Recently, a 14-year-old girl passed away after a go-kart accident outside the Texas Motor Speedway, where she was participating in a go-kart race. The race was sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America. The girl’s go-kart kept going after she crossed the finish line and crashed through a low fence. Her helmet fell off when she crashed. Although she was airlifted to a hospital, she was pronounced dead afterward. It is not known whether the girl lost control because she suffered some sort of medical condition, or if the go-kart experienced a mechanical failure.
If the cause of an accident causing injury or death to a minor is mechanical failure, it may be appropriate to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. In Texas, a plaintiff bringing a product liability suit must prove the product was defective, the product reached the plaintiff without a substantial change in its condition, the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous, and the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries and resulting damages.
When a product liability suit is brought, your attorney will need to retain experts to prove whether there was a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect and to testify about whether there was a safer alternative design. When there is a manufacturing defect claim, the plaintiff’s expert must be able to testify that the product deviated from its planned specifications. When there is a marketing defect, the plaintiff will have to show that the product lacked an adequate warning.
What if you did not buy a go-kart or other recreational vehicle with a product defect? In some cases, it may be appropriate to sue the entity responsible for your child’s use of a defective vehicle for negligence. However, cases involving go-karts or other potentially dangerous recreational activities often include the issue of a liability waiver.
Individuals are often asked to sign a liability waiver before taking part in an activity, such as renting go-karts for a race. The waiver is likely to state that the creator of the document is released from any liability in case of injury. Whether or not a liability waiver is enforced depends on a number of factors.
If your child was injured or killed after participating in a potentially dangerous activity and a waiver was signed, you should be aware that people under 18 cannot legally be party to a contract. Minors have until two years after their 18th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. However, this issue may be complicated in the case of a wrongful death suit brought by parents who have signed a liability waiver.
In general, liability waivers don’t stop someone from filing a lawsuit for damages. Whether or not the waiver is enforced in the case of a parent suing after signing a waiver depends partly on the language of the waiver. The language must be plain and easily readable by the person signing it. When a waiver’s language is purposely ambiguous or difficult to read because it includes very small text, the courts may find it void and unenforceable.
When you sign a liability waiver, the defendants are not automatically excluded from liability. For example, those that operate go-kart rentals should still be taking care to make sure their go-karts are operating properly and are adequately maintained within reason so that those who rent them are not placed at high risk of injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to an injury in a go-kart or other recreational vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.