Gym & Fitness Center Accidents
Many people turn to gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs to keep active and in shape. When we hit the gym, we expect to leave feeling sore. After all, no pain no gain, right? Minor injuries are a risk of working out. We might stretch that hamstring just a little too far and end up feeling it the next day. What we don’t expect in the gym, however, is to have a free weight fall off of a rack because it wasn’t secured and cause a serious head and neck injury.
When you injure yourself taking it a little too far when you work out, you may only have yourself to blame. But when a fitness center injury occurs because the owner, operator, or staff is negligent in some fashion, you may have a claim for compensation.
The owners or operators of gyms, fitness centers, or health clubs have a responsibility under premises liability law to keep their premises safe from reasonably foreseeable types of hazards. That means keeping equipment in good working order, securing objects such as free weights that could cause injury if left lying around, cleaning up puddles of water and spills in locker rooms, and making sure there’s adequate security so that patrons don’t become the victims of violent crimes.
If you were injured in a gym, fitness center, or health club, a personal injury attorney with experience handling premises liability cases can evaluate the circumstances of your injury and discuss your options for making a claim. An attorney can be an invaluable asset in negotiating a fair settlement with insurance companies, or in filing and trying a lawsuit if that becomes necessary.
Negligence and Liability
If the gym owner or operator knew about safety issues and failed to either correct them or warn you, and you were seriously injured as a result, the owner or operator may be deemed negligent, and you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and other damages. How much money you recover and for what types of damages will depend upon the circumstances of your individual accident, but generally speaking you may be able to recover payment of your medical bills, lost wages, loss of normal life, pain and suffering, and disability and disfigurement.
However, the Illinois Premises Liability Act, 740 ILCS 130, says that the gym owner or operator may not be liable for your injuries if any of the following are true:
- You knew about the unsafe condition that caused your injury before you had your accident
- The unsafe condition was open and obvious and you should have noticed it
- The gym owner or operator didn’t know about the unsafe condition and it was not of a type that could be reasonably foreseen
- You misused the premises in some way that created the unsafe condition that caused your injury
Waivers and Disclaimers
Another circumstance that may restrict or bar you from recovery of your damages is the existence of a signed waiver of liability. Because injuries always are a risk when you use a gym, gym owners or operators typically will ask you when you join to sign a waiver absolving them of liability in the event that you are injured. Sometimes these waivers may prohibit you from suing even when your injury was caused by the negligence of the owner or operator. An Illinois appellate court in 2013 said that a waiver releasing a gym from all liability for any loss or damage was valid and that the trial court was right to dismiss a member’s lawsuit over an injury that left him quadriplegic, Hussein v. L.A. Fitness, 2013 IL App (1st) (2013).
Whether a waiver of liability prevents you from making a claim will depend upon how the waiver is written and the circumstances of your accident. An experienced Chicago personal injury attorney can review the waiver you signed and discuss with you how the waiver affects your ability to make a claim.