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What Is Assumption of Risk in a Personal Injury Case?

December 30, 2020

Personal injury lawsuits can be very complex, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. There are many legal doctrines and concepts that can complicate, reduce, or even prevent you from securing the compensation you need to recover.  What is assumption of risk in a personal injury case?

One doctrine is the assumption of risk, which can prevent you from winning your lawsuit if the court believes you placed yourself in harm’s way. Hiring a Denver personal injury attorney can help protect you against this defense tactic in the courtroom, but it is important to understand what assumption of risk means and how to avoid implication.

The Definition of Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine that states that a plaintiff cannot hold a defendant legally responsible for his or her injuries if the plaintiff knowingly placed himself or herself at risk of injury. There are two types of assumption of risk you can face in the courtroom: express and implied.

  • Express assumption of risk occurs when you acknowledge that you were aware of the risk prior to the accident. Usually, express assumption of risk takes place when you sign a written contract or liability waiver.
  • Implied assumption of risk applies when you knew of a risk and exposed yourself to it anyway, but you did not sign or make agreement prior to the accident occurring. For example, if you play a basketball game, you implicitly accept the risk of injury during the normal course of the game.

To prove assumption of risk in Colorado, the defendant will need to provide evidence that you fully understood the nature and severity of the risk involved in the activity. The defendant will also need to prove that you chose to participate in the activity anyway, meaning that you voluntarily accepted the risk.

Are There Exceptions to the Assumption of Risk?

There are some situations where assumption of risk is invalid. In cases involving implied assumption of risk, the assumption does not extend to actions that occur outside of what is typical to the activity. For example, if someone intentionally pushes you to the ground during a basketball game and you break your arm, you can hold him or her liable for injuries because those actions were not part of the game. You did not assume that risk when you decided to play the game.

If you signed a waiver or agreement that rises to the level of express assumption of risk, the court will assess whether or not the harm that occurred exceeded the scope of the agreement, such as gross negligence or intentional harm. In addition, liability waivers must contain clear language to communicate the risk of harm to the signee. If a person or entity buries the waiver in a large contract or uses confusing wording, the waiver may not hold up in the courtroom.

What Happens If a Defendant Proves Assumption of Risk?

If the defendant in your accident claim successfully proves that you expressly or implicitly assumed risk, you may lose your opportunity to seek financial compensation. Depending on the situation, the court may bar recovery entirely or reduce your settlement award by the percentage of liability you share.

To protect yourself against accusations of liability and the assumption of risk, it is important to seek the help of a Colorado personal injury lawyer. Your attorney can evaluate your case and determine if express or implied assumption applies to your claim. If possible, he or she can build a compelling case to defend your right to compensation and prove that these rules do not apply to your situation.

As soon as you seek medical attention for your injuries, contact a Colorado personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Your lawyer will explain your legal options and initiate your first steps toward compensation.

Contact us today to discuss your case needs.

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