Assumption of Risk Doctrine
Not all sport injuries are the fault of another and thus cannot sustain a lawsuit. The assumption of risk doctrine asserts that participants who voluntarily participate in a sporting activity cannot hold another liable for a caused injury that occurred while participating in the sport. The basis for this is simple—when the injured party decided to partake in the sport, they voluntarily assumed the risk of possibly being hurt by another participant. For example, during soccer, participants can reasonably expect that another player may accidentally kick them while defending the ball.
The assumption of risk doctrine is a popular form of defense in most personal injury and negligence lawsuits. Defendants argue that if the plaintiff has assumed such a risk by voluntarily participating, they cannot recover damages for any harm that arises out of defendant’s conduct. This holds true even in situations where the defendant acted negligently or recklessly and was the clear cause of plaintiff’s injuries.
In order to invoke the assumption of risk doctrine, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the risk involved in the conduct or activity at hand. For sport injury lawsuits, this means proving that the victim was aware of potential injuries that may occur while partaking in the sport. The defendant also needs to prove that the plaintiff voluntarily accepted the risk. Acceptance of the risk can be either through an agreement (i.e., a consent waiver) or through the participants words and conduct. Finally, a defendant needs to prove that the danger and risk was obvious.
Exceptions to Assumption of Risk Doctrine
There are certain exclusions to when the defendant would not be able to invoke the assumption of risk defense, even if the plaintiff voluntarily accepted the risk.
The first exception is the negligence standard. If a participant’s negligence causes another’s injury, they may be liable for damages. In order to assert negligence, the victim needs to prove that the defendant breached the duty of care they owed to them, and this breach of duty was the cause of victims’ injury. This typically occurs when a player fails to abide by safety rules of the game.
Another exception is wanton and willful conduct. In sports, there is a “contact sports exception” that holds a defendant is liable only if their conduct was wanton or willful. In other words, the defendant acted intentionally or maliciously in causing the plaintiffs injury. This can occur when the level of force utilized by the defendant greatly exceeds the normal force exerted in the contact sport.
The third exception is defective or faulty equipment. If the participant utilizes sport equipment that is faulty or defective, and those faults were not anticipated when they voluntarily played the game, they may be able to sue for their injuries. However, a plaintiff can only assert a lawsuit if their injury is a direct result of the equipment being defective. In such a scenario, the owner of the property or the equipment manufacturer would be liable for damages. This exception is based on the theory that even though the participant voluntarily accepted the risk of the sport, they did not voluntarily accept the risk of defective or faulty equipment.
What to do to File a Sports Injury Lawsuit?
As noted above, a plaintiff usually may not assert a lawsuit if they voluntarily accepted the risk of the conduct that caused their injuries. However, because there are exceptions to this doctrine, it is crucial for an injured party to contact a personal injury attorney to evaluate their case. The process is very difficult for a lay person and requires a thorough knowledge of many different legal fields.
Hiring an attorney specialized in these types of cases will help the victim determine whether they can pursue a case against a defendant for their sport injury by disproving the assumption of risk doctrine and providing evidence of negligence. Because sport injuries can be costly, a personal injury attorney will analyze the circumstances of the case and decide if the plaintiff can pursue a lawsuit to mitigate the costs. In a successful sports injury lawsuit, compensatory damages may be awarded for medical bills, lost wages and/or lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of normal enjoyment of life, permanency, scarring, disfigurement, and/or funeral costs in wrongful death lawsuits.
If you have been injured while participating in a sport activity and believe that your accident was caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, we at Sherwood Law Group may be able to help you. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will thoroughly evaluate your case and get you the compensation that you rightfully deserve for your injuries. All consultations are absolutely free. Contact Sherwood Law Group at 312.627.1650 or firstname.lastname@example.org.