Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.
Imagine that you are hired as a shark handler. Part of your job involves submerging into large aquariums and retrieving sharks. One day, while retrieving a tiger shark, you are bitten in the leg and experience significant injury. Thereafter, you file a case against your employer based on negligence, or their failure to ensure your safety in a reasonable manner. However, the employer claims you were aware of the risk of a shark bite. The employer further argues that these risks are generally associated with the position, and it is not fair for you to sue. The employer's argument is an example of the assumption of risk doctrine.
The assumption of risk doctrine states that in instances where a person knows of the risk of an activity, that person accepts the risk when voluntarily engaging in the pursuit. Therefore, that person cannot sue for damages based upon injuries which arise from the given activity. In other words, if you know that doing something poses a risk of harm and then you sustain an injury while engaging in it, you may not later sue for damages as a result of your injuries.
Generally, when the assumption of risk doctrine applies, it is necessary that the plaintiff (the person who received the injury and is filing a lawsuit against another party) does not meet certain elements if they wish to win the case. The most important elements of assumption of risk are that the person voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risks inherent to the dangerous activity. Furthermore, it is necessary for the defendant (the person the lawsuit was brought against) to demonstrate that the plaintiff knew of all risks at the time of the injury.
The assumption of risk doctrine applies to various types of activities. Professional sports activities, such as tackle football, are examples where the players assume the risk of an injury. It is generally known that one can sustain an injury when playing touch football; therefore, if someone gets hurt, that person usually cannot file a lawsuit. Other types of activities include working with dangerous animals, handling explosives, or engaging in high-risk activities like bungee jumping or scuba diving.
If you engage in sports, recreational activities, or other risky behaviors, chances are you are assuming the risk of a known injury. When this happens, you cannot usually turn around and sue for your injuries. If the courts allowed such a case to be filed, it would be unfair and result in an injustice. Therefore, the assumption of risk doctrine bars people from suing another person when making a risky choice in their activities.
Lesson at a Glance
The assumption of risk doctrine states that in instances where a person knows of the risk of an activity, that person accepts the risk when voluntarily engaging in the pursuit. Therefore, one cannot sue for injuries that may occur. Going to court would be unfair and result in an injustice.
After learning about the assumption of risk doctrine, you should be able to explain why one cannot go to court in those instances when this doctrine applies.
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