What is Assumption of Risk in a Personal Injury Case?
Assumption of risk in a personal injury case means that the plaintiff, or injured party– knew there was a danger in what they were doing and choose to do it anyway. The assumption of risk doctrine is frequently cited by defendants as a reason they are not liable.
However, there is a great deal of difference between voluntarily accepting certain risks and the circumstances surrounding the injury. For example, a person taking a roller-coaster ride realizes there is some danger, even though they trust that the attendant does their best to ensure the safety of all passengers.
However, if the machinery breaks down and the person is left hanging upside down for two hours– that is not the sort of risk they assumed before getting on the ride.
A Pittsburgh personal injury attorney from our firm can protect your rights while helping you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Assumption of risk doctrine
Under Pennsylvania’s assumption of risk doctrine, a court may dismiss a case if it is decided that the plaintiff assumed a risk of injury. Much is based on what a “reasonable person” would do in a similar situation.
If a reasonable person would not behave this way—because it’s too dangerous, the court is likely to dismiss. A “reasonable person” will not jump from a three-story building, for example, because they know the odds of serious injury.
Sports injuries often bring the assumption of risk into the defense’s strategy. There is a level of danger in most sports, and participants should understand this.
However, a person cannot assume a risk they do not know about or understand. For example, a 9-year old girl was seriously injured on a novice ski slope on her first trip.
The ski resort’s defense that she took on the assumption of risk– fell flat with the court, as the defendant could not prove that the young girl understood all of the associated dangers.
She was badly injured when she accidentally skied into a snow machine on the slope. Understandably, someone of her age and inexperience would not realize the potential danger.
Slip and falls
The defense also uses assumption of risk in many premises liability or slip and fall cases. That is especially true in the winter– with the plaintiff falling and injuring themselves in an icy parking lot, for example.
Property owners have to maintain their premises– but that does not mean plaintiffs can put themselves in danger, such as walking knowingly over an ice patch and then falling.
So much depends on the obviousness of the risk. Falling in a store where the light is dim, and the floor is wet and not cordoned off– usually does not constitute an obvious risk. However, falling in a well-lit area where someone had just dropped a bottle of hard-to-miss tomato sauce– might constitute an obvious risk.
Many businesses and services have customers sign waivers, releasing them from liability in case of an accident due to assumption of risk. The defendant’s attorney may bring up the fact that the plaintiff signed this document.
Many businesses use standard waivers, which do not address the specific nature of an event or activity. In short, even though the injured party signed a waiver, the business could still be held liable.
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If you were injured in an accident and the other party claims you assumed the risk, you need our services and our expertise. Schedule a free consultation by submitting our online form or texting or calling us 24/7.
We will review your case and determine whether the assumption of risk applies to your circumstances. If it does not, we can begin an investigation.
Our dedicated attorneys have recovered more than $1 billion for clients in settlements and verdicts. Because we work on a contingency basis, there is no fee unless you receive compensation.