Is a Waiver of Liability Enforceable in Arkansas if You Are Injured?

Individuals in Arkansas might want to challenge the enforceability of a liability waiver if they were unexpectedly injured during a planned activity. A waiver of liability is a type of legal agreement that aims to restrict or eliminate the liability of one party in case of damage or injury.

When you agree to a waiver, you give up your right to recover compensation in the event of an injury. Although this might seem unfair, the Arkansas courts have consistently upheld the enforceability of these agreements. However, if a waiver does not meet certain requirements, it might not be enforceable. If you have been injured and feel that a waiver is unjust or illegal, we can assist you in fighting it and protecting your legal rights.

For a free case review with our Arkansas personal injury attorneys, contact us today at (479) 316-0438.

Are Liability Waivers for Injuries Enforceable in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, waivers of liability have evolved in their enforceability. While once considered invalid, waivers are now generally upheld if they meet strict construction and contain clear language. If you have been injured and are considering challenging a waiver of liability, you should consult with our knowledgeable Bentonville, AR personal injury attorneys, who can assess the specific circumstances of your case and guide you in understanding your rights. Several factors, such as negligence, public policy considerations, and the nature of specific activities, can affect the enforceability of these waivers.

In 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court made a significant ruling on the case of O’Neal v. St. Anthony’s Medical Center, which changed the state’s approach towards waivers of liability. The court’s decision established that waivers are not automatically invalid but disfavored, meaning they are scrutinized strictly for clarity and unambiguous language.

Consequently, two rules of construction are now applied to waivers in Arkansas. First, the rule of strict construction requires that waivers be interpreted narrowly and strictly against the party seeking to rely on them. Any language or phrasing in the waiver that is unclear or ambiguous is interpreted in favor of the injured party.

Second, the rule of clear and unambiguous language dictates that waivers must explicitly express the intent to release the business or organization from liability for injuries resulting from their negligence. The waiver’s language must be clear and unambiguous to be enforceable.

Since the O’Neal decision, subsequent Arkansas court rulings have consistently upheld the enforceability of waivers of liability when they meet strict construction requirements and clear language. Therefore, businesses and organizations must ensure their waivers are drafted with the utmost clarity and specificity to avoid legal challenges.

Factors Affecting the Enforceability of Waivers in Arkansas

Although waivers of liability are now acknowledged as enforceable in Arkansas, it is important to consider different factors that can potentially impact their validity and enforceability. These factors might include the specific language used in the waiver document, the circumstances under which the waiver was signed, and the nature of the activity or service for which the waiver is being applied. Thus, it is crucial to carefully review these factors before signing a waiver to determine the extent of its protection.

Negligence and Gross Negligence

Waivers can be a useful tool for businesses and organizations to protect themselves from potential claims that might arise from ordinary negligence. However, waivers might not necessarily protect against claims of gross negligence, willful misconduct, or intentional harm.

It is crucial to differentiate between ordinary negligence, which is generally defined as a failure to exercise reasonable care, and more egregious behavior, such as gross negligence, which a reckless disregard for the safety of others can characterize. When assessing the enforceability of a waiver, it is important to consider the situation’s specific circumstances and the severity of the alleged behavior.

Public Policy Considerations

In Arkansas, waivers are typically considered legally binding, but there are certain exceptions. Public policy concerns might restrict their application under certain circumstances. For instance, waivers that pertain to essential services such as medical care or emergency services might be subject to greater scrutiny owing to the nature of the services delivered. Therefore, it is important to carefully examine the terms of any waiver agreement before signing, especially when it involves essential services.

Specific Activities

The enforceability of waivers will differ depending on the type of activity involved. When determining the enforceability of a waiver, courts might take into account various factors, such as the inherent risks associated with a particular activity, the degree of control exerted by the business or organization over the activity, and the participant’s voluntary assumption of those risks.

For example, a waiver for a high-risk activity such as rock climbing might be more enforceable than a waiver for a low-risk activity such as attending a yoga class since the former involves a greater risk of injury. Moreover, the level of control exerted by the business or organization over the activity might also affect the enforceability of a waiver. If the business or organization has complete control over the activity, the waiver might be less enforceable since the participant might not have much choice but to sign the waiver in order to participate.

Finally, the participant’s voluntary assumption of the risks associated with the activity is also a key factor in determining the enforceability of a waiver. If the participant has been adequately informed of the risks and voluntarily chooses to assume them, the waiver might be more likely to be enforced by the court.

Capacity and Voluntariness

For a waiver to be legally binding, it is essential that the participant enters into it voluntarily and without any form of pressure, coercion, or duress. If a participant can demonstrate that they did not fully comprehend the terms of the waiver or were forced to sign it against their will, a court might consider the waiver invalid.

Therefore, it is crucial for both parties to ensure that the participant fully understands the terms of the waiver before signing it and that the participant has the option to reject the waiver if they do not agree with its terms. Additionally, the parties must ensure that the participant is free from any form of coercion or pressure when signing the waiver to avoid any legal disputes that might arise in the future.


The legal principle of unconscionability permits courts to decline enforcement of a contract or specific provisions within it if they are deemed to be unjust, oppressive, or unconscionable. With regard to liability waivers, a court might conclude that a waiver is unconscionable if it is excessively biased, contains unreasonably favorable terms for one party, or involves an imbalance in bargaining power that is unjust.

Our Arkansas Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help

Call us at (479) 316-0438 to receive your free case evaluation with our Rogers, AR personal injury lawyers today.