Hotel bike accident...
While on vacation (12 hours from my home), I signed a waiver at the hotel desk before getting on the free bike. Within a block, the front wheel did something that made me fall off. It froze or locked up. I fell off and it resulting in a trip in an ambulance to the hospital, where emergency surgery was performed on my two broken arm bones.
Insurance covered the $35,000 hospital and ambulance fees, but I have been bedridden for 3 weeks and now have no feeling in part of my hand. I also have two permanent steel plates and 15 screws in my arm now. I am a housewife, but had to hire a house cleaner, cooks, laundresses, etc.
Since I signed the waiver to rent the bike, is any kind of legal action worth pursuing? The only witness was my husband, but he was riding in front of me and didn't see it happen. The hotel came and got the bikes before we were able to examine them. What can I do about this? Thank you for any information you can provide.
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ANSWER for "Hotel bike accident...":
While in most cases waivers and release of liability agreements are binding, even when the party seeking to enforce the waiver displays negligence and that negligence results in injuries to the party who signed the waiver, there are exceptions.
The circumstances upon which the courts may not enforce a waiver include a display of gross negligence stemming from wanton or willful conduct by the party seeking to enforce the waiver, when that wanton or willful conduct results in injuries to the party who signed the waiver.
Negligence is defined as the failure of the party seeking to enforce the waiver to exercise the care a reasonable, prudent person would take under the circumstances.
Gross negligence is an extreme form of negligence where the party seeking to enforce the waiver fails to exercise the care a party would normally take under the circumstances, and that failure was a result of wonton, malicious, or willful conduct.
Unfortunately, immediately after your injury the hotel staff took possession of the bikes before you were able to examine the bike you were riding. Without the bike you have no way of determining if the hotel was grossly negligent, or even simply negligent.
There is another route you can take in an effort to pursue a personal injury claim against the hotel...
While at this point you have no legal right to inspect the hotel's books, internal memos, incident reports, and other material which might show the hotel knew the bike was in a dangerous condition, and with that knowledge failed to take corrective action, that same material can be subpoenaed after a lawsuit is filed.
Because of the seriousness of your injuries, you would be well-served to seek the advice and counsel of a personal injury attorney. Most injury attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations. Moreover, personal injury attorneys normally do not charge any fees or costs in advance.
Instead, you would only have to pay the attorney approximately 33% of any settlement or court award he or she secures for you. If the attorney fails to secure a settlement or win the case at trial, you will owe nothing.
Learn about attorney compensation and contingency fee agreements here.
Go online and search for personal injury attorneys in your area. Make appointments with several of them. After visiting with the attorneys choose the one you are most comfortable with.
It also may be helpful for you to read Dr. Joyce J. Cotton's article on Recreation Management, "The ABCs of Liability Waivers".
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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