Whether you’re looking forward to rec league summer sports or doing your best to stay healthy, there’s no denying that sports are a great way to get fit and have fun. Unfortunately, regardless of the sport you play, there’s always a potential risk of sports-related personal injury. In some cases, these injuries can be severe, resulting in medical expenses, losses, and pain and suffering.
What happens when you’re injured while playing sports? Can you bring a personal injury claim? This blog post discusses what you need to know about personal injury claims arising from sports in Ontario.
Types of Sports Personal Injuries
Personal injury in sports can vary wildly – especially given the difference in risk between a contact football game or a pickleball match. Some of the more common sports-related personal injuries you might run into include:
- Head injuries (e.g., concussions)
- Soft tissue injuries (e.g., sprains, strains, and contusions)
- Broken bones (e.g., fractures or dislocations)
- Muscle tears (common sports injuries include ACL tears or rotator cuff tears)
Liability for Sports Personal Injuries
Keep in mind that you will only sometimes have the opportunity to bring a claim concerning a sports personal injury. For example, if you tear your rotator cuff while playing a round of tennis, that injury doesn’t automatically entitle you to sue your match partner!
Personal Injury in Sports and Negligence
If you’ve been injured while playing sports and want to determine whether you have the right to bring an action against another party, you’ll first need to look to the law of negligence.
To establish a negligence claim, the injured party needs to prove the following:
- the negligent party owed a duty of care to the injured party;
- the negligent party breached the applicable standard of care;
- the injured party sustained damages; and
- the damages were caused by the negligent party’s negligence.
Suppose the injured party establishes the claims above. In that case, they will be entitled to damages for the injuries and losses they have suffered from the negligent party or parties wrongdoing, including compensatory damages (such as medical expenses or income loss), non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life).
Liability and the Standard of Care
It can be difficult to establish negligence for sports personal injuries due to the often nebulous standard of care expected of sports participants. As noted above, an injured party must prove that the party they are suing breached the applicable standard of care (or whether that person did not behave reasonably in the circumstances).
For sports, establishing that the other party breached the standard of care can be difficult. Unlike, say, a pedestrian being struck by a car, determining whether an action leading to injury in the sports context breaches the applicable standard of care can be difficult.
Liability and Voluntary Assumption of Risk
When playing any sport, it’s presumed that players assume some risk. Therefore, in many cases, an injury victim may not be able to sue for damages if that injury arose due to a normal risk associated with the sport. This voluntary assumption of risk is particularly contentious in contact sports, like hockey or football, where physical contact is a normal part of the game.
However, reckless or intentional conduct by another party will typically go beyond a voluntary assumption of risk. So, for example, if you’re playing hockey and another player intentionally hits you in the head with their stick, resulting in personal injury, you may have a valid claim against them.
Liability and Waivers
Depending on where you’re recreating, you may be required to sign a waiver that limits your right to bring a personal injury claim if you are injured. For example, we’ve previously written about ski and snowboard liability waivers, which can impact your ability to bring a personal injury claim if you are injured while skiing or snowboarding at a resort. Likewise, some recreation leagues and sports centres require participants to sign a waiver stating they will not be entitled to sue if injured.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to bring an action following a sports personal injury even if you have signed a liability waiver. To assess whether a waiver will impact your ability to bring a personal injury claim, speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Compensation for Sports Personal Injuries
Suppose you successfully establish a cause of action against another party in relation to a sports injury. In that case, you may be entitled to compensation for damages and losses arising from that party’s negligence.
Some of the more common areas where personal injury claimants may be compensated for damages or losses include:
- Pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life (or “non-pecuniary damages”, which do not have a defined monetary value, but instead compensate victims for the impact the injuries have had on their life);
- Lost income, which can include past income loss (if you had to take time off work due to your injuries) or future loss of earning capacity (if your injuries will affect your ability to work in the future); and
- Expenses, which include fees for treatment and rehabilitation.
Personal Injury and Sports: Our Conclusions
While sports personal injuries are not uncommon, several complicating factors for sports personal injuries may impact your ability to bring a claim against the party that harmed you. While establishing a personal injury claim concerning a sports injury can be difficult, it’s always worth consulting with a skilled personal injury lawyer following an injury to help you understand your legal rights, assess your claim, and negotiate with insurance companies or other parties involved in the case.
Regardless of whether you have a cause of action against another party, remember that the most important thing you can do following an injury is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible and to follow all recommended treatment protocols so you can recover as quickly as possible and get back to enjoying your sport of choice – whatever it might be!
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
Tierney Stauffer LLP has the experience to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, regardless of the cause of the accident. Recreational sports accidents, for example, can present special legal issues that require the attention of a personal injury lawyer.
We have the skills and resources necessary to tackle these complicated issues so you can focus on your recovery. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.