I Participated in an Escape Room and Had a Panic Attack. I Am Now on Medication for Mental Stress. Do I Have a Lawsuit?
Escape rooms are supposed to be stressful. After all, that’s part of the fun – solving problems against a ticking clock. It’s possible, though, for an escape room to be too stressful. It could even provoke an incident that could have a lasting impact on your life. If you’ve been in such a situation, you may be dealing with significant medical bills and you might be unable to go back to your life as it was before. Wanting to get proper compensation is common after such an event, but it can be difficult to figure out if you can bring a successful lawsuit. Figuring out whether or not you’re likely to be successful means breaking down a few factors that might be related to your escape room trauma.
Understanding the Risks
When you take part in an escape room, you generally sign a waiver. While these waivers usually have fairly scary legal language in place to make participants believe that they are unable to bring a suit against the escape room company for any reason, the truth is that this waiver does not bar you from seeking damages. After all, if that was the case then every company would require you to sign a waiver for everything you did and lawsuits would suddenly cease to exist.
What the waiver will show, though, is that you were at least partially aware of what was likely to happen in the escape room. You were not an unwilling participant and you should have been aware that there were at least some risks. Showing that you voluntarily took part in the room’s experience does shift at least some of the burden for your own well-being onto you, though it’s certainly not the end of the case.
The fact that escape rooms are a voluntary experience does make it much harder to bring a suit, though. The escape room’s attorneys would almost always argue that you should have been aware that you could have been psychologically triggered by something that would take place in this kind of environment. Unfortunately, this kind of argument does carry with it a fair bit of weight.
While you might have been expected to know that an escape room could be psychologically stressful, you may have luck pursuing a suit if you can prove that what happened in the escape room was unreasonable. Many legal standards involve a fictitious “reasonable person,” and showing that whatever happened to you in the escape room would be outside of the expectations of a reasonable person might be helpful.
A good way to show that an action was unreasonable would be if the escape room company failed to follow its own policies. If, for example, the operators of the room are supposed to allow participants to exit if they show signs of distress but no operator was present during your game, you may be able to show that the circumstances of your own incident were far outside the norm. If something unusually psychologically damaging or outside of the room’s operation norms happened, it may be possible for you to pursue a lawsuit against the escape room company.
If you can show that what happened was outside of the norm and could be expected to cause harm, you’ll need to next show that actual damages occurred. Remember, what the law looks for here is for a way to make you whole: a method of helping you to return to the state you were in before the damages – or as close as reasonably possible. In most cases, that means a monetary award that will help you to pay your medical bills.
If you haven’t had any monetary costs because of the stress, it’s unlikely that you will be able to bring any kind of suit successfully. Likewise, a single doctor’s visit and one prescription probably aren’t enough to move forward. You will need to show that you somehow lost money and will continue to lose money because of the actions of the escape room owners and/or operators if you want to show that actual damages have occurred.
Once you’ve gotten those factors out the way, any suit would have to show that what you experienced in the escape room was the proximate cause of your need for medication. A proximate cause is the legal term for the event that was directly responsible for your damage – in this case, having to take medication. If you cannot show that your mental stress issues were actually caused by the escape room, it will be difficult to show that there is any kind of actionable connection between the escape room and your post-event medical care.
For a suit to move forward, you would likely need to establish that a) you did not have panic attacks before the escape room and that b) no other intervening incidents between your initial panic attack and your subsequent treatment could have caused you to need medical care. This will be very difficult to choose, especially as most people don’t tend to keep a paper trail of specifically what might be the root cause of any sort of mental illness. It is, however, possible for there to be a causal link between the two.
Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve moved quickly enough to bring the suit. Every state has its own statute of limitations on bringing lawsuits, and it’s usually within a few years. The statutory time begins ticking away at the moment that you discovered the harm, so it might take less time for the clock to run out than you would imagine. If this incident happened more than a year or two ago, it may be time for you to check with a lawyer about how to proceed.
Will you be able to bring a lawsuit if you had a panic attack at an escape room and then had to get treatment for mental stress? The answer, unfortunately, isn’t easy. You may very well be able to bring a suit, but it will be very hard to win. You’ll need to show that the incident was caused by being in the escape room, that it was outside of the norm for what you agreed to, and that it happened within a specific window of time while causing you monetarily-definable damages. To figure out whether your suit actually has merit, your best bet will always be to contact an attorney.