Signing a waiver does not by itself automatically alleviate a person’s ability to file a lawsuit or pursue a claim against a potential defendant.
“Assumption of the risk” is a legal doctrine used by defendants as a defense to liability. A defendant may use the doctrine to defend against a claim by asserting that an injured victim assumed the risk of injury. This defense can be implied by the conduct of the parties or it can be express which takes the form of a written waiver. In either situation, the courts have determined that whether a victim assumed a risk (whether by implication or by express waiver) is for the jury to decide.
Because it is for a jury to determine based on the facts of a given case, a waiver (express assumption of the risk) may or may not bar a claim depending on whether a jury determines whether the defense is applicable, i.e. whether the victim truly assumed the specific risk expressed in the waiver he or she signed. In addition, even if a victim presumably assumed the very risk that caused the injury claimed, this does not in itself alleviate the fact that a defendant acted negligently or improperly, as this fact is for a jury to decide.
For example, just because a person may sign a waiver before parachuting from an airplane does not imply that the person packing the parachute can pack it improperly. A jury may determine that the victim did not assume the risk of an improperly packed parachute and choose to disregard the assumption of the risk defense (i.e. choose not to apply it to the given set of facts). In the end, this issue is ultimately decided by a jury on the facts of each particular case. Consequently, there is no automatic bar to a claim merely by the signing of a waiver.
Remember, personal injury law can be very complex. Make sure you have the right law firm representing you. It will make all the difference in your case.