Injured Playing An Amateur Sport? What Are Your Legal Options?

Participating in amateur sports as an adult can provide you with lasting friendships and a great source of stress relief. While the majority of children -- nearly three in every four -- play at least one sport during childhood, only one in four continues this participation in sports as an adult (despite the clear physical and mental benefits of doing so). However, whether you play a competitive contact sport like football or roller derby or a less physically intense sport like golf, you may be at risk of injury. Do you have any legal recourse against someone who directly caused your injury on the sporting field? Will you be required to pay your medical expenses out of pocket even if your injury could have been prevented? Read on to learn more about your potential options when injured during a vigorous game, match, or bout. 

When (and who) can you sue for personal injury after being injured while playing a sport?

Most amateur sports leagues will require participants to sign a waiver before gearing or suiting up. This waiver helps protect the league and its members from any liability by requiring you to acknowledge the inherent risk of injury when playing sports -- even non-contact sports like tennis or golf. Because these amateur sports are essentially "play at your own risk," you're not often able to succeed when filing a lawsuit against someone who injured you or the league in general if the injury was a reasonable and foreseeable consequence of your participation in the sport. Even players who are severely hurt while participating in sports (like hockey and lacrosse players who may break bones and lose teeth) often must pay out of pocket for any medical or physical therapy expenses incurred after an accident.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you're injured due not to normal gameplay but reckless or grossly negligent behavior (or purposeful misconduct -- like being kicked or shoved down outside of gameplay due to poor sportsmanship), you may be able to file a tort lawsuit against the person responsible. To succeed in this lawsuit, you'll need to establish that the other player's conduct was well outside the boundaries of normal or reasonable play. You may need witness statements or testimony to describe the events leading up to your injury and establish the necessary elements in order for the scale to tip in your favor.

Are there other situations in which you may be able to recover a financial judgment after being injured while playing a sport?

If your injury wasn't due to the deliberate actions of another player, but to failure of safety equipment or other conditions, you may also have a cause of action for personal injury. For example, if a falling tree branch strikes you while you're playing golf, you may be able to recover funds from the golf course if the tree branch was dead or could be reasonably foreseen as causing injury to those on the course. A malfunctioning mouth guard that causes you to knock a tooth loose during impact could mean liability for the manufacturing company. 

Sometimes, it may not be clear that a faulty or malfunctioning piece of safety equipment led to your injuries -- but if you suffered a fairly severe injury from a more minor impact, it may be worth having a medical professional examine any knee and elbow pads, mouth guards, or your helmet to determine whether any of these items were at fault. Because playing with old or broken-down equipment carries a bit more risk than using new equipment, you'll generally only have a claim against the manufacturer or facility if the equipment failed to do an essential aspect of its job, rather than just failure to completely protect you from injury.

For more information on whether you can sue for personal injuries sustained while playing a sport, contact a personal injury attorney from a firm like Dunnigan & Messier P.C.