Sporting injuries are those that occur while participating in an athletic event of activity. There are two basic types of sporting injuries: traumatic impact injuries and overuse injuries. Traumatic impact injuries include injuries that involve an impact, such as a blow or a strike to the head. Overuse injuries include injuries related to the overuse of muscles, such as tennis elbow. The majority of sporting injuries occur during practice in organized youth sports, as well as amateur sports teams.
Specific sports that are associated with higher risks for injuries include:
- Contact sports such as football, hockey, and rugby;
- Combat sports such as martial arts, fencing, wrestling, etc.;
- Extreme sports such as snowboarding, BMX biking, skydiving, surfing, etc.; and
- Sports involving shooting themes, such as paintball, Airsoft, and BB gun sports.
The most common examples of injuries sustained while sporting include:
- Muscular injuries;
- Broken bones; and
- Head, neck, and spine injuries.
Sports law is the area of law that covers legal issues pertaining to both amateur and professional sports. Sports law often overlaps with labor law, contract law, antitrust law, and tort (or personal injury) law. The majority of legal claims involving a sporting injury often involve traumatic injuries, as opposed to overuse injuries. This is mostly due to the fact that it would be somewhat more difficult to hold another person legally liable for injuries that occur as a result of overexertion over time.
Who Could Be Held Liable for Sporting Injuries?
Depending on what exactly leads to the sporting injury, it may be possible to hold certain parties legally liable for the injury. Some of the most common examples of who may be liable for a sporting injury include:
- Coaches and Trainers: Coaches may be found to have been negligent, with that negligence causing or contributing to the sporting injury. An example of this would be if the coach ignored signs of injury or dehydration, and continued to require participation;
- Equipment Manufacturers: Injuries that result from a product failure, such as malfunctioning climbing gear or defective sports equipment, could result in the equipment’s manufacturer being held legally liable. This is especially true for things such as heavy weights or padding;
- Other Players: This could include teammates or opposing participants. Unwarranted sports violence by someone else could lead to a sporting injury lawsuit; or
- Facilities: In some cases, the facility hosting the sporting practice, class, or event could be held liable for a person’s sporting injuries. The most common example of this would be if the gym or facility has dangerous training premises, and does nothing to remedy the situation. Cases such as this would most likely be a negligence claim.
No matter who may be liable for the sporting injury, a complication that frequently arises during sporting injury lawsuits is the issue of consent. A person or organization cannot be held liable for a risk of injury that the injured party previously, knowingly consented to.
Because of this, many leagues, sports organizations, gyms, and other facilities require participants to sign a waiver that releases the sponsors from effectively any injury that occurs as a normal part of the game or sport. This goes along with the “assumption of risk doctrine,” which states that co-participants cannot be held liable because when the injured party decided to participate, they voluntarily assumed the risk of potentially being injured by the other players.
However, as previously mentioned, sports violence is never tolerated and a lawsuit may be filed if a participant goes beyond the boundaries of consent. An example of this would be fighting or unnecessary roughness. Additionally, the following are excluded from the assumption of risk:
- Wanton or willful conduct standard, meaning the defendant intentionally caused the injury; and
- Defective or faulty equipment.
What Types of Legal Remedies Are Available for a Sporting Injury Lawsuit?
In order to bring a successful sporting injury lawsuit, the injured party must provide a strong exception to the assumption of risk doctrine. The following are the most common scenarios in which the injured party would be successful in doing so:
- The athlete was unaware that the activity contained an inherent risk;
- The athlete’s coach was negligent in some way, such as providing instruction on proper technique to minimize or avoid injury; and
- The facility was negligent in providing a reasonably safe environment.
Most sports injury lawsuits are remedied by a monetary damages award for the injured party. These damages commonly reimburse the plaintiff for:
- Medical, hospital, and surgery related costs and bills;
- Rehabilitation and/or therapy costs;
- Lost wages and/or lost earning capacity; and
- Pain and suffering or emotional distress.
In cases that involve formally organized sports, such as a city youth sports league, an investigation may be ordered to determine if the league’s standards and policies are acceptable. The investigation may uncover negligence, such as the coach’s training methods which lead to sporting injuries among the players. The investigation’s findings could lead to remedies such as replacing the coach.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Sporting Injury Lawsuit?
If you have been injured while participating in a sport, you may wish to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a case. They can also file a lawsuit on your behalf. Additionally, the attorney can answer any questions you may have, as well as represent you in court as needed.