When you exercise with gym equipment, you should always try to use proper technique and ask for a spot or extra help if you need it. Still, even when being safe, gym injuries and exercise injuries are common: from 1990 to 2007, more than 970,000 people in the United States were treated for injuries resulting from working out at a gym.
An injury can happen to any gym-goer. Some injuries are minor, like muscle strains and general soreness. Other injuries are serious, requiring medical attention.
No matter the severity, if you sustain an injury while exercising at the gym, you might wonder about your legal options and whether you can file an injury lawsuit. Here are some factors you may want to consider.
If you signed a liability waiver when applying for a gym membership, then you may be subject to its terms. But this does not preclude you from filing an injury lawsuit.
A liability waiver, or release waiver, is a legal document. You probably signed a liability waiver when you got your gym membership. When you sign a liability waiver, you allegedly waive your right to sue in the event of an injury caused by ordinary negligence.
Many gym-goers assume that a liability waiver prevents them from pursuing legal action against a gym. However, this is not true—not entirely, at least. Liability waivers may prevent you from taking some legal actions, but, in general, they do not completely protect the gym from personal injury liability. In particular, the waiver you sign may not protect the gym from liability for acts of gross negligence. Gross negligence is a lack of care that demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety of others.
But how do you know what you can sue for and what you cannot? By thoroughly reading the waiver before signing it, asking the gym if you have questions about its terms, and consulting an experienced personal injury attorney if you are injured.
California law requires that a liability waiver be clear, unambiguous, and explicit. This is why reputable gym establishments hire a lawyer or legal team to draft the liability waiver. And it is why you should read the waiver and retain a copy when you sign up—if you sustain an injury, and you have a copy of the waiver, a personal injury lawyer can review it and help you consider your legal options.
Depending on the incident and the facts surrounding your injury, you may be able to challenge the validity of a waiver. However, it would be wise to attain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if this is possible.
Any injury which you are found to be partially at fault for causing will reduce the defendant’s liability.
If you do file an injury claim against a gym, or other entity or person you believe is at fault, you are subject to the principle of comparative negligence in California.
In California, a plaintiff may be assigned a percentage of fault—for example, 25%. This is based upon the plaintiff’s negligence leading to the injury. In this example, the defendant’s liability is 75% and the damages they owe are equal to their percentage of fault. In short, if they are found partially at fault, it is possible that a plaintiff may not recover 100% of the damages they seek.
There are other legal avenues a defendant may take to be absolved of responsibility. A defendant can argue that the injured party assumed the risk of injury while working out at the gym. Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine under which an individual is barred from recovering damages for an injury. There are two forms of assumption of risk:
- Implied Assumption of Risk: When you voluntarily accept a risk through your actions. For example, if you use an exercise machine with an “Out Of Order” sign on it, and you sustain an injury, the defendant may claim that you knowingly and willingly assumed the risk of using the equipment.
- Express Assumption of Risk: This is when you voluntarily accept a risk through a signed or verbal agreement. For example, if you sign an agreement in which you indicate that you understand how to properly use all of the exercise equipment in a gym, and that improper use may result in injury, and then use it improperly and sustain an injury, the defendant may claim that you are at fault.
Gyms, gym equipment manufacturers, or individuals at the gym may be liable for your injuries.
A personal injury attorney will review the facts of your injury to determine who may be liable and who you may be able to sue for damages. Below is a partial list of who may be liable. Keep in mind that this is not exhaustive, and may not apply to you. Talk to a personal injury attorney about your case.
- The gym is responsible for maintaining a reasonably safe exercise environment—if they do not, they may be liable. They should regularly clean the workout area and properly maintain machines, repair or replace broken equipment, and use clear signage to indicate to patrons what equipment to avoid. If, for example, you slip and fall on a wet floor, the gym may bear responsibility. The same is true if you suffer an injury due to improperly maintained equipment especially if you were unaware of the risks associated with using it.
- Equipment manufacturers may be liable as well. As with any product liability case, equipment manufacturers are responsible for designing and installing safe equipment that comply with industry standards and any applicable state or federal laws. If a manufacturer delivers a faulty workout machine and you suffer an injury as a result, you may have a case against the equipment company.
- Other individuals may also be liable. All gym-goers, and anyone at or around the gym, must act in a reasonably safe manner. If someone acts intentionally or carelessly, and you sustain an injury, that individual may be liable. For example, if you are sitting on a weight bench and another individual carelessly tosses a weight that lands on and breaks your foot, you may have a cause of action against them.
Exercising with weights and using exercise machines can lead to injury. You have legal options if you sustain an injury at the gym. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Penney & Associates—we have helped people just like you recover the damages they are owed.