With the growing popularity of health and wellness, more people are attempting to live a healthier lifestyle by increasing their level of exercise. With that, a lot more exercise equipment is being used at home or at a gym. While many people may exercise for years without suffering any injuries resulting from equipment use, in fact, thousands of people sustain injuries every day while using fitness and gym equipment.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 526,000 people are injured each year by exercise equipment. Of those, over 43,000 people face critical or fatal injuries. No one should suffer injuries, severe or fatal, without some form of recourse. If you or a loved one have been injured while using exercise equipment, you may have the right to seek compensation.
Reported injuries occur to people of all ages, young and old. Although most injuries may be minor, there are a number of injuries that are more severe, some include the following:
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
- Head and brain injuries
- Muscle and tendon strains
- Severe abrasions
- Face and eye injuries
Improper use, faulty equipment, and poorly maintained equipment can lead to a wide range of different injuries. A common equipment involved in fitness injuries is a treadmill. The design of treadmills can pose a significant danger to users. The treadmill belt can be misaligned or improperly tightened, safety features may be missing, such as an auto-stop function, and there may be hanging cables that create an increased risk to children (e.g., Exodus Tyson, daughter to former boxer Mike Tyson, who was fatally strangled when her neck was caught in a cord hanging from the treadmill console).
In addition to treadmills, stationary bikes have been reported to cause several severe injuries. Several reports indicated that injuries resulted from the stationary bike’s missing or broken pedal straps, improperly attached seats or handlebars, or exposed gears and belts that hooked into a piece of clothing or skin. Without adequate notice of a stationary bike’s substandard conditions, users can be at risk of unforeseen harm.
Other equipment such as resistance bands, free-weights, and large workout machines have the potential to cause serious injuries. Resistance bands are popular products that are used at home and at fitness facilities. While they are effective, inexpensive, and easy to use, resistance bands pose a hazard if the band slips, breaks, or snaps under tension. The result of any of these actions can cause severe cuts upon impact to the face or other body part, and loss of vision and/or eye if direct contact is made.
As with other weight lifting equipment, such as free-weights (dumbbells, barbell, or other free moving weights), common injuries come as a result when weight racks, cables or bars are damaged, defective, or worn. Injuries can become even more severe when using larger workout equipment. Pulley systems, stair climbers, and elliptical machines create an increased risk of harm when they are poorly designed, improperly installed, malfunction, or simply, tip over. Such was the case in 2011, Barnhard v. Cybex Intern., Inc., when Barnhard, a therapy assistant, was leaning on a 600-pound Cybex Leg Extension Machine. While using the machine for stretching, the machine tipped over on Barnhard crushing her neck. Barnhard was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of the accident. Although Barnhard was not using the machine for its intended purpose, the designer of the machine testified that stretching was common and thus foreseeable. As such, expert testimony determined that the machine was defectively designed, and that it could have been feasibly made safer and that the design defect was a substantial factor in causing Barnhard’s injury. In 2012, a $19.5 million settlement was reached with the manufacturer, Cybex.
Contacting a skilled attorney to assist you with cases involving fitness equipment is highly encouraged. If you are a member of a private gym or fitness center, the initial challenge is overcoming the waiver of liability. Nearly every gym or fitness center will require you to sign a waiver of liability when you become a member. The waiver is an agreement that effectively forfeits your rights to hold the gym ownership or management accountable for any injuries while using their equipment. If a claim is brought, the gym ownership and management will argue that as a guest or member, you “assumed the risk,” by knowing the risk of injury existed. A skilled attorney will understand the complex language and legal terms specified in the waiver of liability contract and know how to tactically seek recovery. For example, if the waiver is overly broad and attempts to avoid liability for any and all injuries on the premises, a court may determine the contract to be unenforceable for being too broad. In addition, if the contract seeks to avoid liability for intentional injuries it is likely not going to be upheld in court. It is also not likely for reckless conduct to be shielded from liability. If a gym owner knows that a piece of equipment, such as a stair climber, is not working properly and can cause harm, but fails to repair it or warn of the potential dangers, the owner’s conduct can be considered reckless and warrant liability.
If the exercise equipment is purchased and brought home, this could have significant impact on your legal theory for recovery. A purchased product that causes injury can warrant a product liability claim. This can create a potential claim against the retail store where the product was purchased or against the manufacturer. Oftentimes, a product liability claim involves a design defect, manufacturing defect, or failure to warn. In a design defect claim, the Plaintiff asserts that the entire batch of production for that product may be flawed insomuch that the overall design is defective. Similarly, in a manufacturing defect, the Plaintiff argues that the product departs from the intended design and renders that particular product defective, and thus unreasonably dangerous. In a failure to warn claim, the manufacturer or seller does not provide the user with adequate information to safely install or use the equipment. Therefore, the manufacturer or seller fails to warn users of potential dangers.
Matters may get more complex in a contributory negligent state such as North Carolina. If the guest or member was even 1% responsible for their injury, then he/she may be prohibited from seeking recovery from the gym. Having a skilled attorney by your side can increase your chances of recovery dramatically in exercise equipment cases. You may have a claim against the manufacturer, the retailer, the fitness facility, or a combination of the parties.
If you or a loved one was injured using fitness equipment please contact one of our personal injury lawyers. We will go over the best way to handle your situation and there is no cost for the initial consultation.