Most sports injury lawsuits are based on negligence principles. Consequently, an injury may occur due to the carelessness of another player or team supervisor, who disregards their duty of care to the victim. The concept of “consent” also plays a role in many sports injury cases. In this case, the victim accepts some or most of the risks associated with playing a certain sport.
For example, when joining a sports team or league, the participant may be required to sign a liability waiver or a consent form (release form). By signing this document, the signer agrees not to sue the team, league, or other players for injuries that occur naturally during the game. Many amateur leagues do this, especially those that involve light to heavy contact.
Playing sports, particularly contact sports, entails a certain risk of injury. The majority of injuries are relatively minor. By participating, players implicitly accept a certain level of risk. However, this does not mean participants consent to any injury, no matter how caused, and civil (and sometimes criminal) liability may arise from incidents, particularly when they were intentionally caused.
A sporting event requires participants to take reasonable care to avoid injuring one another. Also, coaches, organizers, facility operators, clubs, leagues, referees, doctors, and spectators owe duties of care.
Sports rules, the “playing culture,” and the circumstances of the incident determine the standard of care and risks that participants consent to. Rugby, for example, involves tackling someone to the ground. It’s a different story in tennis. Participants in boxing expect to be punched, but they do not consent to have part of their ear bit off (as in the 1997 fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield).
It may be recalled that Chris Eubank and Michael Watson fought in the 1990s. During the fight, Chris Eubank knocked out Michael Watson. While Watson was unconscious, ringside doctors neglected to give him attention for 7 minutes.
The doctors gave him no oxygen and sent him to a hospital without a neurosurgery unit. He suffered serious permanent brain damage when he was sent to a hospital with the appropriate specialists. A permanent brain injury could have been prevented if he had been treated appropriately and sooner. A lawsuit was filed against the British Boxing Board of Control, which administered medical care during the event.
The defense argued (and unsuccessfully appealed) that Watson accepted the risk when he entered the right. BBBC was found to be negligent and liable for Watson’s injuries. Although Watson consented to be in a boxing match and to the risk of being knocked out, he did not consent to the negligent medical treatment that resulted in the permanent brain injury.
Whether a sports injury claim is successful depends very much on the facts of the case.
What Do Players Usually Consent To?
People usually accept the rules of the game and any injuries or losses they might suffer as part of the game. For instance, players who join a youth sports soccer league usually agree not to hold the league or other players liable for injuries considered “normal” for soccer games, such as sprains, twisted ankles, or getting hit in the head with a ball.
Players generally do not consent to conduct outside the game’s rules. Players and teams generally do not tolerate assaults or violent behavior from other players. A player may hold another party liable for injuries resulting from an attack or assault, especially if the victim did not initiate or initiate the violent conduct.
In some cases, these can be filed under civil assault/battery laws or even under criminal laws, depending on the circumstances.
If I am Injured After Signing a Consent Form, What Should I Do?
Even if you have signed a consent form or a release waiver, you may still be able to recover damages. See what types of activities and conduct are covered in the release waiver or consent form. It might be possible that you have a legal claim if your injury was outside the scope of the consent form. A sports activity waiver may require the assistance of a legal professional.
Can You Sue for Sports Injuries?
It is possible for athletes, both professional and amateur, to be injured. No one is responsible when you jam your finger catching a football or fall and break your wrist while ice skating. There will always be accidents.
However, accidental injuries are common in sports. If another party involved in the sport did something wrong or failed to do something reasonable to prevent harm to you or your child, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
It is possible for another party to be liable for your injuries if:
- The circumstances leading to the injury were out of the ordinary risk players assumed
- Instructors or coaches were negligent or careless in causing the injury
- The injury resulted from the use of defective equipment
- An unsafe court or field caused the injury
- Sports facility operators lacked standard safety measures to reduce the risk of injury to players
- Sports-related injuries can be attributed to negligent schools, facility owners, personal trainers, coaches, and other players.
Sports injuries can have long-term consequences and derail a young person’s career opportunities. College athletic scholarships may be lost for high school athletes who suffer a head injury or blow out a knee, ankle, or shoulder.
Premises Liability for Sports Injuries
Every state has premises liability laws, which require property owners to keep visitors safe on their property.
A property owner can be held financially responsible if your injury was not caused by the sport but rather an unsafe condition on the field or surrounding area. Included in this are:
- Leaving rocks and holes unfilled
- A lack of adequate lighting or a malfunctioning light source
- Debris not being removed
- Snow or ice that has not been removed
Injuries Caused by Defective Equipment
Helmets, pads, masks, and other protective gear are worn during many sports. Helmets, masks, straps, or pads that give way can have disastrous consequences.
There is more to sports equipment than what the participant wears. Injuries can result from defective bats, skates, balls, and other equipment.
Injuries caused by design or manufacturing flaws in sports safety equipment can be catastrophic. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and permanent joint damage are some of the most serious sports injuries.
For injuries caused by defective products, you are entitled to recover damages from the manufacturer.
Unreasonable or Malicious Behavior
Even in pee-wee leagues, people can get pretty excited about team sports.
Cheering louder for their team or playing harder to win is the most common way people channel their excitement. We see headlines about parents and coaches brawling at kid’s games or pro players getting penalized for brutal, illegal hits every year.
It is one thing to make a hard tackle during a scrimmage. However, if you or your child are physically attacked at a sporting event, you may be able to bring assault and battery claims.
You might be able to bring a claim against a coach, school, or sports facility if they were negligent. A skating rink may be liable if another girl beats up your daughter, and the rink has warned her for fighting in the past but hasn’t barred her from entering.
You may be able to hold the child’s parents liable if the deliberate act of another child injures your child.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Sports Injury Claims?
A sports injury claim can sometimes be complicated, especially if a consent form is required. It is also possible to determine consent by a player’s actions (for instance, by participating in a physical altercation).
You may need to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area if you need help with any legal claims. In order to ensure that your rights are protected during the process, your attorney can provide you with advice and representation.