Who’s Liable for Youth Sports Injuries?

I’m having a midlife crisis.

Or at least that’s what sportswriter Paul Flannery thinks I’m experiencing. He recently wrote a great article for Medium.com on extreme athleticism becoming the new midlife crisis.

According to Flannery, Gen-Xers are coping with becoming middle aged (audible gasp) by getting into extreme fitness, big time. We’re talking marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons, Cross-Fit, or whatever endurance sport is trending.

I’m not immune to this generational freak out. My reaction to turning 40 with too many extra pounds leftover from too many babies? Getting into running, big time.

I knew this past weekend I had crossed the city limit into crazy town when I ran a quarter marathon while suffering a nasty bout of achilles tendonitis. Despite walking with a noticeable limp for over a week and against the advice of my sports medicine doctor (yes, I’m crazy enough to have one of those on speed dial), I ran the race.

I ran the entire race at a 10 minute pace, finishing just behind a dude in an inflatable Elvis costume but ahead of the dude wearing an inflatable sumo costume.

Was it worth it? Probably not. In addition to potentially rupturing my achilles tendon, I set a terrible example for my girls on how to deal with sports injuries.

My girls play a lot of team sports. I spend a good chunk of my weekends on the sidelines watching gymnastics, soccer, basketball, swim, and golf. My girls have had their fair share of injuries. Sprains and strains, dehydration, and head injuries, to name a few.

Based on my numbskull performance last weekend, if I get injured in one of my crazy athletic endeavors, it’s going to be my own damn fault.

But what about my kids? They are supervised by adults other than me when they play sports. If they get injured playing sports, who is responsible?

I’m right to be thinking about this issue. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 3.5 million kids suffer sports injuries every year. While we usually think of collision and contact sports like football and rugby as being dangerous, it’s actually sports like gymnastics and swimming where kids suffer the most severe injuries.

So what are your options if your child suffers more than a minor injury and even with health insurance, the costs of treatment and required follow-up care are substantial?

File a third party claim under the liability coverage of the business or organization that is responsible for your child’s injury  

One option is to file a third party claim under the liability coverage of the business or organization that is responsible for your child’s injury (for example, the league that your daughter’s soccer team plays in). Remember to not sign any settlement until you understand the full extent of your child’s injuries. The insurance company won’t be on your side and will want to settle for as little as possible. Once you sign the settlement, you can’t go back and ask for more.

File (or threaten to file) a personal injury lawsuit

What if you can’t get enough money from the third party claim to cover your child’s injury? In order to get more money, you will need to hire a personal injury attorney to file a lawsuit against the person (or persons) and/or organization responsible for your child’s injury. Keep in mind that a lawsuit may never actually be filed. Your lawyer could use your willingness to file a lawsuit as a bargaining chip in settlement negotiations.

In a personal injury lawsuit, you would need to prove that the person or organization was negligent, meaning they did something or failed to do something that contributed to your child’s injury. For example, was your child inadequately supervised? Was the equipment your child using faulty or unsafe? Was the coach improperly trained? Were the facilities poorly maintained? Did the league fail to have adequate onsite emergency medical care? Did the coach move an injured athlete without proper care?

There are three BIG caveats you need to consider before filing a personal injury lawsuit:

  • If the injury came in the normal course of whatever sport your kid was playing, you will have a very hard time holding anyone else legally responsible.
  • You most likely signed a liability waiver and release when you signed your child up. For more info on those, see Liability Waivers and Releases for Dummies. If enforceable, this could very well relieve the defendant of liability.
  • If your child was playing for a public school sports team, you can’t just go and sue the school district. As a government agency or federally-funded agency, public schools are shielded from sports liability. You would have to go through the school district’s procedure for compensation.

If your kids play sports, chances are sooner or later they are going to get injured. It’s just part of playing sports. But sometimes, the coaches and organizations that run your kid’s sports team can be held liable if they acted negligently. If your child is seriously injured while playing sports, consult with a personal injury attorney.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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