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Sports are an excellent way for children to stay active and develop important life skills. Numerous studies have touted the benefits of organized sports during adolescence. But unfortunately, nearly everyone has a sports injury story. This is especially true for contact sports like football and hockey.

After a sports-related injury, many parents wonder if they can sue for medical bills, pain and suffering, and in severe cases, loss of enjoyment and loss of future potential.

In most circumstances, people cannot sue for sports-related injuries that occur during the normal course of a sporting event. If your child plays football, for example, there is always a chance that your child will sustain a particularly hard hit and get a concussion. If they play hockey, a hard slap shot may fracture a bone. A tennis ball to the nose can result in a trip to the ER. We expect these things to happen sometimes, and they are what is known in legal terms as “assumption of risk”.

Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine that means when people engage in dangerous activities, they assume the risk of injury due to things that normally happen in the sport—even if those injuries are due to penalties. For example, fighting is a sanctioned part of hockey. If a player is injured in a hockey fight, they probably can’t sue their opponent in court.

There are some situations where a parent may be able to sue for an injury to their child. The deciding factor is often whether the offending player went outside the bounds of the sport. An elbow the face during a basketball game usually comes with the territory. A player grabbing a chair from the sidelines and beating an opponent with it would obviously give rise to a lawsuit.

Generally speaking, you can sue for intentional acts outside the bounds of the sport, reckless behavior (like skiing while blindfolded), a defective product (like a defective chest protector), or negligent coaching.

Negligent coaching is a common allegation among sports injuries. If a coach puts a player in an unreasonable or dangerous situation, he or she may be liable.

For example, an after-school basketball program is open to kids of all ages. During a scrimmage, a 5-year-old is hurt when a 10-year old runs into him. The 10-year old is much bigger. As a result of the impact, the 5-year-old suffers a fractured arm. In this situation, the coach may be liable for the accident for not separating the players based on age, size, or ability.

Most sports injuries fall within the realm of  “assumption of risk” and therefore are not compensable. However, each situation is different and your child may be able to recover for their injuries if they were due to the negligence of a coach or egregious conduct from an opposing player.

When in doubt, of course, it’s always best to consult with an experienced attorney.

About The Author

Michael S. Levenson, Esq.Michael Levenson has extensive experience working for insurance companies and in the health care field. Prior to joining, Michael was an attorney with one of the largest insurance defense firms in the country where he specialized in health care law and previously served as the judicial law clerk to a judge presiding in the New Jersey State Superior Court.

Mr. Levenson earned his Juris Doctor degree from Albany Law School with honors. While in law school, he served as a Constitutional Law Teaching Fellow and worked at Albany Law School’s Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic, where he dealt with a myriad of health care law issues.