Is This My Fault? A Guide To Navigating Liability In Case Of Injury At The Gym

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An active lifestyle is something that everybody strives to keep up. It leads to increased stamina, strength, and perhaps most importantly, happiness. There’s not much that compares to the endorphin rush that comes after a particularly intense workout. That said, there is a downside here. A study found that in the year 2012 alone, almost 460,000 people were injured while working out, which begs the question: whose fault is it? Join us as we discuss some of the most common situations that lead to gym injuries, and delve into the murky issues of liability in these cases.

Legal Liability In Case Of Injuries Sustained Over The Course Of A Workout

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Now, the first thing to clear up right out of the gate is that with very few exceptions, the gym is not liable if you don’t stretch, then put too much weight on the bench press, and end up tearing a pectoral muscle. The same goes for misuse of equipment. If you’re ever unsure of how to use an exercise machine safely, ask somebody. Better to risk that moment of awkwardness of asking someone for help than to end up injured or worse. It is important to note that the vast majority of gym injuries occur because exercisers fail to ask for a spotter, don’t stretch, or simply attempt to over-exert their muscles and go beyond their limits. These injuries are all preventable simply by employing common sense while working out.

Generally, if you exercise safely, stretch, and know your limits in the weight room, you can limit your own liability if you end up with an injury. As an added bonus, keeping this in mind will generally lead to a better, healthier, and more effective workout.

Now, if you have been working out in a safe and smart manner, and yet were still injured, legal liability might lie elsewhere.

Legal Liability In Case Of Equipment Malfunction

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Most gyms nowadays have a robust safety staff trained to ensure that each and every piece of equipment the gym has is maintained and completely safe– this is because gyms know that, in the case of a malfunction, they could be liable if it resulted in an injury. There can be mitigating factors here, but generally, if you are injured because of a malfunction in workout equipment, and the malfunction was not caused by you, but instead was caused due to the gym not performing adequate maintenance on the equipment, the gym will be at fault. Furthermore, if it can be proven that the gym knew, or should have known about the faulty equipment, and did not do anything about it, liability in this case will always lie with the gym.

Legal Liability In Case Of Inadequate Upkeep

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In addition to equipment maintenance, gyms, like any other public spaces, have a responsibility to ensure that any dangerous surfaces are clearly marked. If you are injured after slipping on a mop trail on the floor that was not marked by the gym, the gym is almost always liable as well. Again, this is another reason why most large gyms have a large maintenance staff– they are responsible for making sure that there are no jagged edges on the lockers, that all slippery spots in public areas are marked, and that generally, the gym is a safe space not just in the weight room, but across the entirety of the building. Again, if there’s a dangerous area in the gym, and the gym does not do anything to warn people or fix the situation, liability will lie with them.

Legal Liability In Case Of Negligence Of Other Gym-Goers

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We’ve all seen it before. The person who is doing curls in the squat rack, then drops his barbell loudly on the ground. They proceed to the bench press without picking up their weights. Now, imagine somebody trips on that barbell. Who is liable, the injured person, the gym or the irresponsible guy who left the weight on the ground?

There are many mitigating factors here, including the type of weight that was left out, the nature of the injury, and perhaps most importantly, how long the weight was left on the ground before it caused the trip and fall. If enough time passed that the gym knew about the dangerous situation (or should have known about it), liability will lie with them. Generally, however, this would be classified as negligent behavior not on behalf of the gym, but on behalf of the person who left the barbell out in the first place.

Hey, Can I Get A Spot?

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This is a touchy subject. Whenever anybody engages in any lifting exercises, it is imperative that they find a spotter to not only make sure their form is correct, but also to make sure that there is very little risk of injury, even when dealing with intense motions using heavy weights.

Most gym-goers know how to spot (but if you don’t, there’s a handy guide here!), but occasionally, even despite a spot, somebody does get hurt. Now, liability in this case can be tricky. The spotter would need to show negligence for liability to lie with them, but this can be difficult to prove. These issues most likely need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis since there are a lot of grey areas to deal with here.

The Best Way To Avoid Injury At The Gym?

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Once again, the vast majority of injuries at the gym are preventable with a healthy mix of stretching, diet, and common sense. If you are treating your body right at the gym and elsewhere, it will generally treat you right in turn, and in addition, be much less susceptible to tears, cramps, and other injuries that might get in the way of you achieving your health goals. So when going to the gym, always remember to listen to your body. If something feels wrong, stop. That way, if the worst case scenario occurs and you are injured at the gym, at the very least, you will be mitigating your liability. And of course, if you are injured while working out, or for that matter, anywhere else, call Therman Law Offices anytime at 312.588.1900. We’ll even skip leg day for you, if you need us to.