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Rock Wall Injuries Climb Around the Country

Rock climbing injuries are on the rise, as more people are eager to take on the challenge of a fun, invigorating exercise they believe to be safe. It’s even become an Olympic sport, though not many are quite so serious about it. 

A recent report reveals more than 40,000 people have been treated at hospital emergency rooms from 1990 to 2007 for broken bones, sprains and strains and other rock-climbing injuries. The Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio reports that’s a 63 percent increase.

Injuries are most commonly caused by falls, which account for 70 percent of all cases. The higher the fall, the more severe the injuries. Those who fall from heights of 20 feet or higher were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, compared to those who fell from lower heights. Half of all injuries were fractures, sprains and strains with the lower body being most prone to injury.

Hospital emergency department doctors say the number of hospitalizations of rock climbing compared to other types of recreational activity injuries demonstrate the need for increased safety measures for climbers, who on average were 26-years-old. Nearly 60 percent of those injured were between the ages of 20 and 39, while a third were under 20 and the rest were over 40. About one-third of those injured are women.

Most recently in New Jersey, the state supreme court affirmed a $360,000 damage award, allocating 70 percent liability to the operator of the rock wall on which plaintiff was injured and 30 percent to the manufacturer of the rock wall. The court additionally affirmed an award of attorneys fees and costs and prejudgment interest of $116,000 after defendants had rejected plaintiff’s offer to settle the case for $125,000 prior to trial. Plaintiff had alleged liability on grounds of negligence, defective design, defective manufacture and strict liability, asserting the product unreasonably dangerous. The jury agreed.

Instances of children being hurt in rock climbing wall accidents are numerous also. Two years ago, a 15-year-old girl described as a “rock climbing prodigy” from New York, ascending some of the toughest rock climbing setups in the world, fell 45 feet onto the floor at a gym in Georgia. Her father was reportedly belaying the rope when it accidentally slipped through his hands. Rock climbers say such issues are not common, but not unprecedented either.

Incredibly, the girl survived the four-story fall pretty fairly unscathed, suffering only some minor bruising.

Although those in the industry and the sport say it is a generally safe endeavor, it’s important not to be complacent, particularly when some of these facilities hire part-time workers who are poorly trained on how to adjust the harnesses. The majority of climbing gym injuries result from “bouldering” wherein one falls to a a padded floor without ropes. Those occur mostly from less than 20 feet. Meanwhile, injuries involving roped climbs are less common, but almost always more serious, often requiring hospitalization.

It’s estimated 9 million people go rock climbing annually, despite the fact it carries an inherent risk of falls and stress-related injuries. When these do occur, our Orlando rock climbing injury attorneys  in Florida can help you determine your legal options. Waivers of liability can make these cases especially challenging from a legal standpoint, but those agreements are not bullet-proof.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Willner v. Vertical Reality, Inc., Aug. 24, 2018, New Jersey Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Court: Golf Course Had Duty to Protect Patrons From Wasp Nests, Aug. 19, 2018, Florida Rock Climbing Injury Lawyer Blog

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