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Summer Camps: Suing for injuries despite the waiver you signed

Every parent who has a child that has participated in a sport or gone to any kind of camp is all too familiar with that piece of paper that purports to “indemnify and hold harmless” the school or camp for any injuries suffered by your child while participating in the sport or camp. The paper, known as a release or waiver, must be signed if the child wishes to participate, and these forms have become as ubiquitous as organized sports and camps themselves. The theory of assumption of the risk–the idea that participation in inherently risky activities denies one the ability to sue for harm caused by the very risk the activity involves–used to protect teams and camps from liability. However, waivers are routinely demanded today as a prerequisite for participation in almost any group activity in order to further protect the organizer/sponsor. But do they provide protection?

Your Denver Personal Injury Attorney stresses that waivers only protect the owner of a camp or team for injuries due to ordinary negligence. Acts of gross negligence or recklessness which cause harm are not protected and can still create liability. Furthermore, waivers themselves can be invalid if their content contains fraudulent material misrepresents the activity, or the terms are any way unconscionable. The format of a waiver can also make it invalid if the print is illegible, or unable to be understood.

Even when a child has special needs, as long as the camp had full knowledge of those needs, and of the child’s physical and/or mental limitations and disabilities, and still accepted the child into the camp, the camp is liable for any actions relating to those needs which caused the child harm. For example, the parents of a seven-year-old who was in a wheelchair but accepted to a city summer camp are suing the camp for gross negligence and recklessness for injuries she sustained when her wheelchair tipped over during a game, dumping her headfirst on a cement patio and resulting in traumatic brain injury. 

Your Denver Personal Injury Attorney points out that another reason for injuries at camps is inadequate medical care or an inappropriate medical response to an injury. This is the basis of a claim being brought by the parents of a teenager who contracted Lyme disease while at a YMCA Mohawk camp. The camp advertised that it would ensure protection against the disease, and their daughter had visited the infirmary several times with obvious signs and symptoms of Lyme disease that went untreated. Had the girl received immediate medical treatment, she would not have sustained the permanent injuries she suffers from today. Her parents are suing the camp for 41.7 million dollars.

A third reason for injuries at camps is negligent supervision. In order to establish this claim, a plaintiff needs to prove the following elements: (1) the defendant had a responsibility to monitor the child; (2) the defendant failed to properly supervise the child; (3) the child suffered harm from that failure, and the harm was foreseeable. A tragic example of negligent supervision is when a child drowns at a summer camp.

If your child is injured at a camp, do not assume that since you signed a waiver that you are not able to recover damages. Consult with Denver Personal Injury Attorney Jordan Levine about your rights.

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