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Understanding the Assumption of Risk Doctrine

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The Potential Impact on Your Personal Injury Case

Assumption of risk is a key concept in the field of personal injury law. This legal doctrine can have significant implications for individuals seeking compensation for injuries sustained due to another party's negligence. The assumption of risk is also closely tied to the legal concept of comparative negligence and can affect how liability and subsequent compensation are calculated.

Keep reading to learn more about what the assumption of risk means in the context of a personal injury case.

Defining Assumption of Risk

In the context of New York personal injury laws, the assumption of risk principle suggests that an individual who knowingly and willingly places themselves at risk of injury cannot later seek damages for any harm incurred during the risky activity. This means that if you participate in an activity with a known risk of injury, you may face challenges when it comes to recovering compensation for any injuries sustained during that activity.

The Three Types of Assumption of Risk

There are generally two types of assumptions of risk: express and implied. Express assumption of risk involves an individual affirmatively acknowledging that they have assumed the risk of injury, typically done in writing. Implied assumption of risk refers to situations where the risk is not explicitly stated but is inherent in the activity. The implied assumption of risk is often broken down into two categories, primary and secondary.

Examples of each type of assumption of risk include:

  • Express assumption of risk: An example is when a skydiver signs a waiver prior to the jump, acknowledging the potential risks and dangers associated with skydiving. The signed waiver clearly expresses acceptance of the risks involved, including equipment malfunction, adverse weather conditions, or injury during landing. By signing this document, the individual is legally accepting the inherent dangers and may be barred from recovering compensation for any injuries that may result from these acknowledged risks.
  • Primary implied assumption of risk: An example could be when someone decides to play a contact sport like rugby. The participant knowingly accepts the risks associated with the sport, including the high likelihood of physical injury. By choosing to participate, they acknowledge and accept these risks.
  • Secondary Implied assumption of risk: This often applies in situations where the defendant had a responsibility of care to the plaintiff. For example, let's say someone chooses to take a scuba diving class and becomes injured. While they assumed the risks inherent in scuba diving, the scuba diving school that ran the class still had a duty of care to the participants. In personal injury cases, the secondary implied assumption of risk most often affects comparative negligence calculations.

You may also hear the assumption of risk doctrine described as an affirmative defense strategy. Indeed, there are cases in which a defendant may seek to prove that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury and, as such, argue that the defendant shouldn't be held liable or their liability should be reduced.

Does Assumption of Risk Cover Reckless or Negligent Behavior

It's important to note that the assumption of risk doctrine does not typically extend to cover reckless or negligent behavior. If an entity or individual exhibits reckless disregard for the safety of others or acts negligently, they cannot hide behind the shield of the assumption of risk to avoid liability.

For instance, in the context of a personal injury case in New York, if a participant in a recreational activity is injured due to the negligent behavior of another party—such as a coach or equipment provider—that party could still be held liable. Any proven negligent behavior that directly leads to injury can potentially override the assumption of risk doctrine.

Proving negligence in such cases often requires the help of an experienced attorney who understands the intricacies of New York personal injury laws, like our team at Foley Griffin.

What If I Signed a Waiver?

A waiver is classified as a type of express assumption of risk. However, it is worth noting that agreements waiving a victim's right to an injury claim are not always considered valid, and they do not always protect defendants from negligent, reckless, or intentional behaviors that result in someone's injury. So, even if you've signed a waiver before participating in an activity, you may still be able to pursue a personal injury claim depending on the circumstances.

If you are injured during an activity for which you signed a waiver, it is still worth discussing your situation with a personal injury attorney to learn what your rights and options are.

As a law firm highly experienced in all types of personal injury cases, we understand how complex these matters can be. If you've been injured and believe the assumption of risk may be used against you, contact us online today. We're here to help guide you through the process and advocate for your rights.

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