What happens if you get injured while rafting, paragliding, BASE jumping, or another extreme sport? Many of these activities require liability waivers, but a waiver does not necessarily preclude an injured individual from taking legal action against the organizer.
In 2012, a man in Fort Worth drowned during a mud run. In 2013, a Pennsylvania hospital’s emergency services took in 38 patients during a Tough Mudder (extreme obstacle course) event. Of course, there are many of these kinds of incidents, and they can quickly become tragic.
Extreme sports and obstacle courses are exhilarating, in part, because of the risk-factor. Liability waivers are designed to protect organizations from lawsuits arising from certain injuries or death. However, many waivers are not enforceable, even when a participant signs the document.
Every state has different laws regarding contracts including waivers. Some states may not accept the terms or the structure of a waiver under state law. Assuming state laws do support the enforceability of a waiver, the waiver may still not protect the organization from a lawsuit.
A waiver only protects an organization within the limited scope outlined in the document. In other words, an organization may be liable for an injury that goes above and beyond the terms of the waiver. For instance, if you were injured because an organization knowingly changed the hazardous nature of an activity or failed to take reasonable safety precautions (extreme negligence), you may still be able to hold the organization accountable.
A good rule of thumb is to look at the nature of the activity and see if the factor that caused harm could have been reasonably eliminated without changing the nature of the activity. If it could have been removed or altered, then the waiver may not protect the organization from a lawsuit.
Enforceability of waivers is a complicated matter in Texas. There are no written laws that explicitly define what a liability waiver must contain to remain enforceable. Instead, courts rely on a patchwork arrangement of court opinions and interpretations to determine enforceability on a case-by-case basis.
If you have an attorney who understands the framework for enforceability in Texas, he or she can review the waiver and develop a case that either contests enforceability or goes beyond the scope of the waiver. For instance, if a parent signs a waiver for a child to go whitewater rafting, the parent may give up the ability to file a claim, but a child may recover some damages.
After a high risk activity accident, secure a copy of your signed liability waiver. Keep any recordings that capture the time of the incident, and tell your medical provider about your injury. If you were using equipment that malfunctioned, take pictures of the equipment.
Some individuals assume a waiver will keep them from recovering damages after an injury. As a result, they never pursue a legal consultation to determine if they have grounds for a lawsuit. At the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert PC, our initial consultations are always free, and we can help you determine if a lawsuit is the right course of action.
Knowing your rights can help you take action after an accident. You probably don’t need to have your attorney review every waiver before you, but don’t be afraid to reach out to an attorney if you have any questions. You may have options to secure financial compensation that will cover the cost of your injury and rehabilitation. For more information, contact the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert PC in Dallas.