Over the course of the past decade, military-style obstacle course races have become increasingly popular. In fact, as of 2013, an estimated four million people have participated in, and completed some form of non-traditional obstacle race. Considering the vast acclaim, many are already familiar with these extreme fitness challenges and recognize them as the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Race. Despite the overwhelming number of individuals participating in these races, many believe there exist some cause for concern. Essentially, long distance races accompanied by mud pits, climbing walls, fire and electric wires present an inherent risk; resulting in serious injury and even death.
The success of these events is undeniable. Annually obstacle course races generate over 200 million dollars. Promotion for these extreme races, emphasizes the aura of danger, physical hazards and the intensely challenging obstacles. However, the marketing ventures that parade these races as fun physical challenges, rarely target the fact that a significant number of race participants are non-athletes who do not take training seriously. Additionally, statistics show that while a large amount of the competitors are well-prepared, adrenalin junkie, fitness fiends, there is also a significant number of participants who are seriously under trained. Even those who do attempt to put in a significant time for preparation are not always ready for the intense physical demands of theses races. Interestingly, a study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine regarding the safety of these races concluded, “Unlike traditional marathon training, where the training enhances race-day performance and preparedness, obstacle races are nearly impossible to train for.”
Needless to say contenders who compete in these races recognize that there is a certain risk level. However, when caught in the heat of the moment, many competitors will overlook the hidden danger that can be posed by each obstacle. One may also conclude that the overwhelming number of individuals participating in these events creates an illusion which suggest that all obstacles are safe. Racers should not be fooled as this is far from the truth. In fact, these races have NO governing body or regulations in place to determine which obstacles are safe and which have gone too far! Consequently, numerous deaths have occurred at various obstacle races including the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race since 2011. In addition, there has been an ample amount of serious injuries ranging from hypothermia, paralysis and seizures due to electric shock and even neck and spine injuries which have left a number of people permanently paralyzed.
For those brave enough to push their bodies to the limits and endeavor the many obstacles, a waiver releasing liability must first be signed. So, in an attempt to limit their liability, these race corporations would like to argue that by signing a waiver, racers are aware of the risks involved and assume the consequences of any potential injury. Unfortunately, many do not fully understand that the waiver is intended to eliminate ALL liability of the organization hosting the race and its sponsors. That said, the question is; if a waiver is signed, can you recover monetary damages from an injury that occurs at a race such as the Tough Mudder?
The answer is simple, signing a waiver does not prevent you from recovering damages if an injury occurs. While the waiver may make recovery a bit more difficult, the enforceability of the waiver is a legal question left for the courts to decide. In fact, here in Arizona, assumption of risk is always a question for the jury at trial per the Arizona Constitution. That said, there are 3 questions the court must answer to decide if the waiver is enforceable:
1) Was the language used in the waiver clear and unambiguous?
2) Was the injury caused by, or the result of a reasonably related act that the waiver sought protection from?
3) Does the waiver or release violate public policy?
Generally, the enforceability of a waiver releasing liability is contingent on a variety of factors and most of them will not preclude recovery. Because these aspects can be extremely tough to access, it is crucial to have any waivers releasing liability analyzed by an experienced attorney to determine if the injured party has a claim.
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Contact Torgenson Law today if you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury as a result of another’s negligence. The legal process can be a complex one, and you will want an aggressive and experienced attorney fighting for the just compensation in which you deserve. Give us a call at 602-759-0012.