Understanding Participant Waiver/Releases and Consent Forms

July 1, 2016, Department, by Hayley Herzing

Waiver/releases and consent forms, properly prepared and obtained, are more than worth the paper on which they are written. They indicate that to participate is a conscious voluntary decision, they have been successful under particular conditions in obtaining summary judgements for the defense, and they are typically required as a condition of sport liability insurance coverage.

A waiver/release obtains an acknowledgement that participation involves a risk of injury, even catastrophic injury, and that the participant accepts that risk. By signing, participants “waive” their right to sue should an injury occur, and thereby “release” the sponsor and its agents from liability for any such injury that should occur. A parent or guardian must also sign a waiver/release if the participant is a minor, and minors are encouraged to sign as well to show an agreement of shared responsibility.

A consent form obtains an acknowledgement and acceptance (again, by parent/guardian as well if a minor) of whatever expectations and prerogatives are stated by the sponsor as terms and conditions for participating, such as emergency medical treatment, drug testing, transportation provided by the sponsor and compliance with the laws of the community.

Either both or neither of these forms may be appropriate in a given context, depending on the following implications for use:

Participants (and if a minor, his or her parents) must be allowed to read and be required to sign all forms before given the privilege of participation. This may be done once annually as a condition of annual membership and access to the sponsor’s programs, or as a condition of entering a given event. Signed forms are to be kept and be retrievable “forever.”

“Participants” also includes any non-employee official or volunteer who agrees to assist in the conduct of the program in a preplanned capacity, or who is allowed to enter a restricted area.

The form must be readable and understandable to the participant and meet certain state and case law expectations. Properly drafted, the release can extend to ordinary negligence.

Waivers/releases and consent forms are not substitutes for good loss-control procedures and participant accident insurance.

NRPA’s sponsored sports insurance programs are made possible by K&K Insurance and include Team Sports Combined Liability and Accident Insurance; Football Combined Liability and Accident Insurance; Instructors and Interns Liability Insurance; Blanket Accident Insurance; Equipment Property Program; and Directors’ and Officers’ Liability Insurance Program. Click here for applications and brochures. Email NRPA Membership Programs Manager Hayley Herzing with any questions. 


Hayley Herzing, NRPA’s Membership Programs Manager