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The most likely lawsuit brought against a martial arts school is for negligence. Negligence is simply having a duty to do something that will help maintain the safety of those present, and failing to fulfill that duty. Depending upon the State and the ideological bent of the Court in any given area, negligence may be easier or harder to prove.
Some areas of the U.S. are pro-business and understand that certain risks are so remote and fixing them so expensive, that the law does not require those measures be taken. Other areas are so pro-employee/consumer that a business owner may be found liable if someone is hurt in his business or during operations even if every conceivable precaution was taken.
Cases have gone to trial over spilled hot coffee in someone’s lap (it was too hot, the jury decided). On someone slipping and falling on a tile floor after he walked in from the rain (no sign was posted advising people walking in from the rain that the tile would be slippery when wet). Even criminals have won lawsuits when they broke into a business and were injured. It doesn’t matter who is hurt or what they were doing, if the danger existed, the owner was responsible.
At other times, in other places, what appears to be a strong case is lost at trial or overturned on appeal. A worker intentionally defrauded a customer, then injured the customer’s agent when he tried to repossess the customer’s car that the worker was using illegally. The Court refused to award any damages for the use of the car or the injury to the customer’s agent. There are undoubtedly thousands of what might seem like cases with merit that still lose.
Many lawyers are known to openly admit that the outcome of trial is a “crap shoot,” that it’s a roll of the dice and you never know what’s going to happen. To some extent, that’s true. If a case goes to trial, it means that both sides are committed to the fight, that both sides think they can win. When two good lawyers (or teams of lawyers) think enough of their case to fight it out in Court, the outcome is difficult to predict. However, 95% of all cases settle before trial.
Taking the issue of accidents step-by-step, the first general issue to consider is avoiding accidents. No matter the present situation with documentation or insurance, if no accidents occur, then there will be no claims. There are three key areas to consider:
1. Safety of the Training Area.
2. Safety of the Training Equipment.
3. Safety of the Training Techniques.
Safety of the Training Area
The first thing to do is evaluate the safety of your training area. Any potential dangers need to be addressed. If there is a tear in the mat that could catch someone’s foot, then it should be taped down or the mat replaced. Look at your school from the standpoint of a nit-picking safety inspector. Do not dismiss things as “good enough,” since, in a court of law, “good enough” often isn’t. Carefully explore both the actual training area and the rest of your premises.