Florida parasailing operators often use liability waivers or releases to attempt to escape responsibility when customers are injured under their care. Another common defense parasailing operators try to use to escape liability is the assumption of risk defense, meaning that the customer “assumed the risk” and is liable for his or her own injuries.
Pre-injury releases do not always provide the defense that negligent parasailing operators rely on. Courts consider pre-injury releases to be against public policy in cases where an operator ignores laws that are meant to prevent accidents.
The Florida Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime Lawyers at Brais Brais & Rusak (“BBR”) specialize in representing injured clients against parasailing operators and jet-ski rental companies that require their customers to sign pre-injury releases. When a tourist’s parasailing adventure turns into a tragedy and he or she finds themselves in a trauma center with life altering injuries, parasailing companies and their lawyers are immediately preparing to defend themselves with pre-injury release forms, assumption of risk defenses, and even with old Maritime laws like the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act. A good Maritime attorney knows how to get around these common defenses in order to help injured clients and their families hold negligent business owners/operators liable so that they can start to heal and get their lives back on track.
In 2014, following several tragic parasailing accidents, the Florida Legislature passed a parasailing law called the White-Miskell Act; named after two women who were killed in separate parasailing accidents. New parasailing laws, along with other boating related laws and regulations, provide safety guidelines for operators to follow, and provide Maritime attorneys with solid evidence of negligence when operators fail to comply with a statute or regulation.
To prove that a parasailing operator is negligent, usually it must be proven that the operator violated a duty that was owed to the customer. One typical duty owed is the duty of “reasonable care”. Operators commonly argue that they were using reasonable care, but that parasailing is a dangerous activity and accidents happen, and the customer signed a waiver acknowledging that they were assuming the risk of the inherently dangerous activity. A skilled attorney that makes a successful “negligence per se” claim will cause the court to replace the “did he act reasonably” standard with a standard more like “was a law violated that was intended to prevent this injury”.
Negligence per se standard
Owners of businesses providing high risk recreational experiences can be found “negligent per se” when they failed to comply with a law and their non-compliance may have contributed to someone’s injury if the law is one that was intended to prevent that type of injury from happening to that type of person. In other words, if a law was meant to protect a parasailer from injury resulting from an accident which occurred while parasailing in 25 miles per hour winds, and that parasailer is injured because the operator violated the law by operating in 25 miles per hour winds, that operator may be found negligent per se and even a pre-injury release will not allow the operator to escape liability.
Similar arguments have also worked in jet-ski injury cases, boating accidents, and diving and snorkeling accidents, among others. Brais Brais & Rusak have succeeded at compensating injured clients even when confronted with pre-injury release and assumption of risk defenses.