Gyms and fitness facilities aim to improve your overall health through physical activity. But they can also increase your chances of injury, based on exposure. (2) Simply put, the more you exercise, the higher your risk of injury. (3)
Still, gyms and fitness centers remain widely popular. One study found, “In America, over 60% of those aged 6+ years participated in fitness sports (e.g. treadmill, free weights, boot camp, group exercise classes) in the previous 12 months.” (4)
Causes of Gym Accidents
Despite their popularity, gyms are places where accidents happen all too frequently. The causes of gym accidents are numerous.
Among the most common are:
- Unqualified staff — An “under-educated” fitness instructor or trainer can facilitate serious injuries, with death as a possible outcome. For example, an unconditioned client may suffer a heart attack from using a treadmill. (5) (6)
- Infections — Failure to wipe down equipment after use could spread bacteria and other germs. Infections are also contracted by person-to-person contact, not wearing shoes or flip flops, or failing to wash hands and use sanitizers. At least eight infections can be contracted: staph, athlete’s foot, ring worm, colds and flu, plantar warts, impetigo, herpes, and hot-tub rash. A staph infection can be very serious. (7)
- Equipment malfunction — When equipment does not work properly you could get hurt if you use it. This could be either because it has not been well maintained or due to the quality of the equipment itself. (8)
- Broken Equipment — Frayed cords or snapped cables can cause burns or electrocution. Dislodged parts of equipment can strike you or crush a limb. Cracked or chipped edges on equipment can also penetrate and become lodged in your body. (9)
- Caught in equipment — Body parts can become caught in machines. For example, fingers can get stuck in treadmill belts. Or you could become entrapped in a pool drain. (10)
- Crushing — Being crushed by falling objects or dropped weights accounted for 16.3% of exercise-related injuries seen in emergency departments in one study. (11)
- Struck by equipment or wall — This is very common in boxing-related activities. It occurred in 47.4% of cases requiring a trip to an emergency department according to the study. (12)
- Falls — Falls accounted for 12.5% of fitness-related injuries in emergency departments in one study. Falls can occur while using motorized equipment, like treadmills. They happen most often during group classes. Slips and falls can also happen in locker rooms where floors may be wet. (13)
- Foreign objects — These can get into your body parts. A common example would be if you step on a shard of glass on the floor and it becomes lodged in your foot. (14)
- Poisoning or allergy — Chemicals used to clean or treat equipment, floor surfaces, or pools may result in harm to workers and gym members. This happens if chemical are not used or stored properly. Poisoning can even result from unfiltered water supplies. (15) (16)
If you or a loved one experienced injury due to a gym accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today.
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Gym Accidents Can Occur Through Negligence
Working out in fitness facilities and gyms can result in death, disabling injuries, long recovery times, and loss of income. Many of these cases involve negligence.
“Negligence is conduct that falls below a standard of care established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.” You must show the gym owed you a duty of care and didn’t provide it. (17)
Gym owners, operators, personal fitness trainers, and other employees can be held accountable for injuries to members and other visitors. They can be found guilty of negligence if you were injured while on their premises or working out under their guidance.
Here are a few types of gym accidents resulting from negligence:
Faulty Gym Equipment
When physical inspections of all equipment and areas of the facility are not performed regularly, serious hazards could arise. (18)
Let’s say you step on the treadmill. It begins moving then suddenly speeds up, causing you to fall off. Or, worse yet, suffer a heart attack.
Gym owners and operators must keep up with physical inspections of the treadmill. If repairs were not made, or were inadequate, they can be held accountable for your injuries.
Injuries by Trainers
One of the primary concerns of the fitness industry involves inadequate education and experience for fitness trainers. When they do not have adequate knowledge, they can create fatal situations.
Trainers should be able to assess your physical condition before any fitness workouts. “Certain individuals may be at a higher risk of injury due to injury-prone biological characteristics.” (19)
Gym owners can be held responsible for any injuries suffered on their premises, especially if they knew — or should have known — of the hazard leading to your injuries. (20)
Suppose records show a gym owner knows there is an overload of multi-plugs to power equipment, but fails to remedy the situation. If a fire breaks out, and you suffer serious burns or lung damage from smoke inhalation, the owner can be held accountable.
Other Gym Members
The behavior of other gym members also could result in injuries or deaths. Gym members under the influence of drugs, alcohol, steroids, or who are fatigued or stressed can create hazards. (21)
New York State Law
Among the most serious threats to gym users are the risks of stroke or heart attack. To help prevent these injuries and save lives, state governments pass laws affecting health clubs, gyms, and spas.
New York State deems health clubs and staff to be a “public access defibrillation provider.” The law requires ready access to external defibrillators at gyms. It also requires the gym to have certified staff or volunteers on hand who can use those defibrillators.(22)
If your gym does not have working defibrillators and properly trained and certified staff, they are breaking the law.
Personal trainers should conduct pre-exercise screenings of members. This helps identify pre-existing conditions, and risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. If no pre-exercise screenings are done, or are done inadequately, there may be grounds for a lawsuit. (23)
Who Is Responsible for Your Gym Accident?
Owners and staff of gyms are not automatically liable for injuries from a gym accident. Responsibility for your injuries hinges on two factors: duty versus assumption of risk and primary assumption of risk. (24)
Each person is held “to a standard of care of an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent person under the same or similar circumstances.” This “applies to sports or recreational activities where ‘conditions or conduct that otherwise might be viewed as dangerous often are an integral part of the sport itself’ and their removal would alter the nature of the sport.” (25)
For example, if you are middle-aged, sedentary, and overweight, it appears obvious your physical condition increases your risk of a heart attack. Therefore, if you engage in a strenuous workout at a gym — with or without a personal trainer — you are accepting responsibility for any possible injuries.
It is a different matter altogether if you are young, in good physical condition, and have no known underlying health conditions. In this case, when you engage in strenuous exercise, you have no reasonable expectation of injury as an outcome.
You have not necessarily assumed the risks. So, if you are injured, it could be due to negligence.
If you or a loved one suffered due to a gym accident, contact us to understand your legal rights.
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Filing a Gym Accident Lawsuit
Gym accident cases based on negligence are highly complex and require a thorough understanding of the law and its applications.
The services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can prove invaluable to the outcome of your case. Your attorney can help you to determine if you should file a lawsuit and take the necessary steps to do so.
In New York City, the person suing (plaintiff) must file their lawsuit in the proper county. “If no party has residence, employment, or transacts business within the City, the action must be filed in the county where the cause of action arose.” (26)
Filing your lawsuit involves submitting applying to the clerk of the court. The clerk issues a summons and complaint to be served on the defendant. The defendant normally has 20 days to file an answer. Once the defendant has filed an answer with the court, a court date is set. (27)
What Happens If You Signed a Liability Waiver?
To try and avoid lawsuits, sometimes gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs require you to sign a liability waiver as a condition of using their facilities. However, you may still be able to sue them under New York State’s General Obligations Law.
This law stipulates liability waivers for negligence are invalid. They are “void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable.” (28)
Compensation for Gym Accident Cases
Many times, lawsuits are resolved out of court by reaching a negotiated settlement. If your case goes to court, and you win, you also may be awarded monetary compensation.
Monetary compensation from a lawsuit can be for:
- Lost wages — If you cannot work or lose your job due to your injuries.
- Medical bills — Expenses and treatments related to your injuries.
- Pain and suffering — Due to mental and physical suffering from injuries. For example, mental anguish, humiliation, or embarrassment over disfigurement, impairment, and inconvenience.
- Property damage — To compensate for the loss of property or for the expense of repairs.
- Punitive damages — As punishment when a defendant’s behavior has been particularly egregious.
To achieve the most beneficial outcome for your case, it is important you obtain an attorney who is experienced and knows personal injury law inside and out.
How W&L Can Help
Weitz & Luxenberg’s team of personal injury attorneys has experience with complex negligence cases. Here is a sample of our successful case outcomes:
- W&L landed a high six figures settlement for our client struck by falling luggage from an overhead bin on an airplane.
- W&L won a $13.34 million judgement for our client hit on the head with a baseball bat and dragged outside of a bar by the bouncer.
- W&L obtained a multimillion dollar settlement for our client who fell from a second story walkway, because the apartment building owner failed to install any barriers along its outer edge.