Dangerous activities are all around us. The whole world is a minefield of dangerous pursuits. People regularly swim in waters known to have contained sharks. Football players at all levels play the game every day when concussions occur regularly and players at the highest levels have been known to be paralyzed in the course of play. Paragliding, bungee chord jumping, the list of dangerous pursuits we indulge every day goes on and on. The question is when something does go wrong and someone is hurt, can they be compensated for their injuries through personal injury law?
Of course, every circumstance is different, but a legal doctrine called Assumption of Risk typically ensures that most of time when injuries occur in what is known to be potentially dangerous pursuits, personal injury liability will a recourse for the injured. Again, every circumstance is different and there are always exceptions to the rule, but the fact is we all typically understand that football is a dangerous sport. We’ve seen players injured and their careers ended in a single play. Time and time again, we’ve witnessed injuries result from scenarios in dangerous sports and activities, so we know the dangers exist. When we participate anyway, the law acknowledges that there is an assumption of risk to do so.
Putting forth an assumption of risk defense in a personal injury claim, therefore, simply states that those who pursue involvement in dangerous activities are not eligible for personal injury damages when injuries occur in that pursuit.
We know players engaging in a sport, therefore, assume a certain level of risk (again, there are exceptions to the rule), when playing. But those who come to watch also assume certain risk simply by being in the stands. In a golf tournament, people understand that golf balls can go flying at incredible speeds and standing on the sidelines to watch up close, puts you squarely in the line of fire should an errant ball go spinning out of control. There is an assumption of the risk, then, of getting hit by one of those balls if you stand there to watch. Neither the golfer nor the tournament will likely be held liable in a resulting personal injury lawsuit should an onlooker lose an eye as a result.
Implied Assumption of Risk vs. Express Assumption of Risk
The assumption of risk involved in the scenarios above almost always are implied. Attending a baseball game, knowing the ball is often hit into the stands; sitting on the stadium floor during an NBA game when it’s common to see players flying into the front row, these are activities people understand (or courts hold they should understand) have a heightened measure of risk involved.
But often companies often go a step further to protect themselves from personal injury litigation by requiring participants to sign waivers expressly stating they know there is a risk involved in participation and that they cannot sue should they be harmed as a result. This protection is based on express assumption of risk.
To mount an express assumption of risk defense, one must prove the plaintiff understood there was risk involved that was akin to the injury they suffered by way of their participation and that they voluntarily participated in the activity none-the-less. This offers a somewhat stronger defense than an implied assumption of risk defense in these sort of cases.
If you have questions about injuries suffered during an activity and want to know if you are eligible for personal injury damages, call the experienced personal injury attorneys of Bizzieri Law Offices at 773.881.9000 for a free case review.