Ok, so we've covered the basics of waivers, and whether they're necessary to address COVID concerns. But doing it all on paper is kind of a hassle. Is there an easier way? Can it be done digitally? And if so, is that really a better alternative, or are digital waivers less valid? In this section, we address all of these questions and more.
Ten years ago, the big concern among members of the adventure travel industry was "Are electronic signatures lawful?" To this day, some operators still worry that a document signed digitally is less valid in court than one signed by hand. In the United States, at least, that's not the case.
Under the Uniform Electronic Signatures Act passed in 1999, as long as the signer consents to using a digital signature, it's as valid as a real, handwritten signature. The act is a federal law, and most states have either adopted it as is or adopted their own version of the federal law, making digital signatures acceptable in court across the country.
Outside of the US, many other countries have passed similar laws that support the validity of digital documents. That said, you'll want to check with your attorney if you have questions about specifics.
In the past 30 years, society has converted a lot of things from analog to digital formats. For example, it used to be that if you wanted to get a copy of a form into someone's hands, you either had to mail it, deliver it yourself, or have them come pick it up. Then, the internet gave us tools like email, Dropbox, and G Suite. With them, we can share files from anywhere, using devices we take practically everywhere.
Digital tools have made dramatic improvements for all of us, both inside and outside the office. If taking something manual and making it digital can face it faster, easier, and more accessible, why would we ever go back to paper?
It's the same with waivers. One of the most important advantages is being able to find what you need when you need it. In the event of a dispute, your lawyer's first question will be, "Well, did they sign a waiver, and where is it?" Even the most organized system for paper storage makes finding things difficult. But with digital waivers, all you have to do is look up their name.
Other benefits include:
Going digital makes the entire waiver process simpler. It allows you to collect valuable demographic information. And it saves you a lot of time. So, if you're not already using an electronic waiver solution, consider jumping on the bandwagon.
*As part of WaiverSign’s partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), we jointly hosted a webinar on August 25, 2020. In that webinar, Online Waivers & Digital Release Forms, lawyer and adventure travel legal expert Chun T. Wright discussed participant liability concerns, and how online waivers help with mitigation. This page was adapted from that presentation.