Is a martial arts waiver legally binding?

Is a martial arts waiver legally binding?

Martial arts studios often ask students to sign a waiver before participating in classes. Typically, these waivers seek to protect the studio from liability if the student is injured while practicing martial arts alone or with others. 

If a martial arts student is injured at the studio, the studio may mention the signed waiver to explain why the student cannot bring an injury claim. Not all parts of a martial arts waiver may be enforceable, however. The waiver and the circumstances of the injury must be considered individually.

Often, a martial arts waiver includes a “liability waiver.” This language attempts to protect the martial arts studio from liability. It does so by requiring the student to agree that the student will not bring a claim against the studio, even if the student’s injuries resulted from the negligence of the studio or its staff. 

South Carolina is one of several states that “disfavor” liability waivers. State courts have noted that these waivers can make martial arts studios and other businesses less likely to take due care to protect students’ or customers’ safety since they feel protected from the consequences of negligence. 

A liability waiver is more likely to be found valid by a court if it contains clear language demonstrating that the martial arts student intended to protect the studio from liability for the studio’s negligence. The waiver is also more likely to apply if it is limited to the type of activity or event that actually caused the student’s injuries. Waivers that are too broad are unlikely to be enforced.

Another common clause in martial arts waivers is an “assumption of risk” clause. This clause gives the martial arts studio an affirmative defense in a lawsuit. It allows the studio to argue that the student assumed the risk of injury. 

Assumption of risk clauses do not apply universally, however. An assumed risk must be foreseeable by the student. It cannot be hidden, known only to the studio, or a risk the student could not reasonably have predicted. 

Whether a waiver applies depends on the language of the waiver and the specific facts surrounding the injury. An experienced injury lawyer can help you understand whether a waiver applies in your case.

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