View Full Version : liability waivers for classes

April 21, 2011, 05:04 AM
I'd like to learn more about liability waivers for firearms training classes which are open to the public. I know some classes do not have a liability waiver, some have a written waiver you must sign, and I have even heard about videotaped waivers.

What do the well known instructors in the training industry require? Some that come to mind are Magpul Dynamics, Larry Vickers, Kyle Lamb, and Tactical Response.

Personally, I feel waivers set a proper tone and mindset. Classes are not the place for horseplay. But, a waiver should not give an instructor the freedom to create an unsafe situation for students who are there to learn new skills from an expert.

How often are students shot in a course either injuring self or someone else? Would you wear armor or have you seen other students wear armor in rifle or pistol courses?

April 21, 2011, 06:30 AM
The last time I was at Tactical Response, the waiver had big bold font on the top of the page that said something like, "I MIGHT DIE TODAY."

I would expect any organized, legitimate school to have some kind of waiver or at least "informed consent/assumption of the risk" type form to sign. I've trained with several well-known organizations and each of them had at least a written waiver form, and to my knowledge none of them have ever had a student shot, and I never saw or felt any risk from the instructors.

April 21, 2011, 08:21 AM
As we all know the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) was commissioned by Congress in 1996 (and Division of Civilian Marksmenship prior to 1996) to provide marksmanship training using military weapons to civilian citizens of the United States.

Congress requires a two part form, one attesting that the individual is legally authorized to own a firearm and the second part is a waiver to hold harmless before an individual can participate in CMP activities.

I'm not a lawyer, but I find it hard to believe that this form wasn't approved by some congressional lawyer and I think it would surfice.


April 21, 2011, 10:46 AM
The forms mostly make people feel better they have done 'something.'

Don H
April 21, 2011, 11:36 AM
I think you'll find that liability waivers do not always relieve one of all liability.

April 21, 2011, 02:54 PM
The last class I attending had written waivers that stated "You can be seriously injured or killed..." and required signatures. The instructors and range were held safe from all liability. However, in California, liability waivers are null and void if negligence is proven.

That and the fact that all the instructors and several of the students wore armor made us take the safety and danger levels very seriously.

They also spent a few minutes training to call 911 if an accident happened and to report "There has been a training accident at the so-and-so range, please send paramedics!" rather than saying "There has been a shooting..." and seeing SWAT show up.

This was a CAR class and some of the shooting positions can be dangerous if you are not vigilent and careful!

April 21, 2011, 10:10 PM
So first I want to be clear I have to question this thread...

On the merits of the OP being first post and asking several questions into one post and raising the issue of Instructor and shootings and safety.

1) As to your question regarding a waiver. From the stand point of an instructor... is a must. It should be clear and reviewed by a lawyer to cover the basics of self protection from the folks we have to write papers at 6th grade levels...

2) Horseplay - not at any courses offered by a sanctioned instructor

3) Instructor overstepping - As a consumer one must do some research regarding the instructor and what they bring to the table for them to learn.

4) Safety - if you question the safety then you need to re-assess your placement in that class.

5) Body armor - Most entry level to intermediate classes do not require body armor. What class are you taking?

6) Firearms are inherently "dangerous" but so is crossing the street. In a safe environment firearms can be as safe as walking down the street. In the wrong hands as dangerous as running with pencils in your hand.

7) How many are shot in courses? You read the papers. If there was a shooting... you would see it in the papers.

Have you ever bungee jumped or test drove a car?

Well.... you sign a waiver don't you.

Are those dangerous?

April 22, 2011, 02:57 AM
My question about waivers is to try to find out what is normal in the industry and what might be going beyond normal and raise a red flag.

If your class trains calling 911 to report a class incident, is that a bad sign or a good sign?

WW2, what dangerous shooting positions are you referring to? I think your experience level tells you the positions are dangerous, but how does average joe taking a carbine class know?

Schools should brag about their safety record. Here is an example I created but does any school publish their record like this?
We have been in business since 20XX, served 500 students and had 3 incidents.
1. student tried to catch falling gun
2. clothing caught inside iwb holster while holstering
3. reloaded ammo caused kaboom

I think this information would be helpful for potential students to know. Training is dangerous, but how dangerous is it? Even if the school did not give a reason for past incidents, knowing the numbers would help.

Going back to waivers, I was also wondering what kind of protection they offer the instructor. The impression I get is not much protection.

April 22, 2011, 11:19 AM
The courses I've taken had both signed and video taped waivers. Every class I've taken has had either an ER Dr, paramedic, or both taking the class along side us. This speaks more (to me) of the quality of the class material rather than any perceived unsafe conditions present.

I'm an adult. I know that taking a training course with people whom I don't know can be dangerous. There is the real risk of being shot.

There is also this risk by going to any range facility on any given day, and there are no waivers there. This risk can also be present when filling up with gas, going to the bank, etc...

I also risk getting in a car accident each day, loosing a body part at work, and various other things that are a part of life.

April 22, 2011, 12:08 PM
I teach NRA Pistol Basics and I also teach/certify concealed carry. For both courses I insist on a waiver, which I had my lawyer look over when I was developing it. I started with a waiver that the state of North Carolina suggested, but modified it a bit according to what my lawyer suggested.

But the lawyer also said that the waiver basically only helps to avoid frivolous lawsuits. If I do something stupid and/or negligent then I will likely be hit with a lawsuit even with the signed waiver. Even a frivolous lawsuit is not prevented, but is less likely because something frivolous is probably covered by the waiver.

April 24, 2011, 08:47 PM
Waivers are meant to protect instructors from lawsuits. They are an acknowledgment of the assumption of risk. They do not absolve an instructor who is negligent. This means that an instructor can't use a waiver to shield himself for failing to exercise due care.

To get around a waiver due to negligence, the burden would be on the plaintiff to prove the following four elements:

a duty of care;
a breach of that duty;
harm to the plaintiff;
proximate causation.

Actions by a defendant that are considered intentional and malicious, or intentional crimes, also circumvent waivers.

April 25, 2011, 06:47 PM
If your class trains calling 911 to report a class incident, is that a bad sign or a good sign?

This was related to what to do if... No one in the classes taught by this group has ever suffered an accidental shooting. Of course they did get blood from me as I foolishly did not keep my thumb clear of the rear of the slide. A mild injury to remind me of the proper hand grip on my small 380. :o

WW2, what dangerous shooting positions are you referring to? I think your experience level tells you the positions are dangerous, but how does average joe taking a carbine class know?

In the CAR class I am referring to, one position is a CQB retention, bladed position. In this position the target is on your left side (for right handed shooters), and you are holding the pistol with both hands next to your breastbone. That leaves your entire left side beyond your muzzle. If you are not careful, you could shoot yourself in the left lung, or bicep. Naturally, before firing you do a safety check to make sure your muzzle line is clear of your body. This was a bit unnerving the first time, but seemed second nature after a while. A lot of time was spent to make sure we were aware of our muzzle direction on all positions and all corrections were made until we instinctively kept the muzzle clear.

Going back to waivers, I was also wondering what kind of protection they offer the instructor. The impression I get is not much protection

As long as the instructor is not negligent it does offer protection from accidents.

T. O'Heir
April 25, 2011, 08:19 PM
"...what kind of protection they offer the instructor..." Depends a lot on where you are. Up here, they're not worth the powder to blow 'em to Hades. Stateside, they won't stop somebody from suing either. The instructor would still have to hire a lawyer. The 'you knew it could be dangerous' may or may not help in court.

April 25, 2011, 08:42 PM
However, in California, liability waivers are null and void if negligence is proven.

I believe that would fall under "Failure to use normal and reasonable care".

Basically the person is acknowledging that they are engaging in an activity that has inherent dangers. They are stating that the instructor is not responsible for injury if one of those dangers lead to injury.

But, if the instructor sets the condition that has a ramification of causing an injury, or ignores a condition that leads to injury, and is found to have acted outside of what a "normal and reasonable" person in that position with those qualifications would do, a waiver will not likely cover him.

That, and likely it will be decided by people who know nothing about firearms.

That's my non-lawyer answer.