Injuries that can be categorized under sports spectator injuries generally arise out of:
- An inherent danger or risk in the sport being watched,
- The actions at a sports arena by a third party, an employee, another spectator, or
- Hazardous defects in a sports arena unrelated to the event.
While the law states that spectators assume the usual risks inherent in the sport, specific cases involving abnormal events may make it possible to obtain compensation for a sports injury. For instance, a golf spectator may risk being struck by a golf ball but does not assume the risk of being run over or struck by a golf cart. Additionally, the owner or operator of a sports facility or stadium must enforce standard or typically accepted measures, so the foreseeable risk of injury does not go up.
The “assumption of risk” doctrine says that the injured individual assumed the risk of getting hurt by knowingly participating in an activity that the individual knew could be dangerous. For instance, people at a baseball game should understand that foul balls and home run balls could land in the stands and hit viewers. Also, golf spectators are generally aware that golfers may not always hit perfect shots that land in the fairway or on the green.
The “baseball rule” was first recognized in 1913, and it protects sports teams. It protects them from liability if they provide at least some screened seats. The actual number of screened seats necessary to meet the threshold differs, and, as such, the law is controversial. While many states have enacted this law, some jurisdictions have denied it.
Some states have extended it to hockey games. Other states have chosen a middle ground. The law covers baseballs, hockey pucks, and other things deemed part of regular gameplay. Getting struck by objects hurled by a team mascot may not be covered.
Unfortunately, injuries to spectators do take place. It is essential to know that you will be deemed to have assumed the risk of sustaining the injury in many cases. You may be limited from seeking compensation for your harm when this occurs.
When Can a Sport Spectator Injury Lawsuit Succeed?
Lawsuits for sports spectator injuries are generally based on negligence principles. That means to be successful, you must prove that:
- A defendant owed you a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances,
- They breached their duty,
- You were injured, and
- The defendant’s conduct was the cause of your injuries.
Specific laws have been adopted for certain sporting events such as hockey and baseball in many states. They generally make it more difficult to sue for an injury that results from being struck with a flying puck or ball.
How Do You Prove Negligence?
If you believe that you or someone you know was hurt due to an injury that was out of the ordinary, you will likely be able to recover from the negligence theory. Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care in actions. Ordinary care is the level of care that a prudent person or business would use in similar circumstances. Even going to a sporting event can be a risky proposition, resulting in severe injury or death. If you or a loved one suffered damages in such a case, you need to know your legal rights.
Negligence has four major parts that must be shown to recover for injuries. Those parts are Duty, Breach, Causation, and Damages. Even if those four parts are exhibited, and negligence is established, a defense might still mitigate how much a defending party must pay.
A duty is a responsibility one person owes to another. In general, people going about their business owe a duty of ‘reasonable care.’ ‘Reasonable care’ is the care an ordinary and prudent person would use in the same situation.
A breach happens when an individual’s care falls below the level required by their duty.
The breach of duty must be the cause of injury. The legal test for causation is a bit more complex than that, but the basic test is, “but for” one party’s actions, the injury would not have happened.
In general, there has to be some harm that occurred. The type of injury can vary, from property damage to emotional stress to lost wages.
All of the above need to be present to determine that the other party was successfully negligent. If one of the above cannot be shown, then negligence cannot be established.
Who Is Liable for a Sport Spectator Injury?
Depending on the circumstances in a lawsuit by an injured sports spectator, the following can be liable:
- Owners and operators of the sports arena,
- Promoters of the sports event,
- Concessionaires and other employees,
- Participants or athletes in the event, or
- Other spectators.
Building Safety Violations
One of the duties of a stadium’s owner or agents is to keep the safety of the premises. If measures aren’t taken to stop accidents from happening, cases of severe injuries can happen, requiring medical attention.
Without proper upkeep of safety measures, the ensuing kinds of injuries could happen:
- Falling injuries as the result of slippery or non-existent railing
- Slip and fall injuries from wet surfaces
- Falling object damage from a lack of safety netting
- Injuries from a fire due to inadequate fire prevention measures
- Escalator and elevator injuries
Liability and Safety
When in attendance at a baseball game, standing on a golf course green, or watching a race at a speedway, you accept and understand a certain level of risk. This is the assumption of risk. Assumption of risk is a legal theory that can stop you from recovering damages for an injury that happened when you voluntarily expose yourself to a known danger.
Owners and operators of sporting venues must provide their spectators with reasonable protections. Failure to do so may result in their liability for your injuries sustained during the sporting event. Depending on the incident’s circumstances, an injured spectator may have a personal injury claim against the venue, an athlete, or an entire team.
Are There Any Defenses?
Generally, the most common defenses to a lawsuit for an injured sports spectator are:
- Assumption of risk: This means that a sports spectator knew there was a danger that they could get injured in the way that they did. For example, most people who go to a hockey game know there is a risk of a puck coming over the glass and hitting them.
- Liability release: Liability releases are commonly found on the back of a sporting event ticket. In some cases, buying a ticket is enough to abolish or limit the liability of another for a sports spectator’s injury.
Do I Need an Attorney if I Am an Injured Sport Spectator?
If you have been injured as a sports spectator somehow and think someone else is liable to you, it is highly recommended that you contact a personal injury attorney. They will be able to explain the issues and help protect your rights. Sports liability can be difficult and costly to prove. Use LegalMatch to find an experienced personal injury attorney near you to handle your legal issues today.