Increasing numbers of Americans have memberships to gyms, fitness centers and other workout facilities. Personal injury attorneys see many people who are injured as they work hard to get fit and stay healthy. Everyone knows that heightened physical activity carries the risk of accidents. At what point are facility owners, personal trainers and other individuals liable when gym patrons get hurt?
Before working out, make sure you are healthy enough to do so. If you’re sick, wait until you’ve made a full recovery before hitting the gym. Those who have been recently injured will need to approach exercise carefully as they get back into a workout routine. If you haven’t exercised in a while or anticipate especially strenuous activity, consult your physician first. As a general precaution, any health questions should be directed to a medical professional.
When you sign up for a membership to a gym, you will almost certainly need to sign a waiver. Waivers are also used by personal trainers, yoga instructors and others involved with physical fitness. The waiver is a contract which excuses the gym from any responsibility in the event you are injured. Generally, it covers any activity in which you might engage, such as fitness classes or using workout equipment. Because of the likelihood that someone will be injured, it makes sense for a gym owner to limit his or her liability. Georgia courts will, in most accident cases, uphold these waivers to bar financial recovery.
There are exceptions, however. For example, a judge could find that the language of the waiver is ambiguous or vague. If this is the case, the relevant terms of the waiver could be thrown out. Although this is one way to invalidate these contracts, most major fitness chains have adopted ironclad waivers to prevent this.
But, as personal injury attorneys will tell you, a waiver cannot excuse the gym from negligence. Georgia law doesn’t allow a facility to avoid liability in the event the accident was caused by its own negligence. If gym employees or management act in a negligent manner, causing you to be injured, the gym could be responsible.
There are numerous examples of negligence which patrons could encounter, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Poorly maintained or broken exercise equipment
- Failure to provide proper warnings or instruction on machines
- Wet floors and other hazards that cause slips, trips or falls
- Trainers or teachers who are unqualified or push you beyond your ability
- Saunas and hot tubs that are set at too high of a temperature
- Inadequate supervision at swimming pool areas
These and other situations can lay the foundation for a premises liability claim. You, as the customer, are entitled to a reasonably safe premises when you visit. This does not mean the gym has to somehow prevent all possible injuries. For example, countless people experience sprains and muscle strains because of overexertion. What the law is designed to prevent are unreasonable hazards, like allowing customers to use machines known to be malfunctioning.
Typically, there will be evidence the gym knew, or should have known, of the dangerous condition that caused an accident. That evidence might include:
- Other members previously notified the gym of the dangerous condition
- Witnesses who observed the faulty or broken piece of equipment which caused the injury
- Failure to include basic safety devices such as a defibrillator in the event of an emergency
- Improper staff hiring, training or retention
- Failure to perform routine maintenance inspections of machines
If you’ve been hurt, documenting this sort of evidence could be essential to defeating the terms of the liability waiver. Because every personal injury case can turn on its facts, personal injury attorneys need to know the facts concerning your accident. This includes medical records, as well as any documentation connecting you to the gym (such as the contract you signed). An attorney will be able to guide you as to what information is needed to establish your claim.
CONTACT OUR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE
Gyms have an obligation to keep their premises and their guests reasonably safe. If you have been hurt through no fault of your own, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The personal injury attorneys at Schneider Hammers have experience handling all types of negligence and premises liability claims. Speak to one of our dedicated professionals to get started.