Sports are a pastime and are meant to be fun. Minor injuries can occur and are even inevitable in certain sports but serious injury caused by another person is a different story and may be grounds for a lawsuit.
If you have been injured by the actions of another player or a coach or a referee, you should first seek immediate medical attention. Then, depending on your situation, filing a lawsuit may be the appropriate next step for you. It is extremely important that the attorney you choose to handle your case is one who has handled sports injury cases before and is, therefore, familiar with this tricky area of the law.
Was it a contact or non-contact sport?
The general view of the courts is that sports are physical and sometimes dangerous and you are responsible for taking that risk. However, that doesn’t mean another player or coach or referee cannot be held liable if you are seriously injured.
The standard in personal injury cases is negligence – if someone’s negligence causes injury, they are liable. This is still the rule in non-contact sports. An example of a non-contact sport is tennis. If you were injured during a tennis match, then you would sue under a negligence theory – i.e. the player or coach was negligent in some way that caused your injury.
However, with contact sports, there is the contact sports exception (also known as the contact sports doctrine), which states that a person is only liable if their actions were intentional or willful and wanton. Contact sports include soccer, baseball and basketball. If physical contact is an expected part of the sport, then it qualifies as a contact sport. If you were injured while playing a contact sport and you believe that the injury was caused by another player’s intentional actions, you would sue under the contact sports exception.
Proving it was intentional or willful or wanton
Proving that the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly will depend on the facts and other factors such as whether the action is what is acceptable or routine in that particular sport. For example, brushing into a player as they slide into home base is typical but tripping the player is not. The facts of your case and the range of normal activity in the particular sport you were playing will be used to prove intent.
Was it a full contact sport?
Full contact sports are another exception all their own. For these sports, the standard is intentional or completely beyond normal activity for that particular sport. Full contact sports include football, hockey and boxing, where physical contact is actually an element of the game. So, if you were seriously injured during a football game, you would have to prove that the defendant’s actions were intentional or that the defendant’s actions went completely beyond what is acceptable in that particular sport.
Was it caused by a non-participant?
It is believed that holding non-participants like a coach or a referee accountable for negligence would negatively affect the sport as a whole. Still, the standard is that these non-participants owe a duty to not harm others. Coaches are expected to provide instruction on safety and referees are expected to stop a game when they see a violation. If you believe a coach failed to provide safe instructions or if you believe a referee allowed a violation to continue that led to your injury, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Again, it will depend on the facts of the case and the expectations of the particular sport.
Was your child hurt playing a sport?
If your child was injured while playing a sport at school or at another facility, the school, team, coach or facility may liable depending on the circumstances. If the playing field or area was not properly maintained, it could be a negligence issue. If, as noted above, the players were not properly supervised or the referees were not calling violations or another player intentionally harmed your child, you could have a case based on the above noted law. Either way, you should speak to an attorney as soon after your child receives medical attention.
Finding the right sports injury attorney
As with all areas of law, there are time limits to filing your case. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to review your options.