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Like most of us, 60-year-old Etelvina Jimenez thought she was doing the healthy thing by hopping on a gym's treadmill to get some exercise. But when Jimenez fell she joined nearly half a million Americans who are injured by exercise equipment every year.
Jimenez's brain injuries were severe and now she's suing the gym, claiming it violated safety standards by placing treadmills too close to other equipment.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), treadmill accidents sent 24,000 people to the emergency room in 2014, and there have been "30 reported deaths associated with treadmills for the ten year period from 2003-2012 or an average of about 3 per year (2012 is the last year for which fatality reporting is nearly complete)."
The most dangerous injuries involved head and brain trauma. Last year, Dave Goldberg (CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg) died after falling and striking his head while using a treadmill. And for those who survive the initial accident, recovering from a traumatic brain injury can take years, if not a person's entire life.
Jimenez's lawsuit claims a Sacramento-area 24 Hour Fitness placed their treadmills just three feet in front of other heavy exercise equipment, when the treadmill's assembly guide advises that the "minimum space requirement needed for user safety and proper maintenance is 3 feet wide by 6 feet deep directly behind the running belt." According to her lawsuit, when Jimenez fell from the treadmill, she struck her head on nearby equipment, causing her injuries.
Jimenez spent almost four months in different hospitals, undergoing multiple operations to reduce swelling in her brain, and she claims she is still suffering from the accident that occurred in 2011. "My memory, I'm not able to think, I think less," she told Sacramento's KCRA. "For instance, I'm not able to drive because I cannot think clearly which way I'm going." Jimenez is asking for $3.8 million in damages to cover lost wages and future medical care.
In a twist, the lawsuit was initially dismissed because Jimenez had signed a liability waiver. But an appeals court found the waiver unenforceable, since she could not read English. The case, currently in settlement talks, will go to trial in February of next year if the sides cannot agree.
If you've been injured by exercise equipment, or have questions regarding treadmill accidents or brain injuries, you can contact an experienced personal injury attorney near you.