As a small business owner, you live to provide the best experiences and the best service. Sometimes, providing the best puts you and your business at risk. Getting that great photo might mean teetering at the top of a ladder. Hosting a great party might mean monitoring a particularly wild group of bounce house revelers. Small businesses like yours need to ensure they are doing what they can to avoid potentially damaging or expensive legal conflicts. One way to protect against legal or business exposure is to have proper release documents on file when you are dealing with potentially risky activities that may be integral or adjacent to your business operations.
We will discuss the importance of these documents and examine five of the most important release forms for protecting your small business.
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What is a Release Form?
Release Forms, or Release Agreements, are legally binding documents that are used to:
- Protect a business from potential liability posed by activities hosted or sponsored by the business
- Get permission to use a person’s image or likeness for marketing or creative purposes
- Confirm the termination of an existing contract for both parties
There are different Release Agreements for different purposes, and it’s a good business practice to have these on hand when you need them. It is also a good practice to have liability insurance in case an injury happens during an activity that is hosted or sponsored by your business.
When would I need a Release Form?
There are different Release Agreements for different purposes. Here are some common Release Agreements you can have on hand to use as needed:
Activity Release of Liability – This document protects your business from liability for injuries or damages that occur during an activity your business hosts or sponsors. It also gathers emergency contact information from participants.
General Liability Release of Claims – This release protects your business from liability when providing services on property owned by another person or business.
Photo Release – If you are planning to include customer photos and stories in your marketing materials or on your website, you will need permission from your customers to do that. You can use a Photo Release to get their permission.
Declaration of Compliance for Content Rules or Sweepstakes Rules – If you’re running a contest or sweepstakes, you will need permission from the winner to use their name and likeness in your marketing materials. You can get their permission by using the appropriate Declaration.
Mutual Rescission and Release Agreement – This document allows all parties to a contract to agree that the contract is terminated and all duties and obligations under the contract are cancelled.
What Release Agreements should my business know about?
The first step in determining which Release Agreements to use is determining the scope of the activities you are considering. For example, if you are hosting an event where you or a company employee will be taking photos, you may need several releases including a General Liability Release, a Location Release, and a Photo Release. The five most common forms you might consider for your business include:
- Mutual Rescission and Release
- Photo Release
- General Liability Release of Claims
- Activity Release of Liability
- Location Release
When would I use a Location Release?
A Location Release may be used if you are engaged in photography or filming while on someone’s property. You can also use this release if you are a property owner wishing to grant permission to photograph or film on your property. The release grants permission to be on the property for specific purposes, outlines access dates, specifies clean-up responsibilities, and releases any rights the property owner might have in the images or film.
This document details the agreement between the photographer or filmmaker and the property owner prior to taking any photographs or shooting any film, and releases the creators from the responsibility of paying any additional fees.
What is a Mutual Rescission and Release Agreement?
A Mutual Rescission and Release Agreement allows all parties to a contract to agree to cancel the contract and terminate all obligations to fulfill any of its remaining terms. Since the long-term success of mutually beneficial relationships is never guaranteed, this release is a good document for any business to have on hand.
Why do I need to use a Photo Release?
Let’s assume you host numerous events where photos are taken, take photographs to use in marketing materials, or you photograph employees from time to time. Having a signed Photo Release on file can help you avoid potential future conflicts since it gives you permission to use the images at any time you deem appropriate. Having photos available for use in marketing materials, on your company website, or when writing a press release can be helpful. Having signed Photo Releases from individuals shown in the photos provides peace of mind that you have permission to use their image and likeness in your marketing materials.
Do I really need a General Liability Release of Claims if I have a liability policy?
If you are working, hosting an event, or performing a service on property that you do not own, it may be a good idea to have a General Liability Release of Claims. This document may protect you from damage or injury claims that happen while work is being done or services provided on someone else’s property. A properly filled-out release may protect you personally, as well as your business, but injury claims are inherently case-specific, and liability can vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the injury. Ask a lawyer if you have questions about a specific claim of liability.
How do I protect myself from liability for inherently risky activities?
When you are hosting a gathering of your employees and their families, you may offer activities like bounce houses, dunk tanks, and other activities which pose some risk. You can protect your business by requesting all attendees sign an Activity Release of Liability document.
While common sense should inform people attending that some activities can be risky, employees or family members injured while participating—absent this release form—may decide to take legal action, nevertheless. This type of form can also give you authorization to secure medical attention when someone is injured.
Business owners need to have protections in place to try and prevent lawsuits, and one way to do this is to evaluate the activities in which you or your employees will be participating under your direction.
Life is risky business, so prepare accordingly
Having the proper liability releases in place can protect your small business as well as you personally. Rocket Lawyer makes it easy and affordable for you to put these protections in place by walking you step-by-step through the preparation of various Release of Liability documents. Do not take unnecessary risks, get these documents signed, keep them on file, and ask a lawyer if you have additional questions or concerns.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.