the legal resource for fitness entrepreneurs
the legal resource for fitness entrepreneurs

Why your CrossFit box needs a lawyer drafted release form

You might have wondered, why does your CrossFit® box need a lawyer drafted injury and illness waiver and release form? Why can’t you just ask one of your fellow affiliates for a copy of theirs? What would it hurt to just create one yourself by compiling part from this one here and another part from elsewhere?

Well, I have a question for you: do you try and do everything risky yourself?

What is a Release?

A liability waiver, often referred to as a release, is a contract between the fitness business and the participant – in this case a CrossFit® box member – signed prior to participation. By signing the release, the participant agrees to waive (or release) the fitness business of any fault or liability for illness or injury resulting from the risks inherent in the activity and the errors and omissions of the fitness business, including its employees and agents.

While many fitness professionals know they should have a waiver to help protect them from liability, it is not uncommon for CrossFit Box owners not to understand the limitations of waivers, or what could happen if their release form does not hold up to a lawsuit.

A release (or waiver) can be held to be unsatisfactory for a range of reasons, however one of the most frequent reasons is that the release is not “sufficiently broad and encompassing” – a poorly written waiver can, sometimes, be worse than no waiver at all! And no waiver at all would not bode well for your CrossFit® box.

Purpose of a liability waiver

A liability waiver (also referred to as a liability release) has two main purposes:

First, to “excuse” or “mitigate” errors, failures to do something, or accidental illness or injury because of an agreement between the participant and the CrossFit® box which means that contract law principles apply, and the fitness business is not held liable for their actions. Second, to provide evidence that the fitness business provided sufficient warning of risks inherent to participation which then allows for a defense under tort law on the basis that the participant was informed and assumed the risk knowingly.

Cost of Doing Business

Consider a lawyer draft injury and illness waiver as a cost of doing business for your CrossFit® gym, and for the cost incurred in having an attorney draft your release and waiver forms as much cheaper than the potential costs of being sued for illness and injury and not being able to defend yourself adequately because of a injury and illness waiver you “borrowed” from another business owner.

Are you willing to risk your livelihood, and even your financial future on something so easily preventable?

Another reason copying the release waiver of another fitness business, even another CrossFit® gym, should be avoided is that to copy that waiver document is copyright infringement. Unless you have obtained that waiver from the copyright owner and are using with permission then you could be sued for using it. In case you were thinking, well doesn’t the business owner own copyright over their waivers? Ah, no, that is not an assumption it would be wise to make.

One stone: many birds

While you are talking to your attorney about drafting your illness and injury release form, you may want to talk to them about drafting the disclaimers and policies for your website, and the service contract Box members sign as part of using your facility and trainers. A relationship with an attorney who understands your business and the fitness industry can be an incredible asset that offers a return that far exceeds the cost involved.

CrossFit® is one of the fastest growing brands within the fitness industry both within the US and Internationally and like other gym facilities, CrossFit® Boxes are subject to litigation for illness and injury.  Even if you have insurance in place you will still be required to show that you attempted to prevent and mitigate illness and injury. Operating a CrossFit® gym involves liability risks that smart business owners work to limit and mitigate.

Unless you are attorney, think very carefully about writing your own release form. It’s not just about the kind of language used – there are times when specific legalese is required for your protection – it is also about that release holding up to scrutiny if you are sued. Your insurance company may even consider a self-drafted release form negligence and refuse to defend you in litigation.

Which Waivers are more likely to be upheld in Court?

The courts have shown that they are more likely to uphold, or place more credence, in a waiver or release that has been drafted specifically for your business, the activities undertaken by participants, and which mean the standards (and avoid the pitfalls identified by previous judicial decision) of the relevant legislative or case law of your state jurisdiction.

An appropriately drafted waiver, signed by a participant over 18 or the legal guardian of a participant under the age of 18, will under certain circumstances protect your CrossFit® box from liability for negligence in many but not all US states. Specifically, several states do not enforce waivers that excuse negligence. This is yet another reason why you should consider having a lawyer draft your release waiver so that you can be sure that it meets the requirements of the State jurisdiction where you are operating your CrossFit® business.

There are times to engage a Professional

Do you stitch up your own cuts or have a medical professional do it for you?

Unless you are a practicing attorney with experience writing release forms for the fitness industry it is not advisable to write your own release forms. The cost of prevention is far less than the possible costs of needing to defend a badly written waiver.

About the author

Anna Blanch Rabe is a communications consultant, writer, and speaker. A non-practicing attorney, she works with social impact businesses and non-profit organizations to develop and effectively execute narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community capacity, and reach new customers. A former college level athlete, she now enjoys yoga and swimming, and crewing for her trail and ultrarunning husband.

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