One of the most common reasons for emergency room visits for kids is injuries due to sports activities, such as organized sports like football, soccer or basketball. Also, in the past 10 years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of indoor sports gyms and centers geared for kids. Common indoor sports activities include bounce gyms, kids’ play centers and fitness/exercise gyms, such as gymnastics or martial arts.
When a child in Pennsylvania or New Jersey suffers a serious injury at one of these types of sports facilities, one of the first issues is the waiver of liability. Parents often ask, does the waiver of liability I signed affect my child’s legal rights? or will my child be able to bring a lawsuit against the sports gym?
Waivers of Liability in Pennsylvania and New Jersey Injury Lawsuits
In general, courts in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey treat waivers of liability similarly. They are usually applied against adults, but are NOT usually applied against children. In the vast majority of cases, a parent signs a waiver of liability on behalf of their child. This is usually done prior to starting the activity. Courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey tend to uphold a waiver of liability against the person who actually signed the waiver. Therefore, the waiver is likely to be upheld to bar the parent’s claim. But with respect to a child’s claim, the waiver is not likely to be upheld.
The distinction between a parent’s claim and a child’s claim is often misunderstood. Under PA and NJ law, a child who is injured in an accident like a sports accident has the legal right to pursue a lawsuit against the responsible, negligent party. The child retains full rights to compensation for the physical pain and any mental or emotional suffering caused by the accident and resulting injuries. The child’s parent or legal guardian has a separate legal claim which is usually limited to medical expenses and loss of the child’s services. This latter claim is a remnant of common law which applied in an era when children usually worked and provided income for the family.
Waivers of Liability for Adult Injury Cases
It’s important to note that the law regarding waivers of liability for cases involving adults is always changing. Historically, courts in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey applied waivers of liability to bar injury cases involving adults. However, in recent years, at least one court in NJ has not upheld a waiver of liability. See Walters v. YMCA (NJ Superior Court, 2014) (a gym patron slipped on stairs, but his waiver of liability did not bar his fall accident claim against the gym).
If you or your child was injured in a sports accident and you want to discuss whether a waiver of liability will bar your case, please contact our Pennsylvania and New Jersey injury lawyers. These cases are often fact specific and will require review by a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. (866) 641-0806 (PA) or Click To Call (NJ)
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.