How do I Choose the Best Disclaimer Language?
Writing a disclaimer can be difficult, as many people are unsure of the language they should use and the points they should cover. Generally, choosing the best disclaimer language means choosing wording that is clear and easy to understand. It also means covering all of the points you consider most important for protecting your assets and avoiding liability. In many cases, reviewing disclaimers created for similar businesses and seeking an attorney’s input may help as well.
One way to choose the best disclaimer language is by seeking a lawyer's help with preparing it. An attorney who is well versed in your field can provide input into creating disclaimer language. If you are creating a health information site, for example, he may suggest disclaimer language that prevents others from viewing you as a source of reliable medical advice that should ordinarily come from a doctor. He may also advise you against including language that could possibly leave you vulnerable to a lawsuit.
Choosing the best disclaimer language also means opting for words that are easy to understand. Generally, a good disclaimer will not contain a lot of jargon or overly complex sentences. An effective disclaimer should usually be simple for the average person to read and understand. If you are used to using complicated language in your endeavors, you may do well to seek help in evaluating your disclaimer language. For example, you may ask a friend or business associate who is not involved in your line of work or business to review it; this person can then provide his opinion of whether or not the language will be simple enough for the average person to understand.
When you are trying to choose the best disclaimer language, you may also find it beneficial to review similar disclaimers. While you won’t want to copy someone else’s disclaimer, reviewing established disclaimers may help you to see the language that is typically included. Additionally, reviewing others’ disclaimers may give you a good idea of what you shouldn’t do. For example, you may find wording that is too confusing or see important points that have been left out of a disclaimer written for a business similar to yours.
It is also important to make sure that the language you choose for a disclaimer makes all of the points you want to cover. For example, you may want to use a disclaimer to warn readers of certain risks as well as to inform them that you will not be responsible or liable for any actions they take. You may also want your disclaimer to inform the reader that you have the right to remove or alter the information you have provided or any of the products or services you offer.
@pleonasm - That's true of everyone who comes across disclaimers on a daily basis. I come across them frequently when submitting poetry and short stories to journals and you really have to make sure you read the small print.
I've seen disclaimers where the buyer essentially proclaims that they own your work as soon as you submit it, rather than after an actual purchase has been made. The scary thing is that they probably aren't even intending to be unreasonable, they were just given bad information about how the industry works.
@umbra21 - Bear in mind that you really need the right kind of lawyer for whatever you're writing the disclaimer about. In some cases you legally cannot make certain claims about one thing that you would automatically make about another. Such as asserting in some areas that there will be no returns or refunds, when there are legal protections in place assuring that you have to refund money if the goods are not as advertised.
A lawyer who doesn't specialize in your kind of goods or services, or whatever you need the disclaimer for, or who doesn't know local laws, isn't going to be able to help you with specifics and might even lead you down the wrong path.
I think it's up to everyone writing a disclaimer like this to ensure they know the basics of disclaimer language, so that they can check that everything is right and not just assume that it will be.
It might help to go through a few similar disclaimers and pick out all the points they are making, to be sure that you don't miss any. Don't rely on a single disclaimer, because hardly any of them will be completely comprehensive, and they might not relate directly to your project either.
If you can afford to have a lawyer look at the disclaimer, that's great, but not everyone will be able to do that for every project. If there is a real possibility of being sued, that's not something you will want to skimp on though.
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