You go to the gym to get healthy. That pitch is right in each of the many names the facilities go by, such as health club and fitness center. But sometimes, that workout doesn’t go as planned.
In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says exercise equipment accounted for more than 409,000 injuries in 2021. That’s not including stretching injuries, falls, injuries that occur playing racquetball, tennis, or basketball, or any of other sports-related and exercise-related injuries that occur independently of gym equipment. So, what happens when you head off to the gym to build yourself up and end up hurt instead?
Are gym Owners and Operators Liable for Injuries?
If you’ve been hurt at the gym, you probably want to know whether or not the company responsible for operating the fitness center and maintaining the exercise equipment may be legally responsible. The short answer is “maybe.”
Was the Fitness Center Negligent?
First, a gym owner isn’t responsible for your injuries just because they occurred on gym property. In both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, personal injury claims are based on negligence. In other words, the facility would have to have done something wrong that caused or significantly contributed to the injury.
Some possible examples include failing to properly maintain equipment, not allowing safe distance between machines, or failing to clean up a slippery spot on the floor. If the company did breach a duty to you and that breach caused or contributed to your injury, the company may be liable.
Did You Sign a Liability Waiver?
Even if the facility acted negligently, you may be barred from recovering damages if you signed an enforceable liability waiver. The circumstances under which a waiver is enforceable varies somewhat from state to state.
Massachusetts law generally favors the enforceability of liability waivers. However, liability waivers don’t cover everything, and sometimes errors in the way they are written may render them ineffective. So, it is worth checking with a local personal injury attorney even if you signed a waiver. New Hampshire’s laws are stricter, and there is a greater likelihood that a liability waiver may be unenforceable.
Might Someone Else be Responsible for My Fitness Center Injury?
Whether or not the facility itself bears some responsibility for the injury, it’s possible that somebody else may be liable. Two of the most common examples include product liability on the part of an equipment manager or the liability of another gym user. But, there may also be other possible responsible parties.
Imagine that the injury occurred when a cable on a piece of exercise equipment snapped. If the cable snapped because the facility set up the equipment improperly or failed to maintain it, that liability might fall on the gym. If it snapped because you were using the equipment counter to the instructions, you might be at least partially responsible for your own injury.
However, if the cable snapped because the equipment was defective in some way – – perhaps the cable didn’t fit properly or was made of flimsy material – – the company that manufactured the equipment may be liable for your injury. Similarly, if the company failed to provide adequate safety warnings or instructions to allow you to use the equipment safely, that may also open them up to liability.
Unlike the gym owner, a manufacturer doesn’t necessarily need to have done something wrong in order to be liable. If your injury was caused by a piece of defective equipment and that equipment was defective when it left their hands, they may be liable even if they had no way of knowing about the problem.
Liability of Other Members of the Gym
Sometimes, the negligence that causes your injury isn’t the facility’s or yours. Sometimes, someone else who is working out near you or simply walking through the gym may negligently cause or contribute to your injury. That negligence could be something specifically exercise-related, such as leaving a piece of equipment in an unsafe position. Or, it could be as simple as dropping a weight on your foot or spilling a drink and walking away, leaving it for you to slip on.
What to do When You’ve Been Injured at the Gym
If you’ve suffered an injury at your gym, your first step should be to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. The attorney can review any waiver you may have signed and tell you whether it would apply to your injury and whether it is likely to be enforceable. The attorney can also help you determine whether parties other than the facility itself may bear some or all of the responsibility for your injury.
Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has been helping injury victims in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for decades. He has the experience necessary to build the strongest possible case on your behalf. You can schedule a free consultation right now by calling 978-459-3085 or number or filling out the contact form on this page.
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