Ever heard of liability "waivers" for private rafting trips? - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 07-21-2011   #1
 
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
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Ever heard of liability "waivers" for private rafting trips?

I'm taking a bunch of friends out after work today to run the Poudre. Most of them I know well, but a couple of them, I don't (friends of friends). This got me thinking about my legal liability if anyone gets hurt. Even good friends can sue if things go badly. I'm a commercial raft guide, too, so even though they aren't paying me anything, I think I probably could be held liable. They all know I'm a guide, so they expect everything from me that a paying customer would expect in terms of expertise and safety.

Any attorney/boaters who can help me understand my risk, here? I've never heard of a participant agreement for a private rafting trip, but maybe it would be a good idea. I know for sure I don't want to lose my house because someone got hurt on one of my private trips!

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Old 07-21-2011   #2
 
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Lakewood, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by downstreamflip View Post
I'm taking a bunch of friends out after work today to run the Poudre. Most of them I know well, but a couple of them, I don't (friends of friends). This got me thinking about my legal liability if anyone gets hurt. Even good friends can sue if things go badly. I'm a commercial raft guide, too, so even though they aren't paying me anything, I think I probably could be held liable. They all know I'm a guide, so they expect everything from me that a paying customer would expect in terms of expertise and safety.

Any attorney/boaters who can help me understand my risk, here? I've never heard of a participant agreement for a private rafting trip, but maybe it would be a good idea. I know for sure I don't want to lose my house because someone got hurt on one of my private trips!

Anyone can sue for anything. They would likely have to show that you accepted the responsibility for their safety by being their 'guide'. So, you must verbally opt out of that responsibility, "I'm here to boat 'with' you and share my knowledge about the river. The decision to paddle any given part of this run is your responsibility, and I will not suggest that you paddle any given rapid." If you don't communicate this then your friends and friends' friends could be under the impression your role is to 'guide' them down. If they get into trouble, they could argue that your 'guidance' was negligent. If you're not guiding then you're not negligent for 'poor guidance'. And stick to that. Tell your friends that they need to watch the friends they bring and let people know where portage routes are. Then you'll only be liable for the ankle break they sustain!

EDIT: if you're all in one raft and you're the rower then I have no idea how to avoid the general liability of being the driver, esp. if it's a paddle raft (rather than oar boat).
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Old 07-21-2011   #3
 
Casper, Wyoming
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I'm not a lawyer, and I can't speak for CO laws, but this may provide some helpful info. It deals with laws in place to protect people who are with novices engaging in high risk activities.

http://www.law.suffolk.edu/highlight...nts/Yerger.pdf
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Old 07-21-2011   #4
 
Fort Collins, Colorado
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Thanks, JC. That legal note is an interesting read.

Hojo, it will be a paddle trip in my own raft. These people aren't "river friends", so it'll be very difficult to convince anyone that I'm not their guide. I'll be sitting in the back telling them what to do the whole time. I can definitely make it a group decision which run we chose, and I plan to give a full "paddle safety talk" beforehand. I'm trying to decide whether I want to spoil the mood with a participant agreement. I can probably find one online that I can carefully modify for my non-commercial purposes, but how geeky is that?
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Old 07-21-2011   #5
 
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Lakewood, Colorado
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If you're in charge of telling them when to paddle and when not to then I'd advise running through some drills to ascertain how well they'll be able to handle your direction. Then you can make an educated guess on what to run. edit( yes.. obvious.. i know)
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Old 07-21-2011   #6
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Mesa, Arizona
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I am no longer a guide but I own my own boat and like to paddle raft. When I am doing an over-nighter and bring a guest and I row I have never thought about a release of liability form...until now and I will consider it. When ever I invite people to paddle raft with me I have them read and sign a release of liability. It ensures that they know that this sport has inherent risks and that they are responsible for themselves. My release form also includes a paragraph about no fees exchanging hands as that is: #1) against the law & #2) in my opinion bad form.
The thing about it is that I feel these releases do not hold up in a court of law...just ask the commercial companies...but it is helpful and makes the boaters aware of risks..and it is written and understood by the participants.

This is simply my perspective. I am not a lawyer. This is just something I do.
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Old 07-21-2011   #7
 
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Denver, Colorado
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What if I loan a ducky out to some one? or a mini me? (Free of charge of course)

It would be great to have a standard form as a sticky here that we could all use. Although it does suck that our litigious society has come to this.
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Old 07-21-2011   #8
 
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Just start kayaking and you won't have to worry about some loser suing you. Plus you'll feel more like a man while doing said activity. There-in, being happier on a daily basis, keeping all your possessions, and getting more respect. It's sad that we have to think about these things in today's litigation happy world, where no one will take responsibility for their own actions.
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Old 07-21-2011   #9
 
Pugetopolis, Washington
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Any good lawyer should be able to tear through that "waiver"

If you asked me to sign a waiver on your boat then i'd probably laugh in your face...but thats just me.
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Old 07-21-2011   #10
 
Casper, Wyoming
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryDingle View Post
Any good lawyer should be able to tear through that "waiver"

If you asked me to sign a waiver on your boat then i'd probably laugh in your face...but thats just me.

I have heard this argument before, and I always ask the same question. If waivers have no legal legs, why then, does every Tom, Dick, and Harry make you sign one before doing anything that has any kind of risk to it?

Also, you may laugh in my face, but you would be laughing on shore while the rest of us paddle away......Just sayin.
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