Amateur sports are organized sports that generally involve participants of a low to medium skill level. They are frequently sponsored or funded by an organization, and may sometimes involve compensation between the participants. Amateur sports involve team sports such as:
- Hockey; or
They can also involve competitive individual sports such as boxing or karate.
As amateur sports injuries may result as a natural course of participation in such activities, most amateur sports leagues require the athletes to sign a liability waiver. This liability releases the league from liability for normal, typical injuries that may occur during competition and training. However, there are certain instances in which such a party can be held liable for an amateur sports injury.
The rise in popularity of extreme sports, such as dirt bike racing and snowboarding, has unfortunately been accompanied by a rise in injuries and deaths from the risks associated with these sports. Because the purpose of extreme sports events is to present certain bodily risks, at some point, lawmakers must determine where the fault and liability ultimately fall. Some common examples of extreme sports injuries include:
- Broken bones, especially wrist and elbow injuries;
- Head and neck injuries;
- Spinal injuries;
- Lacerations, which are cuts often requiring stitches; and
- Concussion injuries.
Extreme sports injuries can be especially serious, and can involve long-term recovery and medical conditions. In some cases, extreme sports injuries have been fatal, which may result in legal issues involving wrongful death and other such claims.
What Are Some Causes Of Legal Action Associated With Extreme Sports Injuries?
Where someone is injured while engaging in an extreme sport, especially when a company or organization sponsors the event, there are a variety of causes of legal action:
- Negligence: Negligence is a failure to exercise a reasonable amount of care, that an ordinary person would exercise in similar circumstances. In terms of extreme sports, a negligence claim would likely focus on issues such as the design of the course; allowing too many participants to race; or a failure to adequately inform participants regarding what they are getting into;
- Assumption of Risk: One defense to negligence would be assumption of risk. A defendant will argue that the participant knew and understood the risks of what they were involved in, yet voluntarily engaged in them. However, courts may need to consider how well the individual knew of or could appreciate the risks, or whether the organizations are acting in a manner that extends beyond negligence. If either of those circumstances apply, assumption of risk may not apply; and
- Gross Negligence and Recklessness: Many states differ in how they define recklessness and gross negligence; several states do not distinguish between the two legal concepts. However, regardless of how the state defines the cause of action, one common element is that the defendant knew of or should have known of a risk. However, they ignored it and continued to act in an unsafe manner.
Assumption of risk generally does not apply to these causes of action, and is the most significant category of lawsuits associated with extreme sports organizations. An example of this would be how an extreme sport organization may be acting recklessly if they:
- Add unnecessary danger to an obstacle;
- Intentionally make water obstacles muddy or murky; and/or
- Deliberately crowd obstacles.
What If I Signed A Waiver?
Traditionally, waivers (which are often referred to as “express assumption of risk”) hold up in court. This is true even for extreme sports, such as snowboarding, dirt bike racing, or water rafting. An example of this would be how before buying a ski lift pass, a person may be required to sign a waiver which informs the athlete that the activity is hazardous and the resort will not be liable for any injuries.
However, how well the waiver will stand up to legal challenges will depend on the specific facts of each case. As such, a person who is injured in an endurance race with mud, fire, and electricity obstacles may have several grounds to challenge the waiver.
Additionally, waivers are considered to be void if they violate public policy. Simply put, if the waiver would relieve the defendant from legal responsibility where we as society would rather hold people accountable, a court will not enforce it.
An example of this would be how just because someone signed a waiver agreeing to have other people use an assault rifle to shoot an apple off of their head, a court will likely not enforce that waiver. This is because society would rather discourage that type of behavior altogether. As such, that person or their family could likely still file suit for any injuries.
Are There Any Legal Remedies For Extreme Sports Injuries?
Extreme sports injuries may require legal action, especially if there is a dispute regarding the cause of the injury or the extent of such injuries. Generally speaking, the remedy for an extreme sports lawsuit will likely be a monetary damages award.
Compensatory, or monetary damages, are awarded for the purpose of restoring the injured plaintiff to the position that they were in before the harm or loss occurred. As such, compensatory damages are awarded in cases in which damages, injury, and/or loss has occurred.
Special damages are intended to restore the injured party to the position they were in before the harm or injury occurred. This generally includes damages that can be calculated, such as:
- Medical expenses;
- Property damage;
- Loss of wages or earnings; and
- Other quantifiable losses.
General damages may be awarded for losses that are not easily determined through monetary calculations. These can include losses associated with emotional distress, defamation, or loss of consortium or companionship. In cases where wrongful death is also an issue, the damages may cover associated costs.
When calculating compensatory damages, courts will generally consider factors such as:
- The background of the victim, such as their age;
- The type of injury, as well as the extent of the injury;
- Costs associated with treating or rehabilitating the plaintiff;
- Any differences or losses in the victim’s ability to earn a wage before and after the incident;
- Actual losses of income;
- Whether any property damage resulted from the accident; and
- Any other impacts on the victim’s quality of life.
There may be some circumstances in which a plaintiff’s damages award may be reduced or limited. An example of this would be how if the plaintiff somehow contributed to their own injury, it can affect the amount of damages that they can collect under contributory negligence laws.
Receiving a compensatory damages award from the court, and actually collecting the money, can be two distinct processes. If a defendant is required to pay the plaintiff damages award, the court will generally order them to pay the amounts.
However, there are common situations in which the defendant is unable or unwilling to pay the damages. In such cases, the plaintiff’s attorney may help with the collections process. They can take steps to gather the money from the defendant, such as by placing a lien on their property or garnishing some of their wages.
Do I Need An Attorney For Help With Extreme Sports Injuries?
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to extreme sports injuries, you should consult with a local personal injury lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options under your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.