What to do about a work injury off the clock?

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What to do about a work injury off the clock?

I work in a gym. I was training with a personal trainer and during our training I tore my MCL and ruptured my ACL. I have been instructing my fitness classes and training my personal training clients without any complaints. The doctor said I was fine to return to work pending surgery and have the knee braced. The gym is telling me they are going to put me on light duty and I can no longer train or teach. They want to give me 15 hours a week at $8.00 an hour. I am a single person and take care all of my own bills. Do I have any recourse or are they liable in anyway? I would not be asking if they would just let me do my job. The piece of equipment we where using has not sign saying do at own risk or sign a liability waiver.

Asked on June 14, 2012 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you were off the clock--training on your own time, not as part of your job--then forget about the fact that this gym is your employer: that is irrelevant if you were not injured in the course of employment.

If you don't have an employment contract, your employer may reduce your pay or hours at will, for any reason (or even terminate you); certainly it is valid to reduce your hours and change your duties to avoid any risk of liability if you were injured, based on your pre-existing condition, while doing your job. The employer does not have to take the risk of a worker's compensation claim or lawsuit from you if you, for example, blow out your knee while training clients/customers.

If you feel that the trainer or the gym were negligent (or unreasonably careless) in some way in causing your injury, you could try suing. However, from what you write, you are not likely to recover money: unless the machine were defective, since you are a trainer yourself, you would know how to use the machine safely. Therefore, if you used it despite whatever inherent risks that sort of exercise may always have, you would be deemed to have assumed the risk of injury and/or to have contribued to your own injury, which would reduce or eliminate your ability to recover compensation--plus, you'd have to show that the gym or trainer was careless (negligentn) in some way, and would have no claim at all if you could not.


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