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Who is Liable for Skydiving Accidents?

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Published in Liability on April 10, 2017.

Some leisure activities inherently entail a degree of danger. Skydiving is one such activity, and while many people consider skydiving the ultimate adrenaline rush, it is incredibly dangerous and relies on several important considerations. Skydiving accidents often result in death, and a victim’s surviving friends and family may wonder if there are options for legal recourse.

Assumed Risk

Most companies that offer leisure activities or other potentially dangerous pursuits typically require customers to sign a waiver or release of liability prior to engaging in these activities. While such waivers tend not to hold up in court, the concept of assumed risk usually plays a role in personal injury and wrongful death cases against skydiving companies or similar organizations.

If a customer chooses to engage in an activity despite the apparent risks, the law says the participant is “assuming the risk” of the activity. The customer essentially assumes responsibility for any injuries that may occur by engaging in the activity. However, there are several caveats to this concept. Assumed risk is the only viable defense for a skydiving company if they can prove every proper precaution and safety measure was taken, and the customer suffered an injury due to his or her own improper action. Additionally, the customer must be made fully aware of all potential risks.

Assumed risk is not a defense for negligence. Skydiving requires an experienced staff, a competent pilot, and carefully prepared equipment. Failing any of these things could result in customer injury or death. Injured parties who followed all the rules will need to prove the skydiving company or its staff were negligent in some capacity, resulting in an injury.

Proving Negligence

To prove negligence, the plaintiff (the person suing) must show a court that the defendant (the person or party being sued) had a duty to act with reasonable care, violated this duty, and the plaintiff’s injuries and damages directly resulted from this breach of duty. For skydiving accidents, the skydiving company has a duty to provide skydiving jumps with all applicable safety precautions and provide their service with responsible care.

An inattentive or intoxicated pilot, irresponsible staff member, improper plane maintenance, or poorly packed parachute could all potentially spell doom for a skydiver, and any of these examples could potentially lead to a lawsuit against the negligent parties. For example, if a pilot does not have the proper level of experience to facilitate a skydiving jump, he or she may be found liable if poor piloting is deemed the cause of death or injury. If the company didn’t properly maintain the plane or did not have necessary safety equipment such as seatbelts and restraints, it could be held liable for improper maintenance.

Wrongful Death

When someone suffers an injury due to another person or party’s negligence, the injured party may file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage, and lost income. If the victim dies from his or her injuries, the surviving family members will need to file a wrongful death claim to obtain fair compensation.

While similar to personal injury claims in many ways, wrongful death claims function a bit differently. Each state has unique laws and statutes surrounding wrongful death. In some states, only certain family members or a representative of the deceased’s estate may file a claim. Additionally, most states impose a two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. In most cases, this two-year window begins on the date of death.

Skydiving accidents can lead to very complex lawsuits. If you find yourself involved in such a situation, connect with a reputable, experienced attorney. The concepts of negligence and assumed risk will likely play major roles in any resulting lawsuit, so it is vital to have a personal injury attorney who understands these laws and can navigate your case successfully.

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