Liability for Amateur Sports Injuries

Who bears responsibility when a young player is seriously injured during a game?

As sports grow ever more popular and competitive, athletic injuries become more and more common. While everyone expects the usual scrapes and bruises to occur during athletic activity, when serious personal injuries occur, the question of legal liability comes to the forefront, particularly if such injuries interfere with everyday activities for a prolonged period or even result in permanent disability.

If your child has been seriously injured during an educational or recreational sporting event and you know or suspect that the situation occurred partially or entirely because of inadequate protective gear, or insufficient preparation or supervision, you should contact a skilled personal injury attorney promptly. Bear in mind that such an injury may result in complications with long-term effects on your child’s life.

According to the law, those conducting school or recreational athletic events assume “legal duty of care,” meaning that they have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect young participants from harm and to provide them with prompt medical care if do suffer an injury.

What Legal Duty of Care Involves

There is a protocol that the law expects sponsoring agencies, coaches, and other responsible adults to follow. It includes:

  • Providing adequate instruction: training, explanation of rules, proper behavior, and risks
  • Supplying appropriate protective equipment, such as helmets and mouth guards
  • Making a reasonable effort to match participants in terms of height, weight, size and skill
  • Providing proper supervision for the age group participating (i.e. 7-year-olds need more supervision than 18-year-olds)
  • Having necessary supplies to treat a possible injury and taking immediate steps to treat an injury should one occur
  • Taking care not to put an injured player back in the game if doing so may further aggravate the injury he or she just received

Whether coaches are hired professionals or volunteers, they are expected to be trained to provide reasonable instruction and preparation to their players, including not only teaching the youngsters the rules of the game, but the game’s possible dangers, and the correct use of protective gear.

Certainly not all injuries incurred during team sports result in liability lawsuits. There are many occasions in which young players do not follow directions or cautions and who put themselves in harm’s way. It is very common, for example, for older students to continue playing with fairly serious injuries because they don’t want to disappoint their coach, their fans, their families, or their teammates. This is why one of the chief responsibilities of the adults guiding them has to be to remind them of their duty to protect themselves, their teammates, and even the members of the opposing team, from serious harm.