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Rent-a-Scooter Businesses Raise Personal Injury Concerns

Businesses offering fast, low-cost rentals of bikes (both conventional and motorized) and scooters are becoming a common feature in cities around the country. Being able to hop onto a scooter and zip across town is a great convenience for customers. But because scooters on busy urban streets can be dangerous, the risk of personal injury raises questions about how liable the rental business may be for their customers’ injuries. For someone injured while riding a rented scooter, there are several considerations that may come into play in any ensuing litigation.
  • Service contracts probably limit liability.

Probably the most important way a rent-a-scooter business manages its risk is by requiring its customers to agree to lengthy terms and conditions that undoubtedly will include some form of waiver of liability. Such waivers are usually enforceable, even if the rent-a-scooter company has committed ordinary negligence. For example, if the last customer to ride a scooter leaves it at the rental stand with a punctured tire, and the next customer is injured when the tire goes flat at a bad moment, a waiver of liability might protect the company. That may apply even if an employee of the company inspected the scooter in a reasonably responsible way but didn’t see the puncture.
  • Assumption of risk.

A corollary to a waiver of liability is the inherent riskiness of riding a scooter. In fact, the rental contract probably includes a specific acknowledgment that the customer is assuming the risk of injury. For many types of accidents, the customer’s assumption of risk will be clear. For example, everyone knows that a scooter that gets struck by a larger vehicle is at a significant disadvantage when it comes to personal injury. Assumption of risk may not protect the rental company against suits arising from injuries that the customer could not have foreseen at the time the contract was signed.
  • Gross negligence and willful misconduct.

A rental company still bears liability for behaving especially badly. In the example above, the employee who inspected the punctured tire saw the damage but ignored it may have committed gross negligence by allowing the scooter to be rented again. Even more clear-cut would be the case where the employee allowed a customer to ride away on a damaged scooter with the intent that the customer be injured. A contract cannot waive a business’s liability for wrongful acts of this sort.
  • Insurance considerations.

Before renting any type of vehicle the customer should take a moment to confirm that insurance will cover injuries that happen while on the road. Rental companies probably offer some form of insurance, but its coverage may be limited. People who plan to routinely rent scooters as part of their regular transportation should consider taking out personal policies to provide additional coverage beyond what the rental company provides, both to cover their own injuries and the possibility of injuries to others.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and auto accident cases. If you have been injured while using a rented scooter and you need help sorting through your legal options, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Suing Cruise Ship Operators for Personal Injury

Suing Cruise Ship Operators for Personal Injury
Even though Nevada is landlocked, many Nevadans enjoy taking ocean cruises. Like any other big venue, a cruise ship can present hazards to guests. A passenger could slip and fall on a wet deck. Passengers could get sick thanks to unhygienic conditions in the ship’s galley. Someone who suffers a serious injury that requires expensive medical care and time off work will need to work with a personal injury lawyer to overcome the challenges involved with pursuing lawsuits against a cruise line.

Liability waivers and other contract provisions complicate recovery

Cruise ships are a kind of common carrier. Common carriers owe passengers the highest duty of care to prevent injury. Many cruise lines ask their passengers to sign waivers of liability for accidents that happen in connection with different activities on the ship or during off-ship excursions that the cruise line arranges. The enforceability of a liability waiver can be a vital preliminary issue in any personal injury case. Federal maritime law restricts the applicability of liability waivers in some situations. Under 46 U.S.C. §30509, the owner or agent of a vessel transporting passengers between two ports cannot limit its liability for a passenger’s personal injury or death that results from the negligence of the owner or the owner’s employees or agents. For example, a passenger who was injured while participating in an on-ship simulated surfing attraction was able to move forward with a lawsuit despite having signed a waiver of liability specific to the attraction. Johnson v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., 448 Fed. Appx. 846 (11th Cir. 2011). But owners are allowed to disclaim damages for emotional distress, mental suffering, and psychological injury. Cruise lines may not be responsible for the actions of contractors and operators of off-ship attractions. Even though a cruise line can’t limit its liability for its own negligence, under some circumstances it may not be liable for the negligence of third parties. For example, a cruise line was not found vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent catamaran tour operator in Henderson v. Carnival Corp., 125 F. Supp. 2d 1375 (S.D. Fla. 2000). But in Smolnikar v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., 757 F. Supp. 2d 1308 (S.D. Fla. 2011), the court allowed a lawsuit to go forward where the plaintiff alleged that the cruise line was negligent in how it selected third-party excursion operators.

Applicable law, venue, and other roadblocks

Any lawsuit against a cruise line must also contend with a host of complex legal issues. Cruises are governed by maritime law, which is a broad term covering a blend of federal, state, and even international rules. A passenger’s contract will specify which jurisdiction’s laws apply to it. Companies will often specify that they can only be sued in a particular state or, quite often, only in a foreign country. Cruise lines can also try to steer passenger disputes into arbitration, where options for recovery can be more limited. The attorneys for injured plaintiffs will need to address some or all of these issues as part of a case, often with the help of lawyers in other jurisdictions.

GGRM is here to help injured Las Vegas residents

The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have broad experience with personal injury cases. If you have been injured on a cruise we can help you get started with examining the complex legal questions involved in your case. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.

The Enforceability of Liability Waivers Under Nevada Law

The Enforceability of Liability Waivers Under Nevada Law
All sorts of businesses ask their clients to sign liability waivers before taking part in risky recreational activities. From bicycle tours to whitewater rafting and skydiving, companies protect themselves against lawsuits by asking their customers to give up at least part of their legal right to sue in exchange for participation. When someone who has signed a liability waiver gets injured during the covered activity, the enforceability of the waiver can be a significant barrier to recovering compensation through the courts.

What a liability waiver can cover

Liability waivers are a type of contract between the person waiving their right to sue and the person the waiver protects. Because they’re contracts, the specific language of waivers matters a great deal. Most of the time a company that asks for a liability waiver will have a form that provides the maximum waiver permitted by law. An enforceable liability waiver has several traits. First, it must be easy to understand. If it is written in incomprehensible legalese, so that ordinary people can easily misread it, a court will be more likely to throw it out. Second, its terms must be visible. Placing a waiver in fine print or hidden in a strange place, like on the back of a page, may render it unenforceable. Finally, a waiver can only limit a business’s liability for ordinary negligence.

A waiver cannot cover gross negligence or willful misconduct

A business cannot escape liability for the behavior of its employees and agents that is grossly negligent. Gross negligence is a legal standard that describes especially careless behavior in the face of a legal duty to show care toward another person. A skydiving operation might commit gross negligence by failing to follow proper procedures when packing parachutes. A waiver also can’t cover liability for willful misconduct. If an employee or agent of a business deliberately tries to hurt someone, the waiver alone won’t protect the business from liability (though other defenses may apply).

The person signing the waiver must understand the risk

The enforceability of liability waivers is predicated on an underlying idea that the person signing the waiver understands the risks they are about to undertake. In legal terms, the person signing the waiver assumes the risk of the activity. To assume a risk, a person must voluntarily expose themselves to the risk, and must have actual knowledge of the risk. If a person who signs a liability waiver doesn’t fully appreciate the risks involved in an activity, there’s a possibility that the waiver isn’t valid, because the person signing didn’t know what was being waived. See Renaud v. 200 Convention Ctr., 102 Nev. 500 (1986).

GGRM can answer your questions about liability waivers

In an ideal world we would all have a lawyer at our side to help us understand important contracts like liability waivers before we sign them. But the fact is that we all sign waivers with the hope that everything goes well. If you have been injured during an activity that was covered by a liability waiver and you have questions about how it may affect your legal options, the lawyers at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez are happy to offer guidance. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.

Pokémon Go and Personal Injury

Pokemon Go and Personal Injury
Mobile gaming has become a big phenomenon in recent years. Games, like other content on a cell phone, can be distracting. But some games are especially so. Pokémon Go and other “augmented reality” games of its type work by overlaying game elements on the real world. Players advance in the game by exploring for virtual objects to interact with using their phones. The potential for “distracted walking” accidents is brought to players’ attention when starting up the game app. Pokémon Go’s loading screen warns players to “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” And before playing, players are required to click-through warnings like, “Do not enter dangerous areas while playing Pokemon Go,” and, “Do not play Pokémon Go while driving.”

Developers protect themselves against liability

These games also require players to agree to terms of service that provide that players play at their own risk and disclaim liability for personal injuries that occur while playing. Because a user must affirmatively agree to the terms of service before being allowed to play, chances are good that this type of “click-through” contract will be enforceable in court. This most likely means that the developers of games like Pokémon Go aren’t likely to be held liable for the personal injuries of players. They have two strong arguments in their favor: first, that the player entered into a valid contract that waived the developer’s liability, and second, that the player assumed the risk of injury by playing in a dangerous manner. One can draw parallels between augmented reality games and virtual racing apps. Someone who stares at a phone while walking risks all kinds of injury, from simple trip-and-fall accidents to walking in front of an oncoming car. Like riding a bike, there are risks inherent in not paying attention to your surroundings. A careful developer will make sure to avoid placing game elements in places that are inherently dangerous, because doing so could expose them to claims that they deliberately encouraged players to take risks. Pokémon Go players are unlikely to find important game elements located on an airport’s runway. However, a developer could face liability if it knows that an existing game feature is located in a place that has become dangerous, for example by being turned into a construction site.

Playing games could reduce potential compensation

Someone who is injured while distracted by a game can expect their distraction to play a role in any lawsuit they bring against the person who caused the injury. Nevada’s modified comparative negligence rule provides that an injured plaintiff’s final award will be reduced by the percentage of fault that a jury or judge concludes was due to the plaintiff’s own negligence. NRS 41.141. For example, if a Pokémon Go player ignores a red light and steps directly in front of an oncoming car it’s likely that at least a portion of the fault for the resulting accident will rest with the player, even though the driver may have fault for not swerving or stopping. Bear in mind that the mere fact that someone was playing an augmented reality game when an accident occurred isn’t conclusive by itself. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review the specifics of an accident to determine the best path forward for an injured client. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. Our attorneys are available to answer your personal injury questions. For a free consultation reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.

Can Employers Disclaim Responsibility for Work-Related Injuries?

Can Employers Disclaim Responsibility for Work-Related Injuries?
People who work in Nevada may sometimes encounter an employer who asks them to agree that the employer is not responsible for providing them with workers’ compensation coverage, often in the form of a waiver. Before signing a document that purports to relieve an employer of obligations to provide coverage, workers should take a moment to understand when waivers are appropriate.

Nevada employers must provide employees with workers’ compensation coverage

Nevada law requires any person or firm that has an employee to provide that employee with workers’ compensation insurance. NRS 616A.230. An employer can’t simply disclaim its responsibilities to provide coverage. Allowing an across-the-board disclaimer would undermine the entire system. A disclaimer or waiver of coverage can be lawful where an exception places a worker outside the workers’ compensation system. In the right circumstances, a waiver is simply an acknowledgement that the worker fits within an exception and therefore is not entitled to coverage. NRS 616A.110 provides a list of specific people who are not considered “employees” for workers’ comp purposes. The list exempts specific categories of workers, some of which include a lot of working people. Here are a few examples of workers who are not “employees”:
  • People doing jobs that are both casual and not in the course of business of the employer.
  • Performers in stage shows.
  • Musicians hired for casual gigs not lasting more than two days.
  • Domestic workers.
  • Farm laborers.

Independent contractors are likely to be asked to sign waivers

Independent contractors are another important class of non-employees who will often be asked to sign a waiver of coverage as part of their contracting process. Nevada’s workers’ compensation statute defines an independent contractor as “any person who renders service for a specified recompense for a specified result, under the control of the person’s principal as to the result of the person’s work only and not as to the means by which such result is accomplished.” NRS 616A.255. The idea behind this definition is that the “person’s principal” is responsible for providing coverage. Although independent contractors can be covered under an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance in some situations, in others a self-employed individual can end up having to provide his or her own insurance.  Some employers try to inappropriately mischaracterize employees as independent contractors to avoid providing workers’ comp coverage and other benefits.

If a waiver is not lawful, fight it

An employer cannot get out of providing legally required workers’ compensation insurance by asking employees to sign inappropriate waiver forms. If this has happened to you and you are looking for answers, the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez may be able to help. For over 45 years we have worked with clients in the Las Vegas area get the benefits they deserve. For a no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Understanding Liability for Club Sports Injuries

The risk of injury is an unavoidable part of playing club sports. Tearing a ligament or breaking a bone while playing a game of amateur league basketball can be frustrating, but it can also be expensive for someone who doesn’t have insurance. When a sports injury has long-term consequences, like lost work time or extremely high medical costs, a lawsuit might be justified. In this blog we look at who might bear responsibility for sports-related injuries, and a few of the legal theories that might apply in such a case.

Who bears responsibility for sports injuries?

In the context of club sports there are several potential defendants in a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, more than one defendant might be appropriate. Perhaps the first that will come to mind in many situations is the club itself. As the organizer of an event, an amateur sports league owes participants an obligation to make sure the event is reasonably safe. An organization can fail to fulfill this obligation in any number of ways. An amateur soccer club might choose to hold its games on a badly maintained field. A baseball league might fail to provide sufficient batting helmets. Responsible sports clubs carry liability insurance to cover participants’ medical bills. The owner of the facility where sports are played is another potentially liable party. The owner or operator of a facility that is made available to the public has an affirmative duty to ensure that its premises are reasonably safe. For example, the owner of an indoor basketball court is responsible for slippery conditions caused by a leaky roof. If the premises owner provides equipment for use by the sports group, the owner may bear responsibility if the equipment is faulty. Finally, in some situations other participants may be liable. This is most likely to come up where one participant intentionally hurts another one. But it might also arise if a club supervisor has been especially negligent, for example by knowingly allowing a dangerous condition to persist.

Liability waivers and assumption of risk can limit recovery

A well-run sports club will require its participants to sign waivers of liability to forestall lawsuits. In Nevada, a waiver of liability is enforceable in cases of ordinary negligence. This means that the injured plaintiff needs to claim gross negligence to get past the waiver. Gross negligence involves more than just failing to take reasonable care; the defendant must have acted with blithe disregard for the safety of others. It might apply to the example above where the club supervisor knew about a dangerous condition and let the game proceed anyway. In a lawsuit the sports club may also argue that the injured plaintiff assumed the risk of injury by participating in the event. Assumption of risk applies where the plaintiff has voluntarily exposed herself to a risk she knew about at the time. Sierra Pac. Power Co. v. Anderson, 77 Nev. 68, 71 (1961). A basketball player who sees that a court is wet but plays anyway might fall into this category. So might an ice hockey player who gets injured in an on-ice collision with another player.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help

Hopefully someone who is injured in club sports will be covered by insurance, either the club’s or the participant’s personal insurance. But if a lawsuit seems like the only path forward to recover for expensive costs associated with an injury caused by a club’s negligence, an attorney’s help will be needed. Even in cases where the participant signed a liability waiver or assumed some of the risk of participating, a lawsuit can still be a necessary strategy. The attorneys at GGRM have worked with personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have questions about a club sports injury, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We’re reachable at 702-388-4476, or through our website.