Sports and Recreational Injuries

Adults and children of all ages engage in sports in interscholastic and recreational leagues or individual events operated by localities, churches and private organizations. Whenever you participate in sport, you are assuming a certain degree of risk that you may be injured.

Contact sports obviously produce more injuries such as football, but you also assume risk in sports like baseball where an errant pitch or foul ball can hit you in the head or limb. Skiers get injured every year by someone who is out-of-control on the slopes or who fails to see another skier in his or her path. Golfers are struck by balls that travel further than expected or are off-line. Basketball or soccer players are routinely bumped or elbowed and may fall resulting in an injury. In any of these cases, the school or recreational athlete risks certain injuries.

Examples of Sports Injuries

Athletes can suffer any number of minor or major, debilitating injuries including:

  • Concussion
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Torn cartilage
  • Broken limbs
  • Paralysis
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Death

Ordinary Negligence and Assuming the Risk

In most sporting situations, bringing a claim for injuries are difficult since ordinary negligence is expected. Some examples of expected risk include:

  • Hard slide into a base
  • Getting hit by a foul ball or pitch
  • Hard tackle in a football game
  • Bumped or tripped in basketball, soccer or running event
  • Poorly struck golf ball that strikes another golfer or bystander

By allowing anyone to sue for injuries from an errant golf ball or a rough slide into second base might end participation in these sports and certainly dissuade any insurer from offering coverage. In other words, you assume the risk of injury in these endeavors when the contact is recognized as being part of the sport and is expected since they are inherent to the sport.

There are exceptions, however, when the conduct is reckless and outside the normal risks inherent in that particular sport.

What are the Exceptions?

Not all contact is immune from a civil suit, however. For example, a batter who takes exception to being hit and slugs the pitcher with his bat or a defective treadmill machine that causes the user to slide off are instances where these risks are unexpected and not inherent to the sport or activity. Other exceptions include the following:

  • Intentional or reckless conduct. This can be actionable if the offender intends to harm the victim or the conduct is such that is well beyond what would be expected in normal participation in that sport.
  • Conduct that increases the risk of harm. By failing to mark a ski run as “expert,” to fail to maintain a treadmill or piece of gym equipment or by placing too much polish on a gym floor can foreseeably result in injuries.
  • Coaching issues: A contentious issue is whether a coach goes too far in handling athletes under his or her supervision. By having a policy of not drinking water during vigorous outdoor exercise in hot weather or allowing athletes to fight each other, the coach may be exceeding normal and safe coaching methods or is being reckless in not protecting the safety and health of those athletes under his or her control and who has a duty to do so.
  • Product defect. A piece of equipment such as a defective ski binding, bicycle part or helmet could be grounds for a product defect claim if it causes or substantially contributes to an injury.

Waiver of Liability

In nearly all sport leagues or recreational activities sponsored by or operated by a municipality or private entity like a ski resort, you will typically sign a waiver of liability that inevitably states that you will hold the locality or owner harmless from any injury you may incur and waive any right to sue.

A waiver of liability is normally a valid and enforceable contract between you and the owner or operator of the event. Not all waivers are valid, however, and with the assistance of an experienced attorney, you can challenge the enforceability of a waiver.

For instance, no waiver can excuse outrageous or grossly negligent conduct or fraudulent activity. If the waiver is too broad or even too narrow so that it does not cover all foreseeable risks, it may not be valid. False statements or misrepresentations that caused you to take part in an event and which led to injury may also be actionable.

Product defect claims may not be covered in a waiver of liability and do not protect an entity or person who was negligent in the manufacture or design of equipment that caused you injury.

Contact The Law Offices of Alex G. Tovarian

Injuries that are sustained in an organized league or individual sporting or recreational event can involve complex issues of liability, notice of injury claim to the appropriate entity and proof of damages. Demonstrating that the harm is not part of the inherent risks of participating in the event or that a signed waiver of liability does not apply requires the knowledge of the sports and recreational injuries lawyers at The Law Offices of Alex G. Tovarian.

Call us today for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the facts of your injury and your legal options. We have the experience and resources to handle sports and recreational injury cases.