What is a Waiver?

A waiver is a legally binding provision where either party in a contract agrees to voluntarily forfeit a claim without the other party being liable.

Key Takeaways

  • A waiver is a legally binding provision where either party in a contract agrees to voluntarily forfeit a claim without the other party being liable.
  • Waivers can either be in written form or some form of action.
  • Examples of waivers include the waiving of parental rights, waiving liability, tangible goods waivers, and waiver for grounds of inadmissibility.

Understanding Waivers

Simply put, a waiver is a demonstration, usually in written form, of a party’s intent to relinquish a legal right or claim. The key point to note is that the relinquishment is voluntary, and can apply to a variety of legal situations. Essentially, a waiver removes a real or potential liability for the other party in the agreement. For example, in a settlement between two parties, one party might, by means of a waiver, relinquish its right to pursue any further legal action once the settlement is finalized.

Waivers can either be in written form or some form of action. A waiver carried out by an action might be based on whether a party in an agreement acts on a right, such as the right to terminate the deal in the first year of the contract. If it does not terminate the deal, which would be the act of "absence of action," before the first year, that party waives its right to do so in the future.

Since the party signing the waiver is surrendering a claim that they are entitled to, it stands to reason that they will, usually, only do so if they are receiving some added benefit.

Examples of Waivers

  • Waiving of Parental Rights: In cases involving the custody of a child, a biological parent may choose to waive their legal rights as a parent, making that person ineligible to make determinations regarding the child's upbringing. This also allows a guardian who is not a biological parent to attempt to assert their right over a child through actions such as adoption.
  • Waivers of Liability: Before participating in an activity that could lead to injury or death, a person may be required to sign a waiver as a form of expressed consent to the risks that exist, due to the inherent nature of the activity. This waiver would release the company facilitating the activity from liability should the participant be injured or killed during his participation. Such waivers may be used prior to participating in extreme sports, such as BMX racing, or other activities, such as skydiving.
  • Waivers and Tangible Goods: In the case of most tangible goods or personal property, a person may waive the right to continue to make a claim on the item. This can apply to goods that are sold to a new buyer or donated to a particular entity. A transfer of vehicle ownership functions as a waiver of any claim to the item by the seller, and it gives the right to the buyer as the new owner.
  • Waiver for Grounds of Inadmissibility: If a person who is not a citizen of the United States wishes to gain entry, they may be required to complete Form I-601, "application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility." This waiver seeks to change the status of the person seeking entry, allowing them the ability to enter the United States legally.