My Child was Injured During School-Sponsored Athletics: What are My Options?
Team sports are a part of the after-school social life at practically every school in the country. However, these activities also carry the risk of injury to the participant. In this article, the personal injury accident lawyer at the Doan Law Firm explains the legal options that may be available to the parents whose children were injured while participating in school-sponsored team sports.
Can a school be sued if my child is injured while participating in athletics?
If your child was injured while participating in school-sponsored athletics, whether during practice or during a game, you will find that filing a lawsuit against the school is very difficult. This is because the school will be able to present three separate defenses that, when taken together, are virtually impossible to overcome. These defenses are discussed below.
Routine expectation of injuries
There is always the danger of injury when your child participates in contact sports, no matter what steps are taken to prevent injury. These injury protection steps include, among others, protective gear such as helmets or special padding and the presence of coaching staff and trainers during practice or contests against other teams. In many cases, the school will be able to claim that a sports injury was an unavoidable consequence of an athletic event and thus escape liability for an injury.
Before your child is allowed to participate in team athletics, the school will require you to sign a waiver releasing the school from responsibility for any injuries that your child might receive in school athletics. Depending on the wording of the waiver that you signed, you may have given up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit if your child is injured during sports events no matter how severe an injury may be.
Sovereign Immunity (“The king can do no wrong”) is the legal doctrine protecting government agencies, such as schools, from lawsuits. Sovereign Immunity can be statutory (a specific law stating that an agency cannot be sued) or based on existing civil or “case” law, where previous court decisions are used as guidance when considering lawsuits filed against a school or some similar agency.
Are schools always exempt from sports injury lawsuits?
While schools are generally protected from lawsuits over sports injuries, there are circumstances where this protection cannot shield a school and/or its employees from a lawsuit. The most common reason for overriding a school’s protection from liability is negligence.
In law, negligence is the failure to act in a manner that is expected of someone with similar experience or education. In school sports, the coaching staff is expected to take all necessary steps to minimize the possibility of injury to an athlete. The most common acts of negligence in school athletics are:
Allowing an injured player to return to a game without medical evaluation
While injuries can be expected during contact sports such as football, hockey, and soccer, the coaching staff and athletic trainers have a duty to protect an injured player from sustaining further injury. Unfortunately, many coaches and trainers will allow a player to return to a game despite failing to meet guidelines established by national sports medicine authorities. An example of such negligence is allowing a player to participate in a game after the player has suffered a concussion.
A concussion is a temporary change in brain function brought about by a blow to the head. Symptoms of a concussion can include a temporary loss of consciousness, difficulty with memory and/or physical coordination, and visual disturbances. National guidelines state that any player who sustains a concussion should not be allowed to return to a game until the player is evaluated by a competent medical professional. Should a coach allow a player to return to a game without medical clearance, that coach may have committed an act of negligence and could be held liable if the player suffers another injury.
Failure to monitor a player’s physical condition
Each year there are reports of players who collapse due to heat exhaustion during practices in hot weather. In some cases, heat exhaustion is either not recognized or deliberately disregarded and will quickly progress to heat stroke and the real possibility of brain damage or even death.
During both practice and during a game, the coaching staff and athletic trainers have the responsibility to monitor their players. Since the development of heat exhaustion/heat stroke occurs gradually, such conditions could be seen as negligence by failure to monitor a player’s condition.
Why you need a school sports injury lawyer
The question of exactly who is liable for school sports injuries can be quite complex. Even though a school and its employees may be protected by law, under certain conditions these protections from liability can be successfully challenged in a personal injury lawsuit.
If your child was injured during a school-sponsored sports event, you should contact a school sports injury lawyer to arrange a review of the facts surrounding your child’s injury and to investigate the legal options that may be available to you. One such lawyer is the school sports injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice.
When you contact our firm, your initial consultation is always free and does not obligate you to retain us to act as your representative. Should you decide to hire us, we are willing to assume all costs associated with preparing your case for trial in exchange for a negotiated percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.