Insurance companies and defendants use assumption of the risk, a legal doctrine, to try to deny injury claims. The doctrine holds that if a person is aware of a dangerous condition, they should not ignore the risk. The above sign is a clear cut example: if you walk on the rocks and are injured, you cannot blame the landowner.
Most would agree we should be responsible for the consequences of voluntarily participating in activities we know are risky. But what happens when a landowner puts up a sign on their property saying: “be careful where you step because we are not responsible for any injuries.” If you are injured on the property, can the owner rely on its warning?
In Georgia, assumption of risk applies when the person injured (1) had actual knowledge of the danger; (2) understood and appreciated the risks associated with such danger; and (3) voluntarily exposed himself to those risks. Daly v. Berryhill, S19G0499 (2020).
How is this decided? While each case has unique facts, a court will look at whether the evidence shows the person knew of the specific risk of harm associated with the activity that caused injury, yet proceeded anyway. If there is a warning sign, like the one above, you are going to lose. If there was a general warning or no warning, but using common sense might have disclosed the risk, then it is a closer question.
An example would be someone who goes skiing assumes the risk they will fall and break a bone. If this happens, they cannot sue the ski resort for such an injury. On the other hand, if the ski resort failed to properly maintain a path down the mountain, but had warned that the path might be dangerous, then successfully suing the ski resort depends on whether the skier was aware of the particular risk.
If you have an injury case that involves negligence and assumption of the risk, please call us so we can explain your options.