Events are starting up again, and pros are getting back to work. Are your contracts ready for you to start working under corona conditions?
Do you know:
Your responsibilities for your specific business and how to protect yourself?
Where you draw the line and whether you can leave an event if that line is crossed?
If your contracts are drafted to handle events during this time?
This post teaches you how to answer all of these questions, and can help prepare your business for when your events restart!
Know your business responsibilities
Do you know your specific business responsibilities now that we're dealing with events during covid? Do you know what's expected of you and how to set your business up to limit your liability?
Each business will have unique, industry-related requirements and challenges. Unfortunately there isn't a 100% clear answer that can protect you from liability during this time (which is definitely something to keep in mind). So, what should you do?
The consensus is that businesses will be most likely be judged on whether they've exercised "reasonable care" to keep their employees and customers safe and healthy. But how can you be sure that your business is doing this?
Here are some actions you can take that may help your business exercise reasonable care:
- Follow all government regulations and rules: Yes, all of them! This is usually seen as the most basic level of exercising reasonable care. If there is a local or federal regulation or rule that you need to wear a mask at all times at an event, you need to make absolutely sure that you're wearing a mask at all times! Not following even a single regulation or rule can leave your business open to liability in a major way.
- Follow your industry (with a caveat): Reasonableness is usually measured by the specific industry of your business. The level of sanitation, preparation, and protection that is reasonable for a gym owner may not be the same as what's reasonable for a photographer. Get a feel for what others in your industry are doing and try to do AT LEAST as much as they are, preferably more. The one caveat is if your industry is doing nothing, or they aren't following government regulations, following their lead will probably get you into trouble.
- Go above and beyond: If you can show that you took extra steps to be safe (i.e. temperature checks, covid tests for employees, additional sanitation), you may be able to limit your liability if you're sued or there is a claim against your business. Showing you went above and beyond is never a bad thing for your business.
Draw a Line
It's tempting to have the attitude of 'whatever other people do isn't my responsibility', but liability isn't always that clear-cut. Turning a blind-eye to your couples and their guests breaking mask and social distancing rules could still result in you being liable for injuries or illnesses that occur as a result.
You should understand where you personally want to draw a line when it comes to your events. Are you willing to accept the consequences if someone at your event gets sick because they weren't following local guidelines? That's completely within your rights as a business owner! But, you should be prepared for the liability that may result from that decision.
Whatever you decide is your threshold for risk, be ready for the consequences of that choice. Make sure your contracts clearly communicate where you draw the line and give you full permission to terminate the contract if that line is crossed. You should also prepare yourself for the possibility of future litigation by setting aside money for a litigation expense fund.
This is also a great time to get your liability insurance purchased and to consider the business structures (like an LLC or Corporation) that may provide a personal liability shield. Check out our blog post on Easy steps to make your small business legal to learn more!
Evaluate your Contracts
Now more than ever your contracts need to be absolutely clear on your postponement, cancellation, and refund policies. These clauses will 100% determine whether you will have to refund your clients for future cancellations and postponements.
I know so many vendors who didn't have clear contracts or clauses in place to protect themselves, and when Covid hit they were forced to refund every single one of their couples. These clauses alone could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please make sure your contracts include them!
What else should your contract include as a result of covid?
Force Majeure Clause - but please keep in mind that this clause will only apply to future unforeseen events. Force Majeure no longer applies to contracts that have been signed after covid was a known condition. But please learn the lesson that Covid is teaching so many event professionals, and make sure you have a Force Majeure clause for anything else that may happen.
Indemnification Clause - under an indemnification clause, your client basically agrees to pay for/shield you from any lawsuits that are brought against you that arise from their event. A well-written indemnification clause should work to protect you against situations like a guest getting injured at the event, or a venue's property being damaged.
Assumption of Risk Clause - an assumption of risk clause differs from a waiver of liability, and may be more useful as a protection during covid-era events. Some states have restrictions on waivers of liability and either don't allow or restrict the claims that can be waived by signing a contract. An Assumption of Risk Clause, on the other hand, recognizes that there is a specific inherent risk that exists (like covid) and the client acknowledges that they understand the risk exists and they are choosing to go forward with the event despite that risk.
Stay tuned for a post on all the general clauses that your event pro contract should include. Let us know which of these was the most helpful in the comments!
Wanderer Weddings is not a law firm, and nothing in this blog is intended to be interpreted as legal advice. Although Colby is a lawyer, she is not your lawyer. Please consult a lawyer in your State for State-specific legal advice.