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Can you still sue if you were injured during a dangerous activity?

Some activities inherently come with a certain amount of danger. But the adrenaline rush of rushing down a snow-covered mountain on skis or playing football goes way beyond watching it all on TV.

Generally, the risks that go with dangerous activities can sometimes get in the way of an injury claim. While the injuries can still be traumatizing, taking a tumble down a ski slope is something you can anticipate when you decide to try skiing. This is the legal principle of "assumption of risk."

There are, however, times when you are participating in a dangerous activity and you are injured in a way that is not part of that assumption. Here are some key things to know about injury claims and participation in a dangerous activity.

Uncalculated risks

Most of the time, when you participate in a dangerous activity, you have an idea of the ways you could get injured. You may expect injuries from a fall when you are ice skating or from colliding with someone when playing football or hockey. You also expect that the people around you will take precautions to avoid unnecessary risks.

This "duty of care" that other participants observe was part of a recent ruling in the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding an injury a snowboarder inflicted on a skier. The court found that the snowboarder's lack of care was not one of the risks the skier assumed when she decided to participate in the activity.

An altered application of assumption of risk

For a long time, the assumption of risk has been a defense to protect potentially liable parties from personal injury claims. But cases like the snowboarder/skier case in Minnesota have been narrowing that defense. In other words, in Minnesota, when you decide to do something dangerous, that doesn't mean you assume the risk of danger caused by others' careless or reckless conduct.

A decision like this one serves to help people injured during dangerous activities by narrowing the assumption of risk defense. Future cases involving injuries from dangerous activities will look at questions, including:

  • How often do injuries like this happen during this activity?
  • Will fewer people engage in this activity out of fear of litigation?
  • What obligation did the other party have for being more careful?

Just because you are involved in a dangerous activity, does not mean that you assume any injury that happens. If another party acts wrongfully, you may still have a claim.

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