Kids and adults alike enjoy the strength, flexibility, and discipline that can be gained in martial arts classes. Martial arts can also be a lot of fun. But like any athletic pursuit, they also involve a degree of risk. Participants should know the risks and keep in mind that they may not be covered by insurance or other legal protections in the event that they are injured while they practice.
Martial arts classes and liability waivers
Every martial arts course asks its participants to sign waivers of liability. The risks of injury in a martial arts class are fairly obvious. Participants may get injured simply attempting a strenuous move, like a kick or falling roll. They may also get injured during routine practice with other participants. Grappling styles like judo or jiu-jitsu involve close contact throws, leg locks, and other movements that can trap and turn joints in awkward ways. “Striking” styles like kung fu or karate can lead to accidental punches and kicks that can cause significant injuries.
Many liability waivers are enforceable with respect to foreseeable injuries like these. A waiver typically will also specify that the participant assumes the risk of injury. The assumption of risk is an important legal defense in any personal injury case. Where the injured plaintiff knew about the risk of injury involved with an activity, but went ahead anyway, lawyers for the defense will have a sound argument that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury and therefore the defendant is not liable.
Where liability waivers might not apply
A typical martial arts program is a safe and friendly environment, even if competition is intense. There are at least two cases where a waiver of liability might not be relevant in an injury. The first is if an instructor does something that is particularly irresponsible and causes an injury. For example, if an instructor (that is, an agent of the business that runs the program) ignores a participant’s cry of pain and continues to complete a move that causes serious injury, the instructor may be committing an act of negligence that could give rise to liability.
A clearer cut example would be if someone involved in a class deliberately tries to hurt someone else. A waiver cannot excuse deliberately bad behavior, like purposefully punching someone with the intent to harm, or deliberately throwing someone onto a hard surface knowing that they likely will be hurt. Thankfully such cases are rare, but if they do happen it’s important for the injured person to talk to a personal injury attorney.
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured at a martial arts case and you would like to speak to an attorney about whether you have a legal case, we are happy to provide a free attorney consultation. Call us today at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.