Liability disclaimers help convey a professional tone early in your interaction with your customers, they assist in setting realistic expectations, and they are also useful as a legal deterrent should problems come up while the rug is in your custody, especially when used with a good pre-inspection sheet. Disclaimers don’t have to be too long, a couple of paragraphs should do, but they should be thorough. A quick Google search of “liability disclaimer language” brought me to lots of useful articles that would be helpful, if you’re not comfortable coming up with something all on your own.
There are a myriad of things you should not be held liable for, but if you don’t list them, you could be held responsible. This is why pre-inspections are also important! They further validate the things listed on your liability disclaimer. Common sense has very little to do with it, unfortunately.
Pre-existing spots, stains, and odors are an obvious place to start, but what about hidden items like stencil markings that may only become evident after washing? How about bleach damage done by another cleaner that becomes worse after you’ve worked on the rug? Some others that come to mind are at-home spotting damages, white knots, latex decay, and abrash.
Before you begin to write your liability disclaimer, make a long list of such items that you want to include. Wherever possible, combine items like stencil marks, abrash, white knots, and other potential hidden problems like this: “hidden issues that will only become apparent after washing.” Should you ever end up in court, remaining vague like this may actually help you, as most of these issues can be somewhat open to interpretation.
Your liability disclaimer should express clearly the following things:
- What your company shall not be held responsible for
- Whether you charge any storage fees for merchandise left longer than 30 days
- A state statute to back up your abandoned merchandise disposal policy
- Whether your insurance covers damage, but not in the case of fire or theft
- That cleaning methods vary and are performed at the discretion of the company
- A signature and date line
Even though most liability disclaimers don’t hold up in court, it’s still a good idea to include one somewhere on your paperwork for customers to sign. Having said all that, DO try to avoid court whenever possible! You probably won’t win.