Shooting each other with paintballs is a very popular game in the United States and is gaining in popularity yearly. Although paintball is considered relatively safe compared to other outdoor sports, injuries are still quite common.
In 2017, an estimated 4,939 paintball-related injuries were seen in emergency rooms in the United States. Eye injuries are the most common form of injury, requiring medical treatment in 97% of the reported cases. Of those with eye injuries, one-third lost sight in one or both eyes.
Serious injuries can especially result if the players do not wear proper safety equipment such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats or caps to protect the head, and appropriate shoes given the surface being used. If a player does not wear a protective mask and is shot in the eye, blindness can result.
Some common injuries that can happen during a paintball match or paintball activities include:
- Sprains and muscle strains
- Cuts and lacerations
- Injuries resulting from collisions with other players or stationary items
- Slip and fall or trip and fall injuries
- Broken bones
- Eye injuries
- Ear injuries
- Chemical exposure injuries
What Types of Legal Claims Are Available for Paintball Injuries?
Three legal theories of liability can be applied to paintball injuries: negligence, defective product, and battery and assault.
Negligence occurs when a player is unreasonably careless or reckless, and as a result of their carelessness or recklessness, the victim gets injured. To prove negligence, it is necessary to show four elements:
- That a duty of care was owed to the other players (this is easy to establish here)
- That the duty of care was breached
- That the breach of duty was the direct cause of the person’s injuries.
- There were compensable injuries
An example of negligence is when a player breaches their duty to follow the rules of the game (such as not shooting a player at close range). If the breach of duty directly causes injuries to another player, they might be found liable under the legal theory of negligence.
Defective Product Liability
Defective product claims are where a product is made incorrectly, and it becomes dangerous to use, and because of this, a player gets injured. Potential defendants are the product manufacturer, the distributor, and the reseller (the one that sold the product to the consumer).
Three types of defective product categories can be involved. These are:
- Design defects – Defects in the way the product is engineered, such as a poor paintball gun safety latch
- Manufacturing defects – errors in the way the paintball product is assembled, such as the failure to include an important screw
- Warning defects – failure to include proper safety labels or instructions
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery occur when someone hurts the victim intentionally. Simply shooting the paintball as a part of the game will not suffice because that is normal, but intentionally shooting someone in the eye at close range, with some motive to hurt the other player, would constitute assault and battery.
Generally, there must be intentional ill-will against the injured player. Note that assault and battery is not only a civil claim: the player who commits assault and battery can be charged with a crime.
Assault and battery can be difficult to establish, as the ultimate purpose of paintballing or playing with paintballs is to shoot each other purposefully. To be a strong claim, it must be established that the injury from shooting each other was on purpose and was not done in the way paintball is designed to be played.
Another example of assault and battery would be when a person used a paintball gun to shoot another person who was not armed and was unaware of the circumstances: essentially, someone who was not playing a game of paintball. In such a case, a clear case for assault and battery can be established.
Are There Defenses to a Paintball Injury Lawsuit?
Two common defenses to paintball injuries are assumption of the risk and consent.
Assumption of the risk occurs when a paintball player understands the risks involved with playing the game, and the player proceeds with the activity anyway.
For instance, if they are told not to enter a certain area of the paintball arena because there are trip hazards, and yet they proceed to enter the area, their ability to recover damages may be negatively affected.
The consent defense is similar. It may be raised in instances where the paintball player has consented or agreed to certain circumstances occurring. For instance, they may have signed a consent waiver saying they consent to the risks involved in a normal paintball game. The waiver is designed to protect the paintball company from liability.
However, even if you assumed the risk and consented to be hit by a paintball, the defenses can fail. For instance, a person still might be able to recover damages even though there was a consent waiver or other similar agreement in place. An example of this is when the player is injured due to the extreme negligence or recklessness of another player or the paintball company.
What Are the Legal Remedies in a Paintball Injury Lawsuit?
In most paintball injury lawsuits, the typical remedy will be a monetary damages award. The damages will cover losses and expenses such as medical bills, hospital expenses, lost wages (for instance, from missing work during recovery), an award for pain and suffering, and other related losses.
In cases where many persons were injured from the same cause, a class action lawsuit may sometimes be filed. This is commonly the case when defective paintball products are involved, as they can injure many people. In a class action suit, a few people are chosen as representatives of the plaintiffs, and they sue the guilty party in one large lawsuit rather than in individual lawsuits filed by each injured party.
Class action lawsuits can help someone recover their damages even when their injuries or monetary expenses are low enough that filing an individual claim wouldn’t be worth it. The damages awarded in a class action suit can be very large, and it will be split up among all of the plaintiffs. Typically, the defendants must pay the plaintiffs’ legal expenses, including lawyer’s fees.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Dealing with a Paintball Injury?
If you have been seriously injured while playing paintball, you should consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer. An attorney can evaluate your case and determine if another party is responsible for paying your medical bills and other expenses. The attorney can decide if one or more of the legal theories described above apply to your case. One of the most important things a lawyer can do is negotiate a settlement with the other party to save the expense and stress of going to trial.
If a trial is necessary, the lawyer will represent you vigorously. If your trial is not fair, the lawyer may also file an appeal on your behalf.