In Florida, some circumstances allow you to sue a gym even if you signed a liability waiver. The courts recognize such waivers, but they do not automatically protect a company from personal injury lawsuits. The company is still responsible for creating a safe environment. A personal injury lawyer in Fort Lauderdale can review your gym’s liability waiver and explain your legal options if you suffered injuries there.
How the Courts Judge a Liability Waiver
The following are the qualities the courts consider when judging the strength of a liability waiver in a personal injury case:
The Language of a Liability Waiver Must Be Clear and Understandable
In 2014, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District, ruled in Gillette v. All Pro Sports, LLC, that the wording in liability waivers must be “clear and understandable” so that the average person knows what rights they’re giving up by signing the document.
When our attorneys review a liability waiver for clients who are injured after signing, we first confirm that the text is clear, specific, and unambiguous.
Negligence Vs. Gross Negligence
Many liability waivers include language that protects gyms from liability if you are injured due to their negligence. However, there’s a difference between negligence and gross negligence.
A negligent act might be extending a treadmill’s maintenance check three months past the recommended date, during which time the equipment freezes while in use, and the user suffers a gym injury from the abrupt stop. An act of gross negligence might be never performing maintenance on the machine while allowing obvious dust and dirt to build up and cause the electric treadmill to explode.
A Liability Waiver Would Not Protect the Gym From Intentional Harm
If a gym’s trainer threw a dumbbell at you and broke your foot, or constantly yelled at you while threatening to harm you, these acts would probably be considered intentional and would not be protected by a liability waiver.
Liability Waivers and Minors
Natural guardians may sign a liability waiver for a minor to participate in an activity at the gym. However, if the minor is injured at the gym because of negligence on the part of an employee, manager, or gym owner due to a cause not related to the specified activity, the gym may be liable for the injury.
For instance, if the minor slips, falls, and suffers an injury on a wet restroom floor, and the manager or employees knew about the wet floor but did nothing to warn customers or to clean it up, there might be a negligence case.
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Is There an Instance When You Cannot Sue a Gym After Signing a Liability Waiver?
The courts generally consider a liability waiver to be a legal contract between you and the gym. This doesn’t mean you can’t file a lawsuit for compensation if you are injured, but some circumstances may mean you will be less likely to succeed if you do. For example:
- A liability waiver must be specific as to what the limitations are and clear in its language so that any reasonable person can understand it. If the waiver is properly constructed, this benefits the gym.
- If you are injured at the gym through your actions, you may not succeed in pursuing compensation.
- If you are injured due to minor negligence on the part of gym employees or management, this may fall under the liability waiver. This is a gray area that could lean toward either party.
What Should You Do If You Are Injured at a Gym?
If you are injured at a gym, you may have grounds to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. There are multiple steps you can take to support your personal injury claim, including:
- Seek immediate medical care: You should see a doctor as soon as possible after the incident. Even if you feel that your injury doesn’t require medical care, it’s safer to be checked out as symptoms can develop over time. Should you pursue a personal injury lawsuit, showing awareness of a potential injury and need for medical attention shortly after the incident will support your case.
- Report the injury: You need to report the injury to the facility. After you report the injury, the gym should create an incident report. You have the right to ask for a copy for your records. If you don’t have a copy of your signed liability waiver, you can also request a copy of it.
- Gather additional evidence: In addition to the gym’s incident report and your signed liability waiver, you can also request copies of police and EMT reports, if applicable, and keep copies of your medical chart for reference. You can take pictures of the area in the gym where you sustained your injury, along with pictures of the gym equipment or the specific cause of your injury. If people at the gym saw the event, you can gather contact information and, if possible, record their statements with your phone.
- Record what you remember: While everything is still fresh in your mind, write down everything you remember from the day leading up to the incident and the incident itself.
- Contact an attorney: It’s entirely up to you if you want to hire an attorney, but most personal injury attorneys offer free case consultations, and speaking with one experienced in personal injury law could help to clarify your options moving forward. Most personal injury attorneys also work off contingency, so there’s no financial risk to you.
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Is There a Deadline for Suing a Gym After an Injury?
Florida Statutes § 95.11 generally gives you two years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. We encourage our clients to proceed as quickly as they can when seeking compensation. If you wait too long to start, evidence can go missing or get lost, and eyewitnesses’ memories may become jumbled.
Your attorney will act as your guide in this and all legal issues concerning your case.
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