What Every Adventure Photographer Needs to Know About Assumption of Risk
Adventure photographers do it all! You guys hike and shoot amazing memories for clients all while giving your clients the best customer service. Because adventure photographers conduct their services in amazing, but sometimes treacherous landscapes, accidents can happen! Because of the often rough terrain on trails, clients can easily twist their ankles, fall, and seriously injure themselves. They could even end up in an even worse situation like permanent injuries or even death. When this happens you should only be thinking and worrying about the safety and health of your clients and not about whether you will be sued for their injuries.
This is such a buzz-kill situation to think about... we get it! But this topic is SO IMPORTANT for you to be ready for an address if and when it comes up. You can protect yourself and your business against lawsuits regarding injuries to your clients through an assumption of risk and release of liability clause!
What is an assumption of risk and release of liability clause?
An assumption of risk clause is essential for all adventure-based service contracts like photography.
This clause essentially lays out the dangerous elements that could happen during any adventure session or elopement. This clause requires that your clients sign off that they know, understand, and assume those risks when hiring you for your services.
Having this clause helps to protect your business from unnecessary liability and makes sure that all the potential risks are laid out to your clients before you begin any services for them. By participating in an adventure session, clients understand that if they are going to hike, backpack, walk, run, swim or do any sort of strenuous activity you are NOT responsible if they get injured. Additionally, your clients will understand through this clause that they are responsible for all fees associated with any injury they sustain during these activities. You need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario with this clause!
Another important part of this clause is distinguishing that you as the photographer are not a professional outdoor guide. Some states have specific laws regarding outdoor guides including different permits, licenses, insurance requirements, and activities.
It is so important that your client knows and acknowledges that you are not a professional guide and are not an expert in this field! It is not uncommon for park rangers to get confused about this issue. ADVENTURE PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE NOT OUTDOOR GUIDES! Guides are sometimes very helpful for more strenuous and inexperienced hikers and could be a great person for you to suggest your clients hire but unless you are an actual guide make it clear you are not offering guide services.
Finally, it is important that your clients know that this clause also prevents third parties from suing you or seeking damages from you if your client is killed or injured. If your clients tragically die while hiking, their heirs (parents, children, insurance companies, etc.) cannot sue you for damages. Although the chances of injury occurring are slim, it can happen and it is better for your contract to state all the worst-case scenarios so you are confident on your position and liability when the worst does happen.
Don't wait to put this clause in your contract until it's too late!
Let's look at why this clause is so important in a scenario.
Let's say you have clients that have booked an adventure elopement in Glacier National Park. You and your clients have planned a beautiful hiking route that ends at a lookout where your clients would exchange vows and take pictures.
They are not super experienced hikers but have done enough hiking to make you confident in their abilities. On the day of the elopement everything started off smoothly and the couple had a beautiful ceremony. However, on the way back the couple both ended up taking a tumble down the trail. You did the responsible thing and called for medical aid to assist them down the rest of the trail. You were informed by the hospital that they will recover fully thankfully! A week then passed since the incident and suddenly you get a call from one of the couple’s parents (that also happens to be a big shot attorney) threatening to sue you for their child's injuries on the trail.
Thank goodness you do not have to panic because you had your clients sign a TLP adventure elopement agreement that contained an assumption of risk and release clause and know how to respond! Because you are a smart business owner you did the following things:
You politely told the father that you cannot talk to him about a contract between you and your clients;
You followed up with your clients in writing via email! You kept this email kind and of course, inquired about how the couple is doing; and
You smartly reminded the couple in this email of the assumption of risk clause they signed in the contract and highlighted the important parts for them to remind them of what they agreed to.
Because you navigated this situation like a pro your clients acknowledged that you are not responsible for their injuries and they waived the right to sue you for their injuries.
This is the kind of outcome we want to see for all of our Legal Paigers!
Thinking about the worst-case scenario is never fun but at the end of the day, you need to protect yourself and your business!
Clients need to know and acknowledge the risks involved with adventure sessions and elopements before agreeing to participate. If you are in the business of offering adventure services then you need a solid contract! TLP has everything you need to protect yourself and your business!