All business owners realize that their businesses bring risks, and the savvy business person takes steps to limit those risks as far as possible. One of the tools that you, as a business owner, can imploy is to place a disclaimer on your website. This statement can be set on the website footer or in customer agreements and will help protect your company, in the legal sense, from many types of liability.
What Is a Disclaimer?
A disclaimer is a vital document that should be placed on every website and specifies or limits the legal liability of a business or individual just like generic liability waiver. This statement protects the business owner from potential legal action by customers accessing the website for information or purchasing products or services. It tells the reader that you and your business are limiting some of the legal rights or responsibilities they may have.
Disclaimers are essential statements as they can prevent disputes and lawsuits. However, it’s important to know that a disclaimer can’t guarantee that no one will bring about unwanted litigation. A disclaimer is a warning; it isn’t a means of washing your hands of legal responsibility. Litigation may be instituted against your company, but your disclaimer will go a long way toward helping during the process.
What Should Be Included in a Disclaimer Form?
Disclaimers aren’t one-size-fits-all. Standard sections apply to most websites, but the business owner should carefully consider any aspects that pertain to their specific business and ensure those conditions are included.
The disclaimer should cover the main aspects of the business and must include reference to the owner, employees, and agents. It’s vital to protect any person acting on behalf of the company.
To write an effective disclaimer, keep it clear and unambiguous if brought into court. The courts often discount disclaimers couched in vague terms. An example is if a homeopathic website doesn’t include a disclaimer saying they don’t offer medical advice, and a customer uses a recommended product with adverse results. In this situation, the homeopathic company could find itself in court. On the other hand, if there were a disclaimer stating they don’t offer medical advice, the customer would be using the products at their own risk, and it’s unlikely that a legal case would be successful.
When Is a Disclaimer Used?
The most basic disclaimer containing the above points should be included on every website. Let’s look at a few examples of where one might find disclaimers.
All blogs should carry disclaimers. Any blog that gives advice of any kind, financial, legal, parenting, travel or any other type of advice, should have a disclaimer stating that it can’t be held responsible for damages arising from using the information on the website.
Online stores should carry a disclaimer that they can’t be held responsible for injury or damage caused if a product is not used in accordance with the owner’s manual.
There are often waivers at the end of business emails. This is where the sender informs the recipient that the contents are confidential and should only be used by the recipient.
Common Sections of a Disclaimer
There are some key sections that every disclaimer should have. Read on to learn about them.
- Website content
- Third-party damage
- Views expressed
- Copyrights & trademarks
- Computer viruses
- Injury of any nature
The website owner must protect themselves against the website’s content’s accuracy, reliability and age. This is one of the most important clauses. It’s essential to include a statement saying that your business makes no promises or guarantees regarding the completeness, accuracy or quality of the content or links on your website.
If you inadvertently make a mistake on your website, it could open you to legal action. For example, if you give financial advice and a reader uses that advice but loses money instead of making it, they could feel they have a legal case. Your disclaimer will ensure they can’t sue you, as you’ve clarified that the advice is used at their own risk.
In conjunction with the point above, the disclaimer must limit your liability if the information causes harm, damage or loss to a third party.
If you publish reviews from customers, you must make clear that the views are their personal opinion, and you take no responsibility for their accuracy. Also, you should mention that the views don’t represent the views of your company.
Copyrights & trademark
In this disclaimer, you clarify that the website’s content is your intellectual property and that it may not be copied without your permission.
Your disclaimer must state that you take no responsibility for any malicious software transmitted to the customer’s computer.
Injury of any nature
The disclaimer should cover injury of any kind, physical, mental, financial etc., that may arise from using the information or products on the website. Readers use them at their own risk.
The internet makes it very easy for anyone to create a website. Anyone with access to the internet can be up and running in a matter of minutes, and for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s great. You can access millions of customers for a small investment.
While technology has made it so easy to “get into business,” it can also open the door to major headaches if you don’t cover yourself for potential legal problems. Disclaimers are not a silver bullet, but if they’re properly worded, they can save you thousands of dollars and all the health problems associated with the stress of legal disputes.
Your business deserves a comprehensive disclaimer, irrespective of the risk of litigation. There could be unintended consequences of poorly worded or vague disclaimers. It’s wise to get professional lawyer help in drawing one up. Also, there are online services such as PandaDoc Waivers. It will help you create a legally valid waiver in a few minutes. Better to spend a few minutes filling in a form than hours in court!