Millions of children and teens around the nation engage in sports every day, but there are, of course, inherent risks for student-athletes. It is not just professional athletes that sustain major injuries. Whether it is high school, community, summer camp, or neighborhood sports, on-the-field injuries are a natural part of the game.
As parents, you know about the dangers of playing sports. You either accept it and allow your children to play, or you don’t. In the case of school, county/city, or other organized sports teams, you likely had to sign a waiver or an assumption of risk form that indemnifies and holds the school or agency harmless in the event of an accident. So, for the majority of youth sports injuries, you will need to rely on your health insurance to cover your child’s medical bills.
However, if there was negligence or willful or malicious conduct involved, you might be able to file a liability claim and recover damages. Note, these types of cases are particularly challenging, legally speaking, and may be subject to a very limited time frame in which you can take legal action. If your child recently sustained a sports injury, consult a sports injury lawyer in Pittsburgh at Berger and Green to discuss your case as soon as possible: 412-661-1400. The consultation is free.
Can I sue for my child’s sports injury?
Professional athletes are normally protected by their contracts and continue to receive pay when they are injured on the field. Liability for youth sports injury cases, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. Our firm gets calls from parents on a regular basis who want to know if they can hold someone liable for injuries their child sustained while playing sports. There is no standard, easy answer. There are various factors that affect liability in these cases:
Location – The first question we ask is, where was your child injured? Whether your child was playing sports at a public school or facility, private school, or private home makes a big difference. Public schools are largely immune from lawsuits due to sovereign immunity legislation. Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act essentially shields government agencies, like public schools and public parks, from liability for students’ damages, except in very limited circumstances.
Private schools, however, do not enjoy this protection and may be more susceptible to liability. And if your child sustained an injury while playing sports at another person’s home, then you may be able to file a claim with the homeowner’s liability insurer.
Waivers – The next factor we have to determine is whether you signed a release, waiver, or assumption of risk permission form when your child signed up for the sport. With organized sports teams, signing a release was probably a prerequisite. If you signed one, then the release form will come under scrutiny should you decide to file a claim against the school or sports organization. These types of contracts are very controversial. With truly accidental injuries, the forms are usually valid and enforceable, but when there is negligence or misconduct involved, they may be deemed invalid.
Negligence – Negligence or willful misconduct must be involved in order to hold a school or other party legally responsible for your child’s damages. Did negligence on the part of the school, coach, groundskeeper, homeowner, or some other party cause your child’s injury? If so, you may have a justifiable claim on your hands. Keep in mind that the liable party may not necessarily be the sports organization itself, but rather a third party. For example, if your child was injured because a pitching machine malfunctioned, you may be able to sue the manufacturer.
Determining liability is exceptionally complex with youth sports injury cases. Call 412-661-1400 to speak to one of our attorneys for a free case evaluation.
Did negligence contribute to your child’s sports injury?
As previously mentioned, to hold an organization, facility, or homeowner (defendant) liable for your child’s sports injury, there must be negligence involved. Negligence simply means a breach of legal duty of care. If the defendant knew about or should have known about a hazard and did not take reasonable steps to protect the players and if your child’s injury was not associated with an inherent or expected risk of that sport, the defendant may be deemed negligent, and therefore, liable.
Below are a few examples of negligence in youth sports injury cases:
- The school or coach allowed or encouraged excessive, non-standard force.
- There were preventable tripping hazards on the playing field, such as sprinklers, ripped up AstroTurf or sod, etc.
- The coach or instructor encouraged behavior outside the scope of the sport, like taking illegal steroids or playing dirty.
- The coach failed to take an injured player out of the game.
- The school or organization failed to conduct an appropriate background check on the coach.
- The coach assaulted the player or pushed her beyond reasonable limits.
- The coach, school, or organization failed to consult a medical professional about a player’s injuries or failed to render appropriate first aid.
What types of damages can I recover for my child’s injuries?
If you are eligible to file a claim against a negligent party, you may be able to recover not only medical expenses, but also current and future loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. In cases against a government agency, damages may be capped at $500,000, as per Pennsylvania’s sovereign immunity laws. Your attorney can calculate the value of your case.
Get a FREE consultation with a sports injury lawyer in Pittsburgh.
If your child sustained a serious sports injury, explore your legal options with one of our qualified, caring sports injury lawyers at Berger and Green. We can review the facts of your case, determine liability, and let you know what your options are.
Caution: There is a strict time limit on when you can take legal action for cases of this nature. With some schools, you may need to inform the agency of your intent to file a claim within six months after the accident. Call our firm in Pittsburgh at 412-661-1400 today for a free, informative consultation.