Who is Liable for Youth Sports Injuries?

Kids get hurt when they play sports, but with youth sports getting more competitive, the injuries are getting more serious. In a 2013 study done by the Institute of Medicine, researchers found that concussion rates were actually higher in high school athletes than in college athletes. The report noted that the typical recovery rate from a concussion was about two weeks, but in almost 20% of the cases symptoms continued much longer. In a society that is now well aware of long-term repercussions like CTE, torn ACLs, and other effects of sports injuries, people are looking to find help navigating the legal waters while protecting their children.

The most common sports injuries, in order, are sprains, fractures, bruises, and concussions. These are injuries seen in every sport, with football topping the chart for the most injuries per year. Sadly, many players are encouraged, either by coaches or by parents, to get back in the game immediately after sustaining an injury. Who is at fault in these cases? Let’s take a look at the coach’s responsibility as outlined by school programs:

  • Providing adequate instruction and training.
  • Supplying necessary, appropriate, and proper protective equipment.
  • Making a reasonable effort to match opponents in size and weight to prevent injury.
  • Providing appropriate supervision.
  • Providing post-injury care if necessary.

Typically, the coach alone is not held liable, unless there is some sort of gross negligence on his or her part. In a 1984 football injury case, a player was not given a helmet and mouth guard but was still told to perform and be “non-aggressive” in the drills. He suffered multiple facial injuries, including broken teeth. In this case, the school was held liable for failure to provide appropriate protective gear. Additionally, the court found that that the coach failed to provide proper instruction and failed to supervise the activity adequately.

Other examples of cases in which the school or coach may be held liable are when a coach:

  • Knows a player has sustained an injury and allows him or her to continue playing.
  • Teaches improper game techniques that result in injury.
  • Allows routines to be practiced without proper safety precautions (for example, a cheerleader practicing without spotters or other safety equipment).

Depending on age, the player can be held liable for injuries to himself or others. In a 1987 baseball case, an 18 year old player was injured when he ran head-on into another player during practice. The court found that the plaintiff (injured) in this case was made aware of the risk of injury beforehand, and was therefore responsible for his own injuries.

Generally speaking, unless negligence is involved, the liability is usually determined by who last assumed the risk, usually the player. However, if negligence exists in any form, whether it be improper equipment, improper training, or anything outside the category of an inherent risks, parents may have a case.

What Is Covered by Insurance?

Health insurance usually covers medical expenses required to care for the injury. Unfortunately, many health insurance policies do not cover expenses related to aftercare. This includes rehabilitation, special equipment, or home care. Insurance also will not cover any costs associated with future income, such as when a football player loses a scholarship because of a long-term injury, although there are a few tuition reimbursement policies.

Because these incidents can affect a young player’s future, many seek help through the civil system with sports injury claims. If a loved one has suffered a sports injury and is now suffering long term damage, please contact an experienced sports injury attorney today. Sports injury attorneys may be able to help you understand the complexities of sports related injuries and whether or not your case in actionable.