Using a Disclaimer on your Website

Using a Disclaimer on your Website

If you are running any type of online business, it is a safe bet that you need a legal disclaimer just as much as you need a privacy policy and a website terms of service. No matter where you go these days, there is almost always some type of disclaimer posted or attached somewhere. There they are, on the toys you buy or the wet floor you walk across. If you see them on things like that, you can be assured that you need one as you are running an online business too. It is no different from a brick and mortar store in the sense that you will have customers coming and going from your online store just as you would customers coming in and out of that front door. And if those customers end up feeling like they were harmed by your product or information you provided, you can end up taking the brunt of a lawsuit.

People are willing to file lawsuits for all kinds of reasons, such as using information they gathered from a website in a way that harmed them and blaming the business. So how do you know when you need a disclaimer, and just how do you write these one for your website? From blog posts, legal advice, and affiliate marketing, there are certain kinds of disclaimers needed. We will look at these now and go over when you need them and why.

What is a Website Disclaimer?

A disclaimer is simple legal statement that “disclaims” you from some type of legal liability. What you are doing is basically warning anyone that comes to your website that they could be harmed in some way by acting on your advice or by purchasing the materials or products you are selling. You are also letting them know that you will not be held responsible for those damages you just warned them about.

You don’t need to be selling something as obvious as sharp knives online for a customer to believe that your website harmed them. Ultimately, a disclaimer is your statement that you want people to know there are limitations to what they can and cannot do with the information found on your website or with the products you sell. You’d be amazed how people manage to hurt themselves on seemingly-harmless bits of advice or items.

There is not one set disclaimer that is perfect for all websites. What goes into your legal disclaimer will be set within the type of business you run. If you are a healthcare provider, your disclaimer will be different from the disclaimer of a bath products vendor.

What Should I Include in my Disclaimer?

Again, depending on what your business is, the disclaimer wording will vary with what you are selling or the advice you are handing out. What should be the most obvious at this point is that when you put your website disclaimer up, it will not be a one-size-fits-all notice. It may be best for your business to have a short and to-the-point disclaimer, or it may need to be much more complex and multi-paragraphed. If you are unsure of what to include within your disclaimer, it might be best to consult with an experienced attorney so that you ensure that all your bases are covered.

What Types of Disclaimers Are There?

There are some different types of disclaimers that should be considered for your website:

Opinionated Content: You will want to remind your readers that your site contains your opinion and does not reflect the opinions of any organization you are affiliated with. This helps to show that if you work with a certain company, you are not making official statements on the behalf of that company.

Nature of the Site: Let the readers know the nature of your website. This is where a blog will differ from a website, as a blog has a rotating door of changing content that usually includes conversations and comments. It is a good idea to make clear what type of site you are running, as your audience will differ based on what your blog is about.

Terms of Use: You will want to indicate that any information you provide is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge, but there may be omissions or mistakes. This is a good disclaimer to use for either a website or a blog.

Not a Professional: You need to indicate that you are not a professional (if that is indeed the case). Whatever the topic may be that you are writing about, you must remind everyone that your information should not be seen as professional advice, unless you actually are a professional in that field.

I am a Professional, but… : If you are a professional on the topic your website or blog post is about, you want to make sure to share that information. However, you also need to remind your visitors that your content is for informational purposes only. State that even through you are a professional, they also need to consult directly with a professional before any action is taken for their particular situation, whether it be legal action or health related.

Hold Harmless Clause: This is a type of clause where you remind your visitors that the information you present is entertainment and/or opinion only. It should not be taken as personal advice, and you can state again that if your readers are relying on your website information and will act upon it, that it will be at their own risk.

Reservation of Rights: Here you should indicate that you reserve the right to change how you manage your website or blog, and that you may change its focus and/or content at any time.

If there would be a case for confusion from anything within your site, you want to really make everything clear. It is always better to be safe than sorry. You also want to make sure that your disclaimer can be easily found and easily understood.

If you want more information about Internet safety, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s blog about protecting your online content from being stolen.

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