Personal Injury Thoughts On The Daytona 500 Crash, Part 3
Continuing with our analysis of some of the liability issues involved in the recent Daytona 500 wreck that left spectators with serious injuries from flying debris, this post will look at some of the ways that NASCAR's standard disclaimers might not prevent the victims from seeking compensation.
In a nutshell, NASCAR and Daytona are not off the hook just because they say participants cannot sue them.
Even with disclaimer language in place, venues still have to take some basic steps to protect their customers. The exact obligations can vary depending on the circumstances and applicable law - but, in general, companies are still liable for unreasonably exposing attendees to danger. For example, an amusement park could not put a disclaimer on its tickets and then decide not to maintain its roller coasters.
In a case like this, the question might involve whether the Daytona racetrack knew of specific risks to its attendees. One possibility might be that the racetrack's managers knew that a high-speed pileup like this crash would break through the safety barriers and expose spectators to flying debris. If it nevertheless chose to keep the unsafe barrier instead of spending money to improve it, this might amount to negligence that falls outside of the company's disclaimer.
Some other claims might be available for victims. For example, if an investigation shows that the company responsible for the safety barrier built it with substandard materials or designs, that company could be subject to product liability claims. Premises liability arguments might also exist.
Regardless, most companies like NASCAR will take a proactive approach to these lawsuits. They often seek to avoid negative publicity by settling cases quickly - this gives victims the compensation they need to seek medical treatment without dragging out a lawsuit.
When considering a settlement offer, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Defendants might know more about their weaknesses and seek to end a potential lawsuit with as small an offer as possible.
Sources: Reuters, "Lawyers weigh possible legal fallout of Daytona crash," Casey Sullivan, Feb. 25, 2013; Charlotte Observer, "Daytona crash could trigger track changes to protect NASCAR spectators," Jim Utter, Feb. 25, 2013