If you walk through the streets of New York City, then you’ll inevitably run into someone in loose, comfortable clothing, headed for their favorite yoga studio with a rolled mat under their arm. Yoga has been acclaimed for its physical and mental benefits, but like most activities, there is always the risk of injury.
In 2017, the University of Sydney released the results of its research on yoga injuries. It found that yoga causes musculoskeletal pain in 10% of practitioners and exacerbates 21% of existing injuries.
While the thought of being hurt while indulging in such a common meditation practice sounds improbable, there have been reports of muscle and joint injuries as well as falls. Some forms of yoga are more strenuous than others. A study of yoga-related injuries in the U.S. between 2001 and 2014 found that people over the age of 65 have a higher rate of injury compared to other age groups. In addition, some injuries don’t manifest immediately: they develop over time.
The big question is: can you sue if your yoga instructor pushes you so far that you injure your back or tear a muscle? In many states, the ability to file a personal injury claim depends on the circumstances of your injury and whether or not you signed a liability waiver.
Liability waivers in New York State
Courts in other states often dismiss claims against gyms, personal trainers, and yoga instructors once a waiver has been signed, provided that it is not overly broad or unreasonable, and the instructor or the facility was not guilty of recklessness or gross negligence. The presumption is that accepting the terms of the waiver means that you also agree to accept a reasonable amount of risk.
New York is different. Under General Obligations Law § 5-326, a waiver of liability cannot be enforced if you sign it in conjunction with payment for participating in a recreational activity. In other words, if you pay for a class or membership, then New York law states that no owner, operator, employee, or agent can be exempt from a personal injury claim if you are injured. In addition, waivers of liability for minors are generally unenforceable in the state, so if your child is hurt while practicing yoga, then you will likely be able to file a claim.
Determining whether a yoga instructor or the studio that employs them can be held liable for your injuries can be complicated, as it depends on how the injury was incurred and whether or not you paid for the class or membership. A New York personal injury attorney will help you determine whether you have a claim and, if you do, take the necessary steps to get compensation.
Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, New York personal injury lawyer with over 36 years of experience. He offers free in-person initial consultations. You may reach his office at 718-329-9500. Visit www.mynewyorkcitylawyer.com to learn more.