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A waiver is the voluntary relinquishment or surrender of some known right or privilege. While a waiver is often in writing, sometimes a person's actions can act as a waiver. An example of a written waiver is a disclaimer, which becomes a waiver when accepted. Other names for waivers are exculpatory clauses, releases, or hold harmless clauses.

Sometimes the elements of "voluntary" and "known" are established by a legal fiction. In this case, it is presumed one knows his or her rights and that those rights are voluntarily relinquished if they are not asserted at the time.

Jurisdictional differences

In some jurisdictions waivers in consumer contracts have been legislated against, effectively completely preventing their use. For example: in the England and Wales, s.2 of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 prevents a business from using notices or contractual terms which attempt to exclude or limit liability for death or personal injury arising out of their negligence. Clauses purporting to exclude liability for loss or damage are subject to a reasonableness test in which the court will consider, amongst other factors, the balance of bargaining power held by each party to the contract.

The remainder of this page is primarily concerned with the position of waivers under U.S. law. difference with others.

Enforceability of waivers

Laws, as the reader is aware, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so while this information is generally true, details may vary from place to place.

The key factor that courts look at when determining the applicability of a waiver are:

  • A waiver can only release negligent activity, not intentional activity.
  • The waiver must be signed voluntarily and with the full knowledge the right being waived.
  • The waiver must be unambiguous and clear.
  • The parties to the waiver must have equal bargaining power.
  • A waiver cannot be applied to an essential service that would make it a matter of public policy.

Waivers have been found unenforceable in some cases, for example a waiver was too general as it included phrases such as "and otherwise".

Belegarth Waivers

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