Using a Disclaimer on your Website


If you're running any type of online business, it's a safe bet that you need a legal disclaimer just as much as you need a privacy policy and a terms of service. No matter where you go these days, there's usually some type of disclaimer posted visibly. They come in many forms, from stickers on the toys you buy to warnings on the bottom of blog pages you read. To keep your business safe from time-consuming and pricy legal battles, you should use disclaimers as you're running your online business too. This is no different from a brick and mortar store in the sense that you'll have lots of different types of customers coming and going from your store. 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 being harmed by information that they gathered from a website and blaming the business for that damage. So how do you know when you need a disclaimer, and just how do you write one of these for your website? From blog posts, legal advice columns, and affiliate marketing, there are certain kinds of disclaimers needed. Let's look at some of these now and go over when you need them and why:

What is a Website Disclaimer?

A disclaimer is a simple legal statement that “disclaims” you from some type of legal liability. What you're doing is basically warning anyone who 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're selling. You're also letting them know that you will not be held responsible for the 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 has harmed them. Ultimately, a disclaimer is the statement that there are limitations to what the viewers should and shouldn't 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.

Ultimately, a disclaimer is the statement that there are limitations to what the viewers should and shouldn't do with the information found on your website or with the products you sell. Click To Tweet

There's not one set disclaimer that's perfect for all websites. What goes into your legal disclaimer will be determined by the type of business you run. If you're a healthcare provider, your disclaimer will be different from the disclaimer of a bath product vendor.

What Should I Include in My Disclaimer?

Again, depending on what your business is, the disclaimer wording will vary with what you're selling or the advice you're handing out. It might 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're unsure of what to include within your disclaimer, it's important to consult with an experienced attorney so that you ensure that all your bases are covered.

What Types of Disclaimers Are There?

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

Opinionated Content - Remind your readers that your site contains your opinions and does not reflect the opinions of any affiliated organizations. This helps to show that if you work with a certain company, you're 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's a good idea to make clear what type of site you're running, as your audience will differ based on what your content is about.

Terms of Use - 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 - Indicate that you're not a professional (if that is indeed the case). Whatever the topic may be that you're 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, share that fact. However, you also need to remind your visitors that your content is for informational purposes only. State that even though you're 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 acting 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 is any case for confusion from anything within your website, you need to make everything clear to your viewers. It's always better to be safe than sorry. You also should make sure that your disclaimers 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.