Assumption of Risk and Your Virginia Personal Injury Case

All personal injury cases are based on a victim’s claim that their injury occurred because someone failed to take reasonable steps, like following driving laws, to make sure they would be kept out of harm’s way. 

However, there are many activities, such as playing sports or attending sporting events, that come with an inherent risk of injury. For instance, you assume the risk of being hit by a puck at a hockey game or struck by a foul ball at a baseball game. If you go for a swim at a resort pool with no lifeguard, a sign may inform you that you do so at your own peril. For some activities, you may be asked to sign a waiver saying you are aware of the potential hazards.

In legal terms, this is known as the assumption of risk. A respondent in a personal injury case can claim this as a defense. The respondent could assert that the injured party was fully aware that their participation in or proximity to the activity could result in injury and, therefore, is not eligible for compensation for their damages.

The assumption of risk defense is, however, not a legal cure-all and can be defeated.  Property owners are still required to take reasonable measures to prevent injuries. Using the above examples, hockey arenas and baseball stadiums are required to install glass or protective mesh in order to prevent spectator injuries. Hotels have to supply safety equipment like ring buoys or a life hook for guests to use in an emergency situation at an unattended swimming pool.

If you or a family member have been severely injured under circumstances where you might have assumed a risk of injury but feel that someone else is to blame, you need to speak with a Norfolk personal injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We can help you explore your legal options in a free and confidential consultation. 

What Is Assumption of Risk?

Hampton, VA boat accident

Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine stating that an injured victim willingly accepted the risks associated with their actions. It can be either implied or expressed.

Implied assumption means any reasonable person participating in the activity would recognize the risk involved. The guy who joins the office baseball team knows that he could tear his rotator cuff or sprain his ankle.  

Expressed assumption means the claimant specifically acknowledged a caution of the risk. In these cases, the victim has signed a waiver foregoing their right to compensation for any injury sustained during the normal course of activity. A person can either sign a waiver as a condition of entry or participation or passively accept a waiver that is part of a transaction, such as the sale of a ticket.

It is important to keep in mind that neither understood risk nor a waiver protects an individual or a business from all liability for harm to customers, participants, patrons, or guests. 

When someone rides a roller coaster at a state fair or an amusement park, they certainly assume some risk. If they are injured due to a ride malfunction arising from improper installation or poor maintenance, the fair or amusement park could still be held financially responsible.

A person who races go-carts at their local fun center assumes the risk of a collision that causes a blunt-force injury. It is widely acknowledged that crashes are an integral part of go-cart racing. If a person is injured in a crash caused by the frame of the go-kart splitting or a wheel coming off, this could be a matter of a defective product or improper maintenance and may be grounds for a valid Virginia personal injury claim. 

Activities That Require an Assumption of Risk

Some popular activities that may require a waiver or an awareness of the inherent risk include:

  • Bungee jumping
  • Ziplining
  • Trampoline parks
  • Water skiing/Snow skiing
  • Hang gliding 
  • Dirt bike or ATV rental
  • Jet ski rental 
  • Car rentals
  • Skydiving
  • Horseback riding
  • Certain haunted houses

Contact a Norfolk Personal Injury Attorney

Risk is an inherent aspect of many things we take part in for business, recreation, and in our day-to-day lives. Nevertheless, even with an understanding of the assumption of risk, people are entitled to protection from injuries resulting from another person’s negligence or willful misconduct.

If you or a family member have been injured in circumstances outside of the typical course of participation in a potentially dangerous activity in Virginia, schedule a free consultation with an experienced Norfolk personal injury lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp about your rights and a potential lawsuit by calling (833) 997-1774 or through the contact form on our website. 

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