Assumption Of Risk Who Is To Blame

Assumption Of Risk: Who Is To Blame For Our Actions Essay, Research Paper

Assumption of Risk: Who is to Blame For Our Actions

The doctrine of “assumption of risk” clearly defines the responsibility

of all voluntary actions taken on by individuals, independent of the inherent

risk or danger involved with such actions. Are we only to assume responsibility

for the positive outcomes of our actions, without also accepting the negative

outcomes as well? Most individuals only claim responsibility in cases in which

they are fully responsible for their actions. Living within a country which

houses a large amount of private enterprise, we often find ourselves relying on

outside help. In many occasions we, the individual seeking assistance, hold the

power to choose which avenue of help will be taken. In these cases in which we

have the choice, should we not also be held responsible for the outcomes of our

decisions, especially in cases in which we have been pre-warned about any

inherent risks or dangers? For example, When we take it upon ourselves to drive

on a private road, smoke cigarettes, work for a mining company, or fly on a

discount airline at our own volition, do we tacitly consent to take

responsibility for any outcome these actions may hold? The “assumption of risk”

doctrine seems to ignore the fundamental obligation of entities to ensure their

natural goals. The distinguishing factor in deciding responsibility in

faultless cases which call on the “assumption of risk” doctrine is the control

held by individuals after the situation has begun. In accordance, companies

such as discount airlines and cigarette companies must take on the

responsibility of completing their duties, while individuals who chose to work

in a mine or drive on a private road must accept the responsibility of their

actions to do so.

All airlines hold the responsibility of transporting their customers

from a point of origin to a previously designated destination. The person who

agrees to buy a discount airline ticket, which warns to “fly at your own risk,”

is entitled to receive the minimum service of transportation provided by the

airline. The individual traveler should assume no other benefits other than

transportation. The airline company claims this act of transportation to be its

goal of services rendered. Independent of difficulties which may arise in

completing this goal, the airline may not alter the basic duty which it is

contractually obligated to perform. The airline tacitly consented to perform

this basic duty the moment they began transporting individuals for an accepted

payment. Once an individual has boarded the airplane they render all control

over their safety to the accepting airline which holds the minimum

responsibility of returning the individual back to a state of safety once their

duty is complete. The mere nature of airplane transportation forces the

individual to render total control over themselves to the airline. This

transfer of control holds the airline responsible for any action which may occur

due to the obvious lack of responsibility in the hands of the individual. Once

the plane has closed the cabin they withhold all control of an individual over

themselves, and must grant the service promised. The individual may demand the

right to existence and hold the company liable once they hold the power to

dictate all aspects of the situation.

One problem which arises within the situation is that of something

happening which the airline holds no control over. Any difficulties which arise

due to the daily routine of the airplane fall under the responsibility of the

airline. Even occurrences which are deemed unavoidable fall under the

responsibility of the airline because they hold total responsibility of their

clients once the cabin is closed. Due to the complete control the airline holds

on the situation it may be assumed that the doctrine of “assumption of risk”

applies solely to the airline. In creating a situation in which the individual

must give up his/her right to self-substinance the airline holds full

responsibility for any actions taken which may effect the safety of its

passengers. Anytime the airline engages in profit making acts, such as cutting

costs, they increase the risk upon themselves in return for extra monetary


Some may argue that some responsibility falls on the consumer due to the

warning which the airline provided prior to the purchase of the tickets. This

argument revolves around the assumption that the individual becomes responsible

due to their decision to buy a discounted ticket over the full price. Having

been previously warned about the risk involved, the individual is expected to

relieve the airline of responsibility for any mishaps which may occur. This

idea of responsibility may hold true if, and only if, the participant holds some

control over their well-being once inside the cabin of the airplane. There is

no controversy over the fact that the individual willingly accepted the

discounted rate and received a warning, but the airline still holds the

responsibility of earning its payment by completing the minimal requirement of

transportation. The prior warning only holds precedence over the individuals

ability to choose an airline which may either claim responsibility for numerous

actions, such as transportation, food, and entertainment, or act as the discount

airline and only claim responsibility for the transportation. The warning holds

no validity once the individual has lost control over their well being.

In continuing with the theory that the provider of a service holds the

minimum obligation to produce their product; the situation which arises in the

case of cigarette companies tends to raise several questions. If it is correct

that they provide a good which is legal under present law, how can they be held

responsible in any way? In following with the statement above, the cigarette

company holds a minimum obligation to the individual to produce a “safe”

cigarette. The meaning of safe in this context is meant to imply that the

cigarette will meet the safety requirements set by the government so that

individuals are not killed by a single cigarette. This act of producing “safe”

cigarettes for individuals covers the minimum obligation of the company to the

individual. In this case, any additional concerns or problems which the user

may have as a result of the product becomes the responsibility of the cigarette

addict. The cigarette company seemingly performs more than the minimum

obligation by also providing a product which fills the crave of addiction.

Continued use of this addictive product may lead to detrimental health and lung

disease. Cigarette companies attempt to protect themselves from such issues by

warning users of the inherent dangers and therefore eliminating their

responsibility for the result. After all, the individual must only notice the

risk and discontinue the use of cigarettes to reduce the risk of illness.

Therefore, it seems that the company holds no problems since they provide the

product and clearly state the risks of use. In this case it becomes the

individual’s responsibility to accept the risk and suffer the consequences.

A large problem arises in the addictive nature of the cigarette to seize

control over the actions of the individual user. Although the product

acknowledges its addictive quality, the addiction still continues to seize

complete control over the situation of cigarette smoking. The user becomes

chemically dependent on the product and becomes unable to avoid the risks

associated. As in the airplane case, the cigarette company gains control over

the individual and is therefore forced to share responsibility for their actions.

By outwardly admitting the problem at hand, the cigarette company must handle

the consequences. It seems logical that the company could restrict blame solely

to the user, due to the self-inflictive nature of the problem. The problem lies

in the fact that as the cigarette company admits to the addictive nature of

their product, they emphasize the fact that they have seized control of the

situation. Taking control of the situation forces the company to take

responsibility for the outcome produced. Cigarettes are intended to be

addictive in order to increase sales. Thus, if the company shares in the awards

of the addiction, they should consequently share in the damages as well.

A case which differs, due the control of the individual over their

actions, is that of the mining industry. The only problem for the company is

that of the moral dilemma accepted by the company’s executives. When we look at

the case from a distance it seems to be similar to that of the cigarette

industry, but the difference lies in the non-addictive nature of mining.

Although the company acknowledges the dangers of working in the mines, it is the

decision of the workers to accept the risk or find less hazardous job. The

individual holds the power to work in the mine or not. Unlike smoking, the mine

holds no addictive qualities which force the workers to stay. The worker

assumes full responsibility for his/her actions due to the choice to work in a

hazardous area. Since the company never gains control over the worker, the

worker stays in full control of the situation given the apparent risks involved.

The only instance in which the mining company gains some power over the

individual is in the case of monetary concerns. If the individual can only

obtain work at the mine and relies upon the income produced, it seems clear that

the company then holds some power over the individual. Although, this power is

limited by the mind set of the individual to determine the actual importance of

monetary gains. Since the mine holds no addictive quality which forces the

individual to work, the worker holds a free mind to decide what qualities of

life are most important. This freedom to decide releases the company from

responsibility of any problems which may arise as a result of the mine work, and

places all burden on the individual.

Some may argue that the mining company holds some responsibility over

the well-being of its employees. These beliefs support the idea that the

company should provide the greatest amount of safety precautions for their

workers. This can be witnessed through the use of safety equipment, medical aid,

and protective gear. Since the company has already warned about the risks, it

becomes the burden of the individual to purchase these items for themselves.

The company only holds the obligations to inform the workers of such available

equipment. If the workers feel this is unfair they may quit working and

possibly force employers to engage in such safety precautions. The

responsibility of providing payment for work is the only act which must be taken

on by the employer after they have given the warnings about the dangers of

mining. The rest of the responsibility lies in the hands of the miners who hold

the power to decide where they work.

The final case regarding responsibility of actions lies on a private

road which warns individuals of falling rocks. The sign posted at the beginning

of the road clearly states any dangers and makes the reader aware of the

apparent risks. The fundamental obligation of the road is similar to that of

the airplane in that it must provide a means for transportation from point A to

point B. However, the road differs from the plane in that the person driving is

in control of the situation at all times, and never gives up control over their

actions. The speed of travel, length of stay on the road, and the decision to

travel on the road are all decisions made by the individual and have a direct

effect on the safety of the individual. In this case the driver becomes

responsible for his actions on the road. The owner of the road met the

requirements set upon him by providing means of transport and warning of any

danger; all other responsibility lies in the able hands of the individual

driving the automobile.

The responsibility of any given action remains in the hands of those in

control of the action at any given time. As seen in the airplane and cigarette

examples, proper warning does not warrant lack of responsibility if the

individual holds no control over the outcome of the action. The mining company

and private road examples show how responsibility lies in the hands of the

individual as long as control over the situation is also controlled by the

individual. It is clear to see that responsibility for any given action remains

in the hands of those who hold control over the situation.


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