Northern California Lawyer Explains Hidden Dangers at Vacation Destinations and Assumption of Risk


Amazing_Hawaiian_BeachA Citrus Heights couple’s Hawaiian vacation turned tragic after Mike Droter made a fateful decision to jump into the ocean one last time. Mr. Droter and his companion were in the final days of a vacation in Hawaii when Mr. Droter decided to enter the ocean to body surf. According to news reports, mere minutes after entering the water a wave crashed over Mr. Droter, breaking several vertebrae and causing damage to his spinal cord. This left Mr. Droter paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without assistance.

Vacation Destination Dangers

Vacations offer individuals the opportunity to unwind and participate in fun, exciting activities in which they might not otherwise have the chance to participate. Scuba diving, parachuting/parasailing, and body surfing are just some of these exciting and dangerous activities. Aside from the physical dangers, these activities can also present legal difficulties in the event the participant is injured or killed.

Chief among these legal difficulties is the assumption of risk doctrine. This doctrine holds that an individual who participates in certain risky activities “assumes the risk” of personal injury presented by these activities. A defendant who might otherwise owe a duty of care to an injury victim would owe no duty to protect the victim from harm. For example, if a person is injured while playing football by an opposing player who roughly tackles him or her, the victim would be found to have “assumed the risk” by playing football and he or she would not be permitted to recover any damages from the opposing player.

The assumption of risk doctrine does not apply in situations where the activity’s or circumstance’s dangers are not readily apparent, but the doctrine of comparative negligence can still work to the victim’s disadvantage. Under this doctrine, an injury victim’s own negligence will offset the amount he or she is able to recover from the “at-fault” party. The judge or jury hearing the injury victim’s case will determine the extent to which the victim and any defendant(s) are responsible for the victim’s injuries by assigning a certain percentage to each party (up to a total of 100%). The victim-plaintiff’s percentage of fault would reduce the compensation he or she would have otherwise received. For example, if a victim suffered $100,000 in damages but was determined to be 25% at fault in causing the accident, then the maximum amount of compensation he or she could receive would be $75,000.

Safety Tips While on Vacation

Californians who are traveling near or far for a vacation of any length should remember that accidents can happen in even the most idyllic of settings. It is important to exercise the same degree of caution (perhaps even more) when walking, driving, or going about one’s day on vacation as one would at home. In addition, before partaking in fun or exciting (and potentially dangerous) activities, one should take time to understand the risks involved. Failing to do so can leave one in considerable pain physically, financially, and legally.

See Related Blog Posts

From the Playing Fields to Extreme Sports, Part Two: Overcoming Defenses in Recreational Injury Cases

(image courtesy of Javier Robles)

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