Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law

What Is the 'Assumption of Risk' Doctrine?

Key Takeaways:

  • When you engage in an activity or visit any place with inherent and well-known risks, you assume those risks and understand the potential dangers.
  • If you are injured in a risky and dangerous activity, you may be unable to hold anyone else liable for your injuries because you assumed the risk.
  • You may still recover compensation after injuries in a dangerous activity if someone’s negligence caused your injuries.

The assumption of risk doctrine means that when a person engages in a particular activity, they generally accept the consequences and dangers that might come with that activity. If you file a lawsuit against someone to recover damages, they may use the assumption of the risk doctrine as an affirmative defense.

The assumption of the risk legal doctrine can bar any recovery for damages. It can also reduce the amount of money you can recover. This may depend on the jurisdiction. If you have been injured in an accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer right away.

Assuming Risk and What That Means

When engaging in a dangerous activity, you generally accept the risks and understand the potential dangers. In legal terms, if you are injured in circumstances with inherent risk, you may be unable to hold anyone else liable for your injuries. This is because you assumed the risk of danger.

The assumption of the risk doctrine says that just because you were injured does not mean someone was negligent. You might still be able to recover money for damages even if you assumed the risk. If someone else’s negligence caused your accident, you may still be able to recover compensation.

When Assumption of the Risk Is Used in Personal Injury Law

There are some common scenarios where defendants use the assumption of the risk doctrine as a defense.

  • Sports: The assumption of risk defense is often used in sports and recreational activities. For example, football players should know and therefore assume the risk of common injuries in the sport. If a player is injured while playing football, they may not be successful if they sue. However, if a player can prove that someone else’s negligence caused their injury, they may still be able to recover.
  • Spectators: Those who attend sports are generally considered to have assumed the risks associated with watching sports. For example, you accept the risk of a foul ball hitting you in a baseball game.
  • Recreational activities: Participants in recreational activities like skiing and rock climbing are usually considered to have assumed the known risks common in those activities. If you are skiing and suffer injuries from a fall, you may not be able to recover. Falling is a natural part of skiing. However, if an unmarked hazard injures you, you may still be able to receive compensation.
  • Everyday activities: Even activities people do every day have elements of risk. This includes using a stove, driving a car, or drinking hot coffee. You understand there’s a risk of a car accident not necessarily caused by someone’s negligence every time you drive on the road. The path to monetary recovery depends on whether anyone else’s negligence caused your accident.

Every personal injury case and tort is different. If you have been injured, the best way to determine the possibility of recovery is to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Types of Assumption of the Risk

There are generally two types of assumption of risk:

I. Express Assumption of Risk

Express assumption of risk is when you agree that whatever you are doing is risky and that you will do it despite the risk of injury. You may see this in liability waivers where you acknowledge the risks and agree not to hold the organization responsible. You may have to sign these waivers before skydiving, roller skating, running a marathon, or skiing.

II. Implied Assumption of Risk

Implied assumption of risk happens when your actions indicate that you understand and accept the risks. For example, if you play football, the fact that you wore a helmet suggests that you knew the game was risky. Even if you didn’t sign anything that says so. The general rule is whether a reasonable person would understand the activity to be difficult.

Defendants can also use the implied assumption of the risk if you ignore clear warnings or signs and then get injured. For instance, if a resort owner posts a sign warning you of alligators in the lake, you swim in the lake anyway, and are injured by an alligator, the resort owner can argue you assumed the risk by ignoring its clear warnings.

Defenses to Assumption of the Risk

Even if a defendant successfully argues that you assumed the risk of your injuries, there are some ways you can still recover.

  • Lack of knowledge: You can argue and must be able to prove that you did not know the risks involved. This can be a valid defense, especially if the risks that caused your injury were not obvious or you were not informed of them.
  • Understanding the extent of risk: You prove that the dangerous condition that caused your injury was greater than you expected and what a reasonable might expect. For example, if you are injured while skiing because the entire hill is icy.
  • Recklessness or negligence: Even if the activity was risky, someone else’s intervening recklessness could have caused your injury. This was something that you could not have assumed because you could not have anticipated the defendant’s negligence. If you’re injured while skiing because someone else punches you, that may go beyond the normal risks associated with skiing.

Now that you know about the assumption of the risk doctrine, you can make informed decisions about your rights in a personal injury lawsuit. The best resource for making informed decisions is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to talk about your personal injury claims.

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