The Assumption of Risk Doctrine
The assumption of risk doctrine is a defense commonly raised by Florida defendants who are accused of causing an injury through their own negligence. When applicable, this doctrine prevents plaintiffs, who were engaging in a dangerous activity and were aware of the risks of doing so when their injury occurred, from collecting damages from the defendant. This defense is most often raised in cases involving sports injuries, as it is generally understood that players know the dangers of playing certain sports and accept those risks by agreeing to play. However, strict application of this doctrine is usually very limited, so if you were injured in an accident and the at-fault party is claiming that you assumed the risk of injury, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer who can help you with your claim.
Limiting Liability by Assuming the Risk of Injury
The assumption of risk doctrine is often raised in cases involving the following:
- Activities where the danger is obvious or the nature of the activity is inherently dangerous;
- An accident occurring on someone else’s property where guests were advised to enter at their own risk;
- Injuries sustained during a sporting activity;
- Ultrahazardous activities, which includes extreme sports; and
- Accidents occurring after a person has signed a waiver or release clause.
However, since the landmark 1983 case of Kuehner v. Green, Florida courts have routinely limited the strict application of the assumption of risk doctrine to cases where there is evidence that a plaintiff knew of the existence of the danger, realized the possibility of sustaining an injury as a result of the danger, and after having an opportunity to avoid participation, voluntarily exposed him or herself to the danger. Generally, this applies to cases that involve:
- Contracts not to sue, which are also known as liability waivers; and
- Injuries arising out of participation in a contact sport.
Furthermore, employers are prohibited from attempting to raise this defense when their negligence was responsible for an employee’s injury. However, even when not strictly applied, which would result in a case being dismissed, the assumption of risk doctrine can still be used by juries when attempting to determine each party’s relative fault. This can have important consequences, as Florida is a pure comparative fault state, which means that each party will be held accountable for its own percentage of responsibility for the injury. If a jury determines that a plaintiff’s assumption of risk far outweighs the other party’s liability, the injured plaintiff’s award could be significantly reduced, which could make it difficult, if not impossible to pay medical bills and other related expenses.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
No matter what type of accident you’ve been involved in, the Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Boone & Davis can help. To schedule an initial consultation where you can speak to an experienced personal injury attorney about your own accident, please call us at 954-566-9919 or send us a message with your contact information and a brief description of your case.