A Lesson From the Titanic Submarine Implosion

As I write this post, at least five people died in the Titanic Sub tragedy. Before going underwater, they all signed liability waivers.  There will be lawsuits after the initial cavalcade of news stories and emotional outpouring.

But what about the waivers?  An article on the Insurance Journal states the following: “Waivers are not always ironclad, and it is not uncommon for judges to reject them if there is evidence of gross negligence or hazards that were not fully disclosed.”

This is where the news story turns from a tragedy involving people we’ve never met before and becomes a lesson for all of us. I’ve had this conversation more times than I can count with all kinds of organizations: sports leagues, churches, service providers, daycares, etc…

“We’re going to have this activity, but it’s fine because we will have everyone sign waivers.”

The thought is that if you’re going rock climbing, playing tackle football, going on a fishing trip, etc., you don’t need to worry about lawsuits because your participants signed a waiver. If they signed a waiver, they can’t sue.

This is true unless there is evidence of gross negligence or the hazards were not fully disclosed.

So if you have a tackle football game, and someone steps in a pothole in the field, did you fully disclose all the hazards?

Or perhaps you take kids on a field trip to a local museum but then lose track of one of the children for 3 hours? Wouldn’t that be considered gross negligence?

Waivers certainly help to minimize the likelihood of being sued. For many activities, consider them a prerequisite of participation.

However, they do not replace the possibility of needing to pay for a lawyer to defend yourself. Waivers do not replace the need for insurance.

Further Reading
HR Brief – July 2022

HR Brief – July 2022

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