Many people in the Rockford area, including many people who work in our office, participate in family events like the Muck Fest and the Muddy Princess. These mud and obstacle races are both fun and challenging.
These activities are also risky and injuries are extremely common. Often, these injuries are no more than sore muscles, mild dehydration or twisted ankles. Other times, the injuries are much more serious, like broken bones or even head injuries.
Event organizers have a legal duty to make the race course as safe as possible. If they fail to do so, they could be legally responsible for medical bills, emotional distress and other damages. However, these claims are quite complex, because most racers sign waivers. Therefore, it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced Rockford personal injury attorney.
For more than 20 years, Illinois law has imposed one of the highest legal duties in the country on Winnebago County property owners. In 1995, lawmakers closed the “licensee” legal loophole. As a result, landowners have the same duty of care regarding both race participants and cheering onlookers.
This responsibility usually includes a duty of reasonable care. The property owner must ensure there are no extremely dangerous hazards on the race course. That’s a very fine line in something like a mud race. However, there are some obstacles and mudslides that are so dangerous, the owner should not allow them.
Furthermore, property owners have a duty to frequently inspect the premises. They simply cannot turn runners loose and let them fend for themselves.
Additionally, to obtain compensation, victim/plaintiffs must prove the landowner knew about the dangerous condition. Sometimes, there is direct evidence on this point. Some common “smoking guns” include government safety inspection reports and internal emails warning of certain hazards.
Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) is also admissible on this point. To determine constructive knowledge, most Winnebago County courts use the time-notice rule. The longer the hazard existed, the more evidence of constructive knowledge there is.
The victim/plaintiff must establish knowledge, and all other points, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Liability Waivers in Mud/Obstacle Races
In most cases, all participants must sign liability waivers. The language varies, but generally, these waivers say the race sponsor is not responsible for any damages. A waiver is not a get out-of-jail free card. The waiver just makes the assumption of the risk defense easier to establish in court. That’s assuming the waiver is valid to begin with.
Many liability waivers are against public policy and therefore, void. It does not matter what the language says or does not say. If the race organizer collects money from participants, insists that they sign waivers and refuses to let them participate unless they sign, the court may throw out the waiver without even reading it.
The language is important as well. Most waivers are not voluntary agreements. Instead, they are take-it-or-leave-it contracts of adhesion. If the terms are completely non-negotiable, the waiver was arguably not voluntary.
Rely on Dedicated Attorneys
Even if you signed a waiver, you may have a legal claim for damages following a mud race injury. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. You have a limited amount of time to act.