Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk is a legal defense to most types of accidents and personal injury claims.  The defense of assumption of risk provides that if you knowingly engage in a particular activity that results in your injury, and you engaged in that activity with full knowledge of the risks involved, then you may have assumed the risk of being injured and should not be allowed to sue and hold anyone responsible for your injuries.

Dangerous Activities

If you decide to partake in certain dangerous activities, you are assuming the risk of being injured. For example, if you go skydiving, you are assuming the risk of being seriously injured.  Even if your parachute opens and your skydiving instructor executes perfectly and everything goes as planned, you may still have a rough landing and injure your legs when you land.  If you break a leg on landing, you would have a difficult time suing the skydiving instructor or school for your injury.  By partaking in the activity of skydiving, you assumed the risk you knowingly assumed that you would suffer a serious leg injury. 

Dangerous Products

Certain products are obviously dangerous and there is an element of assumptive risk in using the product.  For example, if you use a blow torch, there is an inherent risk that you may be injured.  If there is a clear and conspicuous warning on the blow torch, then you are clearly using the product with full knowledge of the risks involved.  If you were to burn yourself, it would be difficult to bring a claim against the product manufacturer on the ground that the blow torch was a defective or unreasonably dangerous product.  If, however, the blow torch did not work properly and that was the cause of your injury, then you might have a much stronger claim.

What if the Other Person Was Negligent?

Even if the defense of assumption of risk is asserted by the person you are suing, you may still be able to recovery financial damages, including payment for your medical bills and pain and suffering, under the rule of comparative fault.  Under the rule of comparative fault, the relative fault of you and the person you are suing is apportioned according to your fault, and you can recover financial damages based on the percentage of fault that is apportioned to the other person.  In the previous skydiving example, if your leg injury was due in part to the skydiving instructor’s negligence in using a parachute that was not large enough to carry the weight of both of you, then you may be able to bring a claim notwithstanding that you knowingly assumed the risk of injury inherent in that activity.

Public Policy

The rule of assumption of risk is based on a public policy of holding people accountable for their own decisions and knowingly engaging in an activity that is highly likely to cause a particular type of injury.  The rule must still be balanced against the public policy of holding people accountable for their negligent or careless conduct.