What is Assumption of Risk?
Posted in Lawsuit on June 8, 2019
Many articles outline how to pursue personal injury claims from the perspective of the plaintiff, or the individual pressing charges. However, a defendant might not be completely to blame in their case. Some individuals press charges despite defendant forewarning about certain risks or entering situations the plaintiff knows comes with risk. Tort law addresses these situations, defining the what truly counts as defendant negligence. A Kansas City personal injury attorney can explain the specifics as they relate to your case.
What Is Assumption of Risk?
When defendants introduce assumption of risk, they assert the plaintiff voluntarily entered a situation knowing risk was involved. Specifically, assumption of risk asserts that:
- The plaintiff possessed knowledge about the risks involved in taking part in certain activities and/or services.
- The plaintiff knowingly accepted this risk through agreement, or their actions as they continue to take part in the risky services or activities.
This is common in cases where “dangerous dog” or “no trespassing” signs are on display throughout the premises. Though the defendant is not always present when the plaintiff sustains injury, their warnings to the public – if placed in obvious locations – are enough to constitute assumption of risk. The law refers to this as an inherent assumption of risk.
Assumption of risk also applies to safety waivers plaintiffs sign. For instance, an individual who sprains their ankle at an indoor trampoline park cannot sue the establishment because they signed a waiver before entering the location. The law refers to this as express assumption of risk.
How Does Assumption of Risk Impact Personal Injury Cases?
Tort law refers to all negligence-based cases, which are the basis of personal injury law. Negligence implies the defendant is guilty according to several criteria:
- The defendant owed a clear duty to the plaintiff in providing them a safe service or product.
- The defendant did not fulfill this duty – a form of negligence.
- The defendant’s negligence directly contributed to the accident that caused the plaintiff’s injury.
A plaintiff sues the defendant in court based on the premise that the defendant not only owed the plaintiff safe premises, services, or products, but their lack of delivery on this front caused damages. The doctrine of assumption of risk makes cases based in negligence null.
This ruling comes from the reasoning that the defendant did not, in fact, owe the plaintiff a duty. In premises-related cases, defendants who post signs notifying the public of danger remove the responsibility from themselves. The responsibility to act safely then falls onto the plaintiff.
If a defendant is successful in proving assumption of risk, the court drops all court-related charges. This means the plaintiff cannot recover damages for the accident or any of the accompanying court/legal fees they accrued while pressing charges.
When Is Assumption of Risk Inapplicable?
For an assumption of risk defense to remain plausible, several details must be in place. For instance, the plaintiff must have sustained the exact injury they accepted liability for. One example of this could be plaintiff electrocution occurring after they see signs warning about electric shock, or by touching electrical components without any signage at all. Inherent assumption of risk plays upon the common sense knowledge that certain actions come with obvious consequences.
This factor requires the plaintiff’s injury to be foreseeable. The injury must be directly related to the activity the plaintiff engaged in. Unrelated incidents, like injury caused by a fallen light fixture at a trampoline park, is not foreseeable. While jumping and trampoline-related accidents fall under both inherent and express assumption of risk, miscellaneous events do not qualify for either.
Assumption of risk is a viable defense to combat personal injury lawsuits. Not all plaintiffs can pin the responsibility for an accident on the defendant when assumption of risk was apparent. Doing so could cost the plaintiff more than the cost of medical treatment in the long run.