Florida’s famously warm and sunny climate allows residents to engage in sports and other outdoor activities year-round. As a result, many school-age children and adults alike keep busy and fit by engaging in both organized competitive and less formal “pick-up” games at local parks and recreational facilities. While sports can be a great way to stay fit and meet people with similar interests, participation can also expose individuals to the risk of serious injury.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC), almost 175,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are treated in emergency departments around the country each year among people 19 and under. TBIs occur when an external force to the head, such as a bump or jolt, results in impairment in the way that the brain normally functions. These injuries have the potential to cause serious neurological, cognitive, and physical problems, some of which could be long-term, leaving victims unable to work and with significant medical expenses. Consequently, many sports-related TBI victims wonder if they can sue to recover these and other losses. Whether a TBI victim will be able to bring a legal action depends on a variety of factors, so anyone who has sustained a TBI during an athletic event should discuss their situation with a Clearwater personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Assumption of the Risk
A legal doctrine known as “assumption of the risk2” operates to prevent many injured athletes from suing the person who caused their injury. The doctrine holds that people who knowingly agree to put themselves at risk by participating in a dangerous activity is barred from suing for injuries that occur in the normal course of that activity. For example, a football player could likely not sue for a TBI sustained during a tackle, just as a hockey player would be unable to sue for injuries sustained after a hard body check. There are some situations, however, in which an athlete that sustained a TBI would possibly be able to recover for his or her losses. These include:
- Defective equipment injuries – In cases where defective equipment causes a TBI, victims may be able to recover from the manufacturer or retailer of the equipment.
- Recklessness or intentional acts – Assumption of the risk does not apply to acts that are completely outside of the way in which a particular sport is played. For example, assuming the risk involved with playing football does not mean consenting to being punched in the face with a fist.
- Injuries caused by poorly maintained premises – Athletic competitions take place on a variety of surfaces, including baseball field, hockey rinks, football fields, and basketball courts. When these facilities have hazardous conditions that cause an injury, the party responsible for its maintenance could potentially be held liable.
- Negligent coaching or instruction – In certain situations, coaches owe their athletes a duty to ensure that they are properly trained to participate in a particular activity and are not asked or required to participate in a competition that would be so beyond their skill level as to expose them to an unreasonable risk of injury. In circumstances when coaches fail to uphold this duty, an injured athlete may be able to sustain a legal claim against the negligent coach or his or her employer.
Lawsuits against public schools
Many organized sports are sponsored and administered by the various public schools or public school districts around the state of Florida. If an injury occurs during these activities and the school district or its employees are at fault, a special set of legal rules may apply. This is because the government and its various units are generally immune from lawsuits, expect to the extent to which they have agreed to be sued. Fortunately for Florida residents, the Florida Tort Claims Act3 just does this, but subjects such lawsuits to a particular set of rules. As a result, anyone who has been injured during an athletic activity sponsored by or associated with a school should discuss their options with an attorney who understands how to handle these kinds of claims.
Contact a Clearwater traumatic brain injury lawyer today to schedule a free consultation
The attorneys of the Dolman Law Group are dedicated to protecting the legal rights of people injured in preventable accidents. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756