Many people who go skydiving look forward to the rush of adrenaline that comes from jumping off a plane. Yet, skydiving is a risky activity, with even experienced jumpers sometimes suffering serious injuries or fatalities. A South Carolina man tragically died this past September, despite having previously completed over 1,000 successful jumps. Even those heavily experienced in skydiving can suffer from serious personal injuries at any moment.
Before you go skydiving, it is important to understand the risks and what you can do to prevent liability for your injuries. If you find yourself injured in a skydiving accident in South Carolina and want compensation, call the compassionate personal injury lawyers toll-free at HawkLaw, P.A. at 888-HAWKLAW to obtain a free consultation.* Our legal team can examine your case, explain your legal rights, and determine who is the liable party in your injury case.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Skydiving Accidents in South Carolina?
Most skydiving accidents result from human error — oftentimes from experienced skydivers trying to push their limits, but this is not always the case. Common causes of recent skydiving accidents include:
- Cutaway-low reserve deployment
- Incorrect emergency procedures
- Incorrect weight and balance calculations
- Medical-physical health
- Medical-mental health
- Non-turn related
- Low turn – intentional
- Low turn – unintentional
- Failure to keep proper airspeed during the flight
- Lack of oversight or enforcement from the FAA
Other causes can relate to no pull, pilot error, inadequate pre-flight safety checks, improper packing of chutes, low deployment, parachute malfunction, freefall collision, equipment problems (including defects), entanglement instability, canopy collision, and collision with an aircraft.
The lack of a skydiver’s experience, along with poor training, supervision, and inadequate directives by a skydiving instructor, can also contribute to a skydiving accident.
Who Can I Sue After a Skydiving Accident?
Whether or not you can sue after a South Carolina skydiving accident depends on the cause of your injury. Skydiving companies in South Carolina require skydivers to sign waivers of liability before the company permits them to attach themselves to a parachute to be ready for a jump. This document indicates the skydiver waives their rights to sue the skydiving company if they become injured.
However, signing a document does not mean you completely waive your right to sue because this waiver does not shield the skydiving company from liability if gross negligence contributes to an accident. The waiver also does not protect other potential at-fault parties who may contribute to the cause of a skydiving accident if carelessness, negligence, and/or recklessness can be proven. Liable parties may include:
- Skydiving company
- Equipment manufacturer
- Skydiving plane
Speaking with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who is experienced with South Carolina liability law and familiar with the ways a skydiving company or another party can be held responsible can help you to build a stronger case. Your attorney can assess your situation and determine whether or not you have the ability to successfully file a claim against a negligible party.
How Do I Prove Negligence in a Skydiving Accident?
When a party does not follow the appropriate standard of care or commits an egregious action that leads to an accident, this constitutes negligence. Negligence is one of the primary mechanisms you can use to sue someone in the event of a skydiving accident. However, in South Carolina, you must prove a party was negligent and can be directly linked to contributing to your injuries or wrongful death.
- Duty. Establish the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant and then prove the at-fault party owed a duty of care.
- Breach. Prove the defendant committed a breach in the standard of care.
- Causation. The plaintiff must successfully show the defendant’s breach of the standard of care that caused the injury.
Working with a skilled attorney who is experienced in South Carolina liability and product liability law and knows the steps to prove liability can go a long way towards your having a successful outcome of your case.
Can I Sue for a Skydiving Accident Even After Signing a Waiver?
Absolutely! You or a loved one can sue a skydiving operation for accident injuries even if you signed a waiver. The waiver you signed only protects the skydiving company; it does not protect against equipment failures and gross negligence. This means if you and your accident attorney can prove either of these, you can more than likely have success with a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim.
The law requires all skydiving operations to carry liability insurance. Individual instructors also often carry their own insurance policy as well. The state of South Carolina places a three-year statute of limitations for accident victims to file a lawsuit. The “clock” starts ticking on the date of the accident. In cases of wrongful death, the time restriction begins on the date the accident victim passed away.
There are some exceptions that may shorten or lengthen the statute of limitations. We recommend you speak with an experienced accident attorney as soon as possible so you know your rights, which can help you to make your decision.
Plan to Go Skydiving? Here’s How to Prevent Skydiving Injuries
Planning your day of skydiving activities is exciting. Being proactive about safety will go a long way toward preventing injuries. Good rules of thumb to follow should include the following steps.
Research Your Skydiving Company Thoroughly
All skydiving companies should obtain certification through the United States Parachute Association (USPA). Also, check to see if the company is legitimate through thorough research, and then speak to people you know to get referrals and check online reviews. The USPA’s website is a great research tool to use to choose a good skydiving center.
Read Your Waiver or Release Agreement Carefully
Anytime you must sign a legal document, always read it in its entirety. It outlines the risks and stipulates the company’s legal rights. Violating this agreement can lead to an unsuccessful lawsuit. Protect yourself by following all directives when putting on equipment, listening to the training, or following other directions. If you read something in the waver that concerns you or just does not feel right, do not take the risk.
Wear the Right Equipment
Before you embark upon your flight, make sure your suit fits well, choose the right harness, and wear a helmet. While protective gear is not the most fashionable and might feel cumbersome, it truly is important to help protect yourself and your family against serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury.
Your equipment should also be designed with an automatic activation device (AAD) to force your parachute to open if you panic or otherwise forget or cannot pull it. (If the AAD fails, this could constitute product liability.)
Eat Before You Skydive
It may seem counterintuitive, but always eat something before jumping. If you do not eat, you may get lightheaded and faint. Avoid unhealthy food, such as grease-laden items, because you may feel lazy, lethargic, or nauseous. Eat light and healthy!
Finally, always follow all directions given to you by your instructor, and be sure you hear them before the jump. Once in the air, it is almost impossible to verbally communicate and ask what hand signs you should know.
Personal Injuries Can Occur on More Than Land
Skydiving can be a thrilling experience that can quickly turn tragic in the event of an accident. If you or a loved one suffers injury due to someone’s negligence, the caring and compassionate attorneys at HawkLaw are here for you.
Our law firm highly values our attorney-client relationships and goes the extra mile for people struggling in the aftermath of their injury, be they skydiving accidents, car accidents, truck accidents, or any other type of injury incident.
If you sustain an injury as a result of someone’s negligence, the South Carolina personal injury attorneys at HawkLaw can help you. Call us for a free case evaluation* at 888-HAWKLAW or complete our online contact form.