizers immediately of any symptoms or exposure to the virus within 14 days of the event. Be sure to include all of the COVID-19 symptoms listed by the CDC in your waiver.
These waiver clauses should be in addition to standard disclaimers for injuries. These clauses typically include a statement with language like: “The participant hereby assumes all risk of injury resulting from the activities listed above and agrees to defend, indemnify, and forever discharge the releasee from all liability, claims, demands, and expenses due to injury, loss, death or damage to the participant.”
These clauses serve as improvements to your waivers, not replacements. With these three extra clauses, you can provide an additional level of protection for your event. However, these clauses don’t eliminate the risk of a lawsuit. You can also have attendees sign affirmations (basically agreeing they have not had symptoms of COVID-19 nor been around anyone knowingly infected).
Keep Your Guests and Events Safe
Waivers aren’t the most exciting topic, but they’re critical to helping your event business become more protected against lawsuits. When you’re organizing your next event, remember to take another look at your waivers to ensure they are up to date. It can be as simple as updating the language you use or converting it to a digital form. Remember to avoid vague language: be as specific as possible when listing your event’s potential risks and liabilities.
If you’re ready to start using easy and secure online waivers, Events.com can help. You can include your waivers and collect electronic signatures directly in the purchase flow, so event attendees and buyers can redeem tickets only if they accept or sign. That’s a quick way to ensure your event is legally protected and, above all, safe for attendees.
Disclaimer: The above is for promotional purposes only and shall not be taken as legal advice. If you or your entity have legal questions and/or concerns, please speak to an attorney. In no way is Events.com liable for any actions taken on behalf of or in reliance of the above information.