Personal Injury Basics
BY Susan M. Brazas for Lawyers.com
Twenty-four hour gyms and fitness centers are popping up around the country so busy people can find time to workout to stay healthy and fit. Many fitness centers offer new and unorthodox types of fitness classes to spark interest. Unfortunately, instead of improving your health, sometimes the complete opposite happens and you get hurt during a work out.
At times, the gym or instructor may be responsible for injury. Sometimes they're not, however, and you're left with the medical bills. It's a good idea to know what your options may be when a workout doesn't work out as planned.
Gym or Fitness Center Injuries
Injuries can happen in any gym or fitness center, but they're a bit more common in out-of-ordinary workout routines. For instance, pole dancing got national attention when a woman was injured while trying it. She sued the gym over shoulder injuries caused by falling off the pole. She claimed the class instructor didn't help her when she couldn't hold herself up during an upside-down movement.
She sued for an unspecified amount of money damages - she was unable to work for six months, according to the lawsuit.
Who Do You Sue?
If you're in a car accident when another driver hits you, you know immediately at least one person you can hold responsible: The other driver. When injured at a gym or fitness center, it's a bit more complicated.
You'd think about suing the gym or fitness center. However, you might also need to sue the instructor, personal trainer, gym employee or classmate if they were in some way responsible for causing your injury, whether intentionally or accidentally.
Can You Sue? Disclaimers and Assuming Risk
Most gyms ask you to sign a waiver of liability where you give up your right to sue the company if you're injured. For the most part, these waivers are cut-and-dry. They may cover specific events or activities, or may cover "any use" or "activity" on the companies premises.
Likewise, anyone skiing or snowboarding usually is required to sign a release. The release generally says you understand the activity is dangerous and might result in serious injury or death. Other sports activities, such as rollerblading, rollerskating or boating might also require these.
Whether these waivers actually prohibit you from suing for your injuries depends on how the accident happened, and if it was something the facility could have corrected or should have warned you about. Even if you don't sign a release, a court might say you should have understood the risks when you decided to participate.
"Intended Users" May Sue
An Illinois court recently threw out a case of a man injured when he tripped on a railroad track bolt in the middle of a street. It decided the train company wasn't responsible for his injuries because he wasn't a train passenger and wasn't an "intended user" of the middle of the street because he was not in a crosswalk when he fell.
If you're injured in a gym but you weren't given permission to be in the gym, a court might decide the gym isn't responsible because you weren't an intended user. You weren't even supposed to be there. The same might happen if:
- You participated in a class but hadn't signed up for it or paid your class fee
- You went into an area of the gym that was off limits
Know what's considered covered as an intended user before using the facility.