Unfortunately injuries are a part of sports. No matter how careful the participants are there are always inherent risks associated with participating. While everyone who chooses to play a sport accepts the risk of sustaining certain types of injuries, if your sporting injury is caused by someone else’s recklessness, or if they intentionally injured you, you may be entitled to compensation based on a personal injury claim.
Assumption of Risk When Playing a Sport
There is a legal notion called the “assumption of risk doctrine” which stands for the principle that participants who willingly engage in a sporting activity cannot hold co-participants liable for injuries that they cause during the game. Co-participants cannot be held liable because when the injured party agreed to play, they voluntarily assumed the risk of potentially being injured by one of the other players. If we did not have the assumption of risk doctrine in the United States then athletes would constantly be suing each other. For example, a baseball player would be able to sue the pitcher who accidentally hits him with a ball while he is up at bat.
However, agreeing to participate in a sport does not mean that the player is assuming any and all risk of injury. They are only assuming the risk of incurring injuries that can reasonably be expected to arise during the course of their participation. For example, a tennis player likely would not have a personal injury case if her opponent hits a tennis ball at her face and breaks her nose. However, that same tennis player would likely have a case if her opponent got mad during a match and broke her nose by throwing his tennis racket at her face in frustration. This is because getting hit with a ball during a tennis match can cause a reasonably foreseeable injury while getting hit by your opponent’s racket likely does not.
In order to recover damages, i.e. in order to be compensated for your loss, during a personal injury lawsuit the injured party must be able to show either that the other party’s negligence caused the injury, or that the other party intentionally caused the injury. In most personal injury lawsuits the injured party claims that defendant was negligent in some way. Generally, a person acts negligently when they are careless, or act in a manner that falls below the standard of care expected of a reasonable person. However, a party can also be negligent if they fail to act when they had a duty to do so.
In a successful personal injury suit where the injured party claims that the defendant acted negligently, the following five elements must be shown:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the injury party,
- The defendant breached that duty,
- There is a causal connection between the breach of that duty and the injury caused,
- The injury was a foreseeable cause of the defendant’s actions (or inaction), and
- The injured party suffered some sort of damage as a result.
Types of Sports Injury Claims
While actionable sports injury claims can arise under a number of different situations and for a variety of reasons, Medic8 provides a helpful list of common types of sports injury claims. This list includes defective equipment claims, inadequate supervision claims, poor instruction claims, reckless conduct claims, and unsafe facilities claims. A few of the the most common types of sports injury claims are highlighted below.
- Inadequate Supervision Claims: Many sporting events have referees, or other officials, who are in charge of enforcing the rules of the game and keeping players safe. If a supervising official is negligent in their duties and as a result you are injured, you may have a personal injury claim against them. For example, if you get hurt during a swim meet and the lifeguard on duty did not come to your aid in a timely manner because he was busy playing on his phone then you may be able to recover damages from him if your injury either occurred or was made worse by his inadequate supervision.
- Reckless Conduct Claims: If your sports injury is caused by a co-participant who acted in an overly aggressive or irresponsible manner then you may be able to file a reckless conduct claim against them. What is deemed “overly aggressive” varies greatly between sports. For example, players who engage in a football match, which is a high contact sport, can aggressively tackle an opponent without acting in a reckless manner, on the other hand, a basketball player cannot. Additionally, even in the context of a contact sport a player can be held legally liable for a co-participant’s injuries if the player deliberately tried to injure the co-participant or made physical contact that was reckless or over the top.
- Unsafe Facilities Claims: A personal injury claim for a sports injury can also stem from unsafe sporting facilities. For instance, a gym may be held liable for injuries caused by their unreasonably slippery floors or by an improperly assembled weight bench. Sports facilities have a duty to maintain their premises on a regular basis in order to ensure that their facilities are reasonably safe for participants to use. Failing to do so can leave the sports facility open to liability for resulting injuries.
- Defective Equipment Claims: Athletes can also be injured due to defective or faulty sports equipment. When this happens they may have a claim against the sports facility who supplied the equipment if the equipment was negligently maintained, or even against the manufacturer or retailer of the equipment if the defect stemmed from the design or the manufacturing of the product.
Speak to a Legal Expert
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior while paying a sport in South Carolina you may be legally entitled to compensation. If you would like to discuss your legal options, contact the dedicated Rock Hill, SC personal injury lawyers at the Elrod Pope Law Firm at our offices in either Rock Hill or Lake Wylie.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.