I’ve been injured on a TV show, what are my rights?

Filming a reality tv show

Your legal rights following an injury on a TV show will depend on the circumstances of the accident.

If you were an audience member or participant, you could pursue an occupiers liability claim against the TV company. If you work for a TV company, a work accident claim could be possible.

Reality TV

The success of reality TV (and the sometimes outrageous exploits of contestants) over recent years has led to a number of high-profile accidents.

ITV’s The Jump saw seven celebrity contestants suffering personal injuries in one season alone. The program was renewed for a subsequent year in which five further celebrities were injured.

Contestants on Survivor have also been involved in numerous injuries on the UK version. On an international edition of the show, one contestant was killed.

The now-cancelled Big Brother ran for 18 years, during which there were numerous injuries.

Other TV show formats

Injuries caused by other formats of TV programme are not unheard of. Recently, the Jeremy Kyle show was axed after the death of a guest.

Injuries and deaths on participant TV shows are also not new. In 1986, a contestant on The Late, Late Breakfast Show was killed in a bungee jumping stunt.

Duty of Care

Television companies owe a legal duty of care towards guests and contestants.

A duty of care exists when a person, company or organisation has a legal obligation to safeguard the well-being of others.
For example:

  • an employer has a duty of care to their employees
  • a doctor has a duty of care to his patients

TV production companies must meet all legal and regulatory obligations and make best endeavours to ensure the safety of guests.

The company’s responsibility would extend beyond show appearances and filming. For example, the TV company must ensure the safety and well-being of contestants in their accommodation, when travelling or when training for a stunt or event.

What if the guest signed a contract or disclaimer?

Most TV companies will ask anyone participating in a TV show to sign a contract. The contract will normally include a disclaimer that attempts to exonerate the TV company from blame (and obligation to pay financial compensation) if the guest is injured.

Over the years, companies have increasingly used disclaimers as a means to circumvent their duty of care. However, a contract or disclaimer cannot supersede the TV company’s duty to provide a safe environment for contestants and employees. You cannot sign away your right to a safe working environment.

In other words, a disclaimer cannot absolve the TV company from liability if they fail in their duty of care to contestants.

If you were injured on a TV show and you signed a disclaimer, this should not deter you from taking legal action if you feel that the TV company was responsible for your injuries.

What if I was pressured into doing something?

Most TV production companies are experts at ensuring the show is safe for contestants, no matter how dangerous it may appear to viewers.

Reality TV has presented unique challenges however, as locations and other participants have made it harder to predict events. Some shows, such as The Jump, are just inherently more dangerous.

Contestants and audience members may be coerced into doing something that they feel uncomfortable or unqualified to do. The pressure of an audience, or perhaps a live-streamed show, can put people under pressure to comply with the show’s format.

Employers have a legal requirement to avoid endangering an employee by putting the employee in a situation that they are not trained for. Similarly, a TV company must not risk a guest's safety by exposing them to hazards that they are not trained to face.

What if I was injured when working on the show?

If you were injured while working on a TV show, your rights would be the same as if you were working for any other employer.

If your employer failed in its duty of care and you were injured as a result, a work injury compensation claim may be possible.

TV companies rely heavily on contracted and self-employed staff. If you were injured as a self-employed or temporary worker, a compensation claim may still be possible.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor