Institute of Expert Witnesses

Providing specialist advice and support in accident cases

The Institute of Expert Witnesses offers professional impartial and independent advice and provides qualified expert opinions to support the legal process of resolving cases of accidents and injury.


DISCLAIMERS and WARNINGS


“NOT WORTH THE PAPER ITS PRINTED ON?”

How often do we hear this comment about the warning signs in parking places, changing rooms, activity centres and the like? 

“You have been warned”

“Proceed at your own risk”

WARNING and RISK MANAGEMENT; a statement marriage guaranteed to end in divorce. 

A DISCLAIMER aspires to give a fair warning of risks that are foreseeable and the outcomes that might be delivered at fates displeasure. A disclaimer assumes an agreement of understanding of the possibilities and experiences that follow. But how detailed, how precise and how much understanding is required? 

Can a warning be overstated?

“A fall from this apparatus can result in paralysis or death” …..very likely to be ignored. 

“In the past year 3 accidents at this facility have resulted in permanent and irreversible paralysis.  A game spoiler. A business wrecker. Makes you think… for a minute at least. 

A photo of medics around an accident, mum and dad holding each other. A parental walk into a lamp post. Effective… but…. muuum…..all my friends are going!!!

Can the public be protected from themselves? 

Activity and event marketing has a Pavlovian effect on people. Conditioned to enjoyment and thrill seeking they set aside normal caution and fear to feel the excitement, sense the speed and feel a unique moment. To a point their natural fear of height is suppressed by the rubber bungy cables tied to their waist and their approaching moment of thrill. What was common sense no longer has validity. 

Risk must be shown, outcomes listed, conditions set, the do’s and don’ts. We believe that the facility manager or instructor or safety officer know ALL the possibilities of failure and the outcomes. Or do we just assume or hope that they do?

The activity, the person, the dynamics of public interaction; all have a part to play in the plot of accident and injury.  Apparatus is mostly a predictable beast, the public is often less than obliging. 

To be realistic DISCLAIMERS and WARNINGS must be meaningful and direct, and part of the risk management process.

Online or annual disclaimers are a notoriously easy time saving box ticking exercise, easy to collect and easy to do, win-win for everyone’s time but could also turn into lose-lose.

What constitutes a “fair” warning? Are there any hidden surprises on the field of play?

Where the senses are required to appreciate what is happening how is age and fitness factored into the formula of risk?

An expert witness must know how to analyse a complex scenario. A DISCLAIMER and a WARNING must distinguish between the outcomes of acceptable risk and outcomes disproportionate to failure. At IEW there is vast pool of knowledge and experience in sport, education, leisure, outdoor pursuits, team building and family experience days. Let us help you keep it safe, fun and realistic. 

If you have any questions regarding disclaimers, warnings and risk or if you need expert witness advice on a case, please do not hesitate to contact our Expert Witnesses on 0117 986 2194 or at enquiries@iew.org.uk.


This article signed by our IEW President, Trevor Low BA, Dip AD & ATD, was written in the continuation of SELF ASSESSMENT or ABILITY.

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