Affect of Release Agreements In Skydiving, Parachuting, and Parasailing Activities

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 What Are Recreational Accidents And Injuries?

Recreational activities are activities that people engage in for leisure, most commonly during their free time or while on vacation. Recreational activities can include a variety of different activities such as:

  • Snowboarding or skiing;
  • Hiking, diving, or rock climbing;
  • Dirt bike riding or ATV riding;
  • Camping or rafting;
  • Skydiving, parachuting, and parasailing;
  • Hunting or range shooting; and
  • Sports, such as basketball, tennis, soccer, football, and baseball.

In legal terms, “recreation” is associated with more casual activities done simply to pass the time or as a hobby. If an activity is performed for money or profit, that activity will typically become a profession.

Although many recreational activities are considered to be generally non-aggressive, some recreational activities can be considered aggressive. For example, injuries from recreational activities such as hunting or range shooting can often result simply from the nature of the activity. In addition to injuries the activity caused, a third party’s actions may also result in injuries being done to another party.

Examples of common recreational accidents and injuries can include:

  • Simple muscle strains or sprains;
  • Cuts, burns, abrasions, or bruises;
  • Broken bones, fractures, brain injuries, or death; and
  • Skin rashes or exposure to outdoor allergens or toxins.

What Are the Legal Consequences for Skydiving, Parachuting, and Parasailing Accidents?

State laws will typically treat these accidents as negligence when it comes to the legal consequences of skydiving, parachuting, and parasailing accidents. This is especially true when an injury occurs due to a party failing to take or implement proper safety precautions. Besides possible criminal charges, an individual can also face civil liability for injuries they cause to others as a result of skydiving, parachuting, and parasailing accidents.

For an injured party (i.e., a plaintiff) to recover a damages award for injuries sustained due to someone’s negligence, they must first prove each and every element of negligence.

The elements of a personal injury claim based on the theory of negligence are:

  1. Duty: First, an injured party must prove that the other party owed them some duty. In legal terms, duty is the responsibility one person owes to another.
    • An individual’s duty is the level of care an ordinary and reasonably prudent person would do in the same situation. In the case of a skydiving, parachuting, or parasailing accident, an individual has a duty to ensure that proper safety precautions are used to prevent injuries. For example, safety harnesses must not be defective and must be properly used, etc.;
  2. Breach of Duty: Next, the injured party must prove that the other person or business breached their duty of care. A breach occurs when an individual’s level of care falls below the level required by their duty to others.
    • To continue the above example, if a business fails to ensure that their safety harnesses and equipment are utilized and non-defective, that person will likely be considered to have breached their duty of reasonable care by not ensuring proper safety equipment is used;
  3. Causation: Next, the injured party must demonstrate that their injury resulted from the other party’s breach of duty. To prove causation, the breach of duty must cause the plaintiff’s injury.
    • In the ongoing example, if the business or individual that rented equipment or assisted in skydiving, parachuting, or parasailing failed to perform the activity or use proper safety equipment properly, they would have breached their duty of reasonable care. If that breach then caused injury to another person, then causation would be proven; and
  4. Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered quantifiable damages.
    • Although the injury suffered by the plaintiff can vary, typical damage claims include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, or emotional damages.

What Is the Effect of a Signed Release Agreement?

Most recreational companies that provide skydiving, parachuting, and parasailing activities will require the participant first to sign an exculpatory or release agreement that will prevent the company and its agents from being sued or responsible for any injuries resulting from the activity.

However, an injured person may still be able to sue for a recreational or sports injury depending on how the injury occurred and whether or not they actually signed a consent form. A consent form is a legal waiver that releases the organization or person from liability if an injury occurs during the recreational activity. In some cases, an injured person who has given their consent by signing a waiver may ultimately be prevented from recovering compensation for any injury they suffered.

In most instances, recovering for personal injury damages when a signed release agreement is difficult. Nonetheless, an injured person may still recover from personal injuries suffered in the following circumstances:

  • If the recreational business or its employees acted with gross negligence. This means that the business or individual failed to take reasonable measures even a careless person would attend to, such as securing or utilizing safety equipment; or
  • If the recreational business or its employees acted with wilful or wanton misconduct. This means that the business or its employees purposely acted improperly; or
  • If there is an available contract defense present at the time of the agreement, such as a minor signing a contract without a guardian, etc.

An individual who sustains a recreational injury may sometimes be able to sue an organization or individual for negligence in the causation of the injury. Once again, negligence is the failure of a person or business to use the level of ordinary care that a person in the same or similar circumstances would use.

An injured plaintiff who proves that a defendant is liable for their injuries under the theory of negligence is entitled to compensatory damages. According to personal injury law, a plaintiff can recover two types of damages: damages for the injury itself and damages for the consequences of that injury. Additionally, there are two types of compensatory damages, known as general and specific damages.

General damages are awarded based on the damages caused by the injury itself. General damages typically include:

  • Damages for pain and suffering;
  • Damages for mental anguish; and
  • Damages of trauma related to the injury.

General damages cannot be readily assigned a monetary value. As such, to recover general damages, the testimony of an expert such as a licensed doctor or psychiatrist will be necessary to assign a monetary value.

Special damages are the damages that compensate an injured party for a specific consequence of an injury. Specific consequences include medical bills, prescription bills, lost wages, and claims for a loss of wages. Specific damages can be assigned a precise monetary value. For example, a doctor’s bill lists the total amount of payment due, and a pay stub records a plaintiff’s earnings and can be used to determine the amount of wages lost due to the injury.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Hunting Accidents and Civil Liability?

If you are the victim of a skydiving, parachuting, or parasailing accident, you should immediately consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to explain your legal rights and help you initiate a civil claim against the party responsible for your injuries.

On the other hand, if you are a recreational business or an agent of the business that caused injury to another person, consulting with an attorney is also necessary to protect yourself from possible civil liability. An attorney will be able to assert any applicable legal defenses and represent you in court.

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