Does signing a waiver of liability at a gym mean you can’t make a personal injury claim?

Woman sitting on bench press at gym with hurt knee

Many of us join gyms and physical fitness centers as part of a healthy lifestyle choice. What happens, however, if you get injured at a gym and it was due to the negligence of the facility but you signed a waiver absolving them of responsibility? It’s a thorny question.

Most health clubs (in fact, probably all) have new members sign a waiver (also called an “exculpatory agreement” or a “contract of adhesion”). These waivers act as a condition of membership and say that you cannot sue them or their employees for any reason or for any injury you may sustain while using the fitness center.

The legal reasoning behind such documents is that you assume the risk of getting injured because of the real potential of getting hurt in a gym and exercise setting. If you hurt yourself stretching or by not using the equipment properly, it is because of some action you took that caused the injury. The gym wasn’t negligent or careless. This is called “assumption of the risk.”

However, there are some instances in which the courts found a fitness facility guilty of negligence. I know this may surprise you, but it’s all in the fine print!

The fine print of waivers of liability

The language used in a waiver of liability is sometimes intentionally broad. In such instances, the lack of specifics can make it difficult to sue a health club for an injury. Such terms as “willingly assume” may make you responsible for all risks associated with use of the equipment or exercising. Some fine print may include the following:

  • Assuming responsibility for falls, sprains, strains, broken bones, and even death
  • Assuming responsibility for injury or death due to the ordinary negligence of other gym members
  • Assuming the risk of injury or death due to defects in equipment
  • Assuming the risk of any injury caused by the negligence of the facility or its employees

Do such waivers of liability cover everything?

Waivers of liability cannot cover everything. If you get injured as a result of an employee’s, other member’s, or the facility’s intentional or reckless behavior, the waiver will probably not hold up in a court of law. After all, you didn’t sign up at a fitness center expecting to be physically assaulted or intentionally hurt in some other way.

In such instances, the waiver may not stand up in court. In addition, the courts frequently do not like language that is overly broad, and the judge may find something unfair, too complicated, unclear, or insufficient in the waiver. And…if the fine print is too small detailing important information, the waiver may not be upheld.

If you’ve been seriously injured at a health club, gym or fitness center, and you aren’t sure what to do since you did sign a waiver of liability, give me a call to discuss the situation. Don’t automatically assume that just because you did sign the waiver that you have no recourse. You just might.

Stay fit, stay healthy, and stay safe out there!

Please re-post this article, if you think the topic would be of interest to others. Thank you.

For other areas of personal injury law, please see my other articles at http://blog.petermillerlaw.com.

If you have any questions about this article or any area of personal injury law, please refer to the contact info below.

Contact Information:

The Law Offices of Peter Miller

1601 S. Broadway

Little Rock, AR 72206

Phone: 501-374-6300

Email:   pmiller@petermillerlaw.com

Website: http://www.petermillerlaw.com

The content of this blog was prepared by the Law Offices of Peter Miller, P.A. for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Law Office of Peter Miller, P.A. Attorney-client relationships can only be created by written contract.

Photo courtesy of 4774344sean@canstockphoto.com

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