Assumption of the Risk in California Personal Injury Cases

When someone is injured while playing sports or engaging in another recreational activity, the injured party may be able to seek financial compensation for their injuries against the responsible parties through a California personal injury lawsuit. However, the doctrine of assumption of the risk can act to bar some plaintiffs’ lawsuits when the activity at issue is inherently dangerous and comes with well-known risks.

Sand DunesThe idea behind the assumption of the risk doctrine is that plaintiffs are in the best position to avoid known risks associated with certain activities. If a plaintiff choses to disregard a known risk and engage in the activity nonetheless, courts will not hold a defendant liable when a plaintiff is injured due to the presence of a known risk. However, there are exceptions to the assumption of the risk doctrine, one of which is when the defendant creates an additional risk that is not normally present when engaging in the recreational activity.

A recent California personal injury case illustrates one plaintiff’s attempt to establish an exception to the general assumption of the risk rule. While the plaintiff was unsuccessful in convincing the court, the case is important in understanding the assumption of the risk doctrine.

The Facts

The plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a romantic relationship. For fun, the couple would occasionally go on dirt biking trips. The plaintiff was a less experienced rider than the defendant, who had been riding since he was a child.

One day, the defendant wanted to ride out to a sand dune about two hours away. The plaintiff was skeptical because she had fallen while riding in sand in the past and did not want to expose herself to that risk again. However, the defendant assured the plaintiff that the road to the dune was hard-packed dirt the entire way. The plaintiff agreed to go.

The couple made it to the dune without a problem, traveling across hard-packed dirt roads along the way. Once the couple got to the dune, the defendant began riding up the dune. The plaintiff was uncomfortable but had noticed that the faster she went, the more control she had, so she increased her speed to about 30-40 miles per hour and followed the defendant. As the plaintiff began descending the dune, her rear tire began to fish-tail. She lost control of the bike and was thrown over the handlebars and onto the ground. The bike landed on top of the plaintiff, and she was paralyzed as a result.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. The plaintiff acknowledged that the assumption of the risk doctrine applied to dirt bike accidents, but she claimed that the defendant’s conduct in promising her the ride was hard-packed dirt the whole way and encouraging her to follow him exposed her to additional risk.

The court disagreed, noting that the defendant’s promise about the road surface was correct up until the dune. At that point, the court held, the plaintiff could clearly see that the trial was no longer hard-packed dirt and had turned to sand. However, she continued nonetheless. At this point, the court held, the plaintiff assumed the risk of proceeding. Thus, the court held that the defendant did not expose the plaintiff to a heightened level of risk, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Have You Been Injured in a California Motorcycle Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a California motorcycle accident, or while engaging in some other form of recreation, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The assumption of the risk doctrine may come up in your case, but the doctrine does not preclude recovery except in a small number of cases. The dedicated California personal injury attorneys at Sharifi Firm have extensive experience handling all types of California personal injury cases, and we are prepared for all defenses. Call 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated California personal injury attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Off-Duty Los Angeles Police Officer Arrested after Fatal DUI Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2017

California Car Accident Plaintiff Misses Out on Opportunity to Cross-Examine Defense Medical Expert, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2017

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