What Is Assumption of Risk?
Assumption of risk is a legal defense that is often employed in offshore injury claims, as well as in other dangerous occupations. Employers, boat owners, captains, and others will attempt to make themselves immune to lawsuits by claiming that their employees knew the risk of their jobs, and thus cannot sue others when those risk factors result in injury.
This defense hinges on a simple premise: when you signed your employment contract, whether it was for working on a commercial vessel, fishing boat, or jack-up oil rig, you were informed of the general danger of your occupation. When you knowingly began your job, you were assuming the risks inherent to your dangerous line of work. The defense implies that any injury you sustain will be a result of your choices because you knew what you were getting into.
For employees in naturally dangerous jobs, this is a frustrating legal principle. If you are unable to ever sue your employer for incompetence that leads to injury or harm, how will they ever be made accountable? More importantly, who will provide for you to get better or take care of your family if you are severely harmed? Immunity from liability is unfair to injured workers.
The good news is that assumption of risk does not always apply. In fact, it is not a blanket immunity from liability for employers and vessel owners, and it does not give them free rein to act negligently. In order for assumption of risk to apply, you must have been fully aware of the specific risk that directly led to your injury. Simply working on an oil rig is not enough reason for you to bear the burdens of your injuries. Your employer still has a duty of care.
For example, if you are injured because equipment came loose and struck you on a rig, your job’s inherent risks would not bar you from pursuing litigation. It would only bar you if you were aware of the loose equipment and walked under it anyway. In the end, assumption of risk is intended to keep workers from suing employers for their own negligence.
If you have any questions about your offshore injury case, Arnold & Itkin offers free case evaluations to give you guidance and discuss your legal options. Schedule yours today.