Can I claim compensation if I signed a disclaimer?

When participating in activities such as sporting events and exercise classes, you may be asked to sign a disclaimer before taking part. If an accident occurs can you still make a personal injury claim?

'Disclaimers' or 'exemption clauses' are terms which seek to exclude or limit liability. They are common and take many different forms. If they hinder the public in seeking redress from organisations that have not complied with their obligations, they may be considered unfair.

Do so at your own risk.

Here's a typical example of an unfair exclusion and limitation term.

"You acknowledge that all exercise involves a risk of personal injury, including a small risk of serious injury or death, and agree to take responsibility for your health and well-being in relation to our classes."

"We will not be liable to you in respect of any personal injury (including without limitation serious injury or death) that you may suffer or sustain directly or indirectly as a result of attending our classes. Nor will we be liable to you in respect of any other losses arising as a result of any such personal injury."

Such disclaimers can be misleading; they imply that the organiser has no liability for personal injury or death should they occur.

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So what happens if an accident does occur?

Organisations have an obligation to ensure the safety of those participating in events and classes, or using equipment. If they fail to do so they may be considered negligent and a claim may be brought against them.

The Office of Fair Trading states that: "Contract terms, including ?at your own risk' disclaimers, cannot be used to exclude or restrict an organisation's liability for death or personal injury caused by its negligence."

This means their liability cannot be waived simply because they ask participants to sign a disclaimer stating they know there is a risk in taking part.

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Read the small print

Here's an example of what a disclaimer should also state:

"Nothing in this disclaimer shall: limit or exclude our liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence; limit or exclude our liability for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation; limit any of our liabilities in any way that is not permitted under applicable law; or exclude any of our liabilities that may not be excluded under applicable law."

A disclaimer may attempt to limit liability - for example, by including a maximum level of compensation payable - but only if this is fair and reasonable.

The key terms of the disclaimer should be brought to the participant's attention, rather than just hidden away in the small print.

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Have you suffered an injury after signing a disclaimer?

If you have sustained an injury but believe you may not be able to claim because you signed a disclaimer, please speak to Quittance on 0800 612 7456 or complete an online form and we will call you back at a time that suits you.

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