Is a boat rental waiver legally binding?

Is a boat rental waiver legally binding?

South Carolina’s beaches, lakes, and rivers invite both residents and visitors to rent boats for outdoor excursions. Those who rent boats are often asked to sign a waiver as part of the rental process. Whether the language in these waivers is enforceable, however, often depends on the specific statements in the waiver and the circumstances surrounding the injury

Many boat rental waivers contain a “liability” clause. A liability clause is a contract between the rental company and the rentee. It states that the rentee will not hold the rental company or its staff responsible for injuries, even if those injuries are caused by the rental company or staff’s negligence. 

By signing a liability waiver, the rentee gives up their right to bring a negligence claim against the rental company or its staff. The rental company and staff have less incentive to take due care because they cannot be sued if they don’t take care to prevent injuries. 

Consequently, South Carolina courts tend to “disfavor” liability waivers. Courts are less likely to enforce these waivers if the language is vague or the waiver is so broad it would protect the rental company or staff from being held liable for any type of negligence at all. 

A boat rental agreement may also contain an “indemnity” agreement, also known as an “indemnification” agreement. In these agreements, the rentee agrees to protect the rental company from losses caused by a third party. 

This waiver language often appears when a boat rental company offers boats that are sold or maintained by a third party, such as a boat manufacturer or boat maintenance firm. If the manufacturer or maintenance firm is negligent in a way that causes harm to the rentee or the boat rental company, the rentee may be asked to pay the rental company’s costs as well as their own. 

Indemnity agreements are not universally enforceable. They also depend on the circumstances of the particular injury, as well as the language used in the agreement. 

How much of a South Carolina boat rental waiver is enforceable? It depends on the language used in the waiver and what actually happened. An experienced attorney can answer your questions and clarify your options.

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