A website legal disclaimer is an important legal document that is frequently forgotten and often overlooked by many bloggers, coaches, marketers and other online e-sellers.
Disclaimers are everywhere. You see them when you are walking down the aisle of the grocery store and there is a wet floor. You see them when you try to swim at a hotel pool that doesn’t have a lifeguard. You see them on almost every children’s toy, (or pretty much any other product) that you buy.
So why would you think that you can operate a business online without a proper website legal disclaimer?
You can’t. Let’s talk a little bit more about what a website legal disclaimer is and how you might craft one for your online business.
What is a Website Legal Disclaimer?
A website legal disclaimer is a statement that disclaims you from some type of legal liability. You are basically warning people who come to your website that they could be harmed in some way by acting on your advice or purchasing your materials or products. But at the same time, you are also informing them that you won’t be held responsible for those damages.
In other words, you want people to know that there are limitations to what they can and can’t do with the information on your website or the products you sell.
Here are a couple other things that a website legal disclaimer can do:
1. Inform people who you may change your content at any time, with or without notice.
2. Disclaim responsibility for the content provided on any websites that you link to on your website.
3. Advise people who, under no uncertain terms, if they take any action based on the information provided on your website that they do so “at their own risk”.
Is one type of website legal disclaimer appropriate for all websites?
What goes into your website legal disclaimer will depend in large part on the type of business you run and will be unique to you. If you are a business coach, your disclaimer will be different than a health care provider.
Why? Because a user of your site may suffer financial damages, while someone looking for health care advise could have physical damage. In either situation, the website needs the protection that a disclaimer provides, but the language of that disclaimer will differ.
Not only will the language of the disclaimer vary, but the length can also vary dramatically. Disclaimers can run the gamut from extremely simple verbiage, such as “swim at your own risk”, to something much more complicated that runs several paragraphs, or even pages, long. A great example of this is the voluminous disclosures contained in many financial products.
What Do I Need to Include in My Disclaimer?
What you put in your disclaimer will vary based on what you are selling or the advice you are providing. Here are some examples.
If you are a lawyer, like I am, you will want to advise people who the information on your website does not constitute legal advice and that no attorney-client relationship is formed just because a consumer reads your website.
If you are a doctor, you want to advise people who come across your website that the information posted should not take the place of professional medical help. You may also want to inform people that if they are having a medical emergency they should call 911.
If you provide information for people who suffer from mental health problems, such as anxiety, you may want to caution people to seek out a licensed therapist before taking any action based on the information contained in your website. You may also want to advise visitors to contact 911 in certain situations.
Selling products to children? You need to have disclaimers that inform the purchaser how old the child should be to use the product, in addition to advising about the presence of small pieces that could be swallowed. Any plastic bags included in the packaging should include a suffocation warning for small children.
What about supplements? Although not always strictly regulated by the food and drug administration, you should include strong disclaimers about what the supplement can do to the consumer, as well as information on the possible side effects. You should also include a warning about who should not take the supplement, i.e. pregnant women, patients on blood thinners, etc.
Here’s a biggie – work-out programs. It is always a good idea to inform users of work-out programs that they should seek the advice of a doctor before beginning any new training program or regimen. You would also warn customers to take breaks as necessary and not to overdo themselves during the workout.
And finally, what about coaching and business building programs? Any life or business coach, or anyone that sells products showing people how to build a business should be careful to caution people about how realistic their chances for success are. This will not only help shield you from potential lawsuits, but will also keep you out of trouble with the FTC, who looks closely at testimonials from “get rich quick” type advertising and other related programs.
It should be obvious, if it isn’t already, that putting a disclaimer on a website isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. You may need a short, simple disclaimer, or a much more complicated, multi-paragraph disclaimer. This will all depend on the nature of the information your provide on your website, or the products you sell.
Would you like a sample legal website disclaimer template?
For more information, you can check out all the details here.