When Getting Healthy Becomes Hazardous: Accidents in the Gym
It seems the news is full of stories lately about the need for Americans to exercise more in an effort to get healthy. Being healthy is important to living a long and happy life, but what about risks associated with exercise? Regardless of how careful a person is, there is an unavoidable risk associated with the use of exercise equipment and certain bodyweight movements. People get injured every year, and personal injury lawsuits are filed to hold the responsible parties accountable. In an effort to reduce this risk, many join gyms under the belief this is a safer alternative to working out alone. They assume operators know how to set up equipment, and personal trainers understand how to properly instruct clients on equipment use and exercise in general. Most of the time, these gym-based workouts are fine, and no one gets hurt, but when accidents do occur, they can be severe. A woman in California suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling off a treadmill and striking her head on another piece of equipment. She filed a lawsuit against the gym operator for the permanent injuries she suffered, claiming a failure to properly space apart the equipment caused her brain damage. When a person incurs an injury as a result of using gym equipment or participating in a group exercise class, the liability of the owners and/or instructors needs to be assessed to determine who is at fault.
Premises Issues – Faulty Equipment
All property owners in Florida have a legal duty to keep the premises in a safe condition so visitors avoid injury. This need is especially great at an establishment like a gym that opens its doors to the public, and contains items that can easily injure someone if not properly maintained. This duty includes a responsibility to regularly inspect the premises for hazards and to warn customers about the existence of dangers. One risk that is particularly prevalent at gyms is malfunctioning or defective equipment. Gym equipment is expensive to replace, so gym operators try to hold onto expensive equipment, like treadmills and weight lifting machines, as long as possible. This tendency can present major problems when aspects of the equipment, like safety features, stop working. Gym-goers should keep an eye out for these issues to protect themselves from harm.
Once an injury occurs, though, the injured party needs to show the gym failed to maintain the premises properly and this failure led to the injury. Some questions to ask in this analysis include: Was the equipment left broken for long period of time? Was a sign posted warning of the malfunction? Did the gym regularly service the machine, if such service is required by the manufacturer? If any of these questions are answered in the affirmative, the gym operator may be negligent and accountable for a person’s injuries. One important caveat on a gym’s liability is the extent to which the member caused his/her own injuries. Florida law limits how much a party must pay in damages by the degree to which the party is at fault. Thus, if the member had a hand in his/her injury, the gym would not pay for the entire amount of damages sustained.
Another common source of gym-related injury is improper instruction by personal trainers. Trainers hold themselves out as knowledgeable in exercise instruction, and gym members reasonably assume if they seek their advice injury is less likely. However, there are many fitness certification programs in existence, but not all provide a good quality education. Gym operators have a responsibility to only hire qualified trainers with recognized certifications and a history of injury-free instruction. If a gym operator failed to verify whether the trainer held certifications or if the certifications were legitimate, an injury that arose out of that trainer’s instruction could be the responsibility of the gym owner for negligent hiring.
If you suffered an injury during a workout at a gym, do not wait to learn your legal options. Delaying can lead to lost evidence and fading memories that can derail your case. The lawyers at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado have years of experience in litigating a variety of personal injury cases, and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the office today for a free consultation.