Placing a disclaimer on your website can help to protect you if someone takes legal action after reading your website, acting on the advice given or downloading a file or program. Although it may seem unlikely that anyone would launch a lawsuit against your website, it is still a good idea to protect yourself by writing and displaying a disclaimer.
What is a Disclaimer?
A disclaimer informs visitors to your website that the information given is for informational purposes only and that no guarantees are made concerning the accuracy, reliability and completeness of the information. A disclaimer lets visitors know that the advice, tips or recommendations you give on your website are not a substitute for professional advice.
A disclaimer makes it clear that you, as the website owner, accept no responsibility for errors or omissions. If website visitors take action as a result of reading the information on your website, that action is at their own risk, and you do not take any responsibility for any losses, damages or injuries that may result from that action.
Which Websites Require a Disclaimer?
Disclaimers should be displayed on all websites, whether they are blogs, personal websites or business websites. Any website owner could potentially be sued for misleading visitors or for writing something that someone else finds offensive or unacceptable. Therefore, it is important to include a disclaimer, even if you believe that the risk of litigation is very small.
Would a Disclaimer Protect You in Court?
If someone launched a lawsuit against you because of something on your website, the overall decision of the court would be based on the individual circumstances of the case. However, the court would take into account whether or not your website had a disclaimer that was agreed to by the plaintiff when he or she visited the website. If your disclaimer is not displayed properly or does not convey the information required by government agencies, you could be held liable for damages.
Using a Disclaimer Template or Sample Disclaimer
The most popular option for website owners is to use a free disclaimer template, a sample disclaimer, or to simply create a disclaimer of their own. While the vast majority of these website owners never have any issues, those types of disclaimers may do very little to help you in the event of a lawsuit.
What Are Some Key Elements To A Disclaimer?
Below are some of the main points of interest you’ll find in a typical website disclaimer. Every website disclaimer will have different requirements, but these are some of the more common sections that should typically be included.
Limitation of Liability
The Limitation of Liability section of a disclaimer explicitly states that you are not responsible for any action taken as a result of the information or advice on your website. It also informs readers that they should seek specialist advice from a doctor, lawyer or other professional regarding their individual situation before acting on the advice given.
You can protect the copyright of your website in your disclaimer with the use of a statement such as: “The content of this website is protected by copyright. No portion of this website may be copied or replicated in any form without the written consent of the website owner”.
Make it clear that you are not responsible for the content of external websites that you link with and the products or services that they offer.
If you include advertisements on your website, let visitors know that you do not endorse the products or services advertised. You are not responsible for any action taken after clicking on an advertisement on your website. Affiliate marketers and e-commerce website owners may need to have additional disclaimers depending on the exact products and services they are promoting.
If you are selling goods from your website, ensure that your returns policy is part of your disclaimer. State the exact terms and conditions under which you accept returns of purchased items. For example, you could let customers know that you will provide a refund if the item is returned unused and in its original packaging within 14 days of the date of purchase.
Your website will usually come under the legal jurisdiction of the state or country in which it is based. Mention this in your disclaimer.
Where Should You Place Your Disclaimer on Your Website?
Your disclaimer should be placed in a very prominent position on your website. If possible, include a link to it on every page.
If you are in an industry where litigation is frequent or if your website contains information that certain people may be inclined to find misleading, you may wish to place your disclaimer at the front of your website, so that all visitors have to read and agree to it before entering the website.
Should You Include an “I agree” Button?
If you wish to ensure that visitors to your website agree with your disclaimer before downloading content, making a purchase or reading further, place an “I agree” button at the bottom of your disclaimer.
When is a Disclaimer Insufficient?
If your website sells potentially dangerous activities, such as white water rafting, bungee jumping or adventure vacations, a disclaimer will be insufficient. In these cases, ask a lawyer to draft a liability contract. All of your potential customers will then need to sign this contract before they make a purchase. There are many cases where smaller disclaimers may need to be placed on specific pages due to the content such as paid promotions or recommendations.
When Should You Consult a Lawyer?
A disclaimer is an important part of a website. It informs website visitors of the extent of the website owner’s responsibilities. It is one of the safeguards that you can put in place to protect yourself if someone files a lawsuit against your website in future.