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Understanding Liability for Club Sports Injuries

The risk of injury is an unavoidable part of playing club sports. Tearing a ligament or breaking a bone while playing a game of amateur league basketball can be frustrating, but it can also be expensive for someone who doesn’t have insurance. When a sports injury has long-term consequences, like lost work time or extremely high medical costs, a lawsuit might be justified. In this blog we look at who might bear responsibility for sports-related injuries, and a few of the legal theories that might apply in such a case.

Who bears responsibility for sports injuries?

In the context of club sports there are several potential defendants in a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, more than one defendant might be appropriate. Perhaps the first that will come to mind in many situations is the club itself. As the organizer of an event, an amateur sports league owes participants an obligation to make sure the event is reasonably safe. An organization can fail to fulfill this obligation in any number of ways. An amateur soccer club might choose to hold its games on a badly maintained field. A baseball league might fail to provide sufficient batting helmets. Responsible sports clubs carry liability insurance to cover participants’ medical bills.

The owner of the facility where sports are played is another potentially liable party. The owner or operator of a facility that is made available to the public has an affirmative duty to ensure that its premises are reasonably safe. For example, the owner of an indoor basketball court is responsible for slippery conditions caused by a leaky roof. If the premises owner provides equipment for use by the sports group, the owner may bear responsibility if the equipment is faulty.

Finally, in some situations other participants may be liable. This is most likely to come up where one participant intentionally hurts another one. But it might also arise if a club supervisor has been especially negligent, for example by knowingly allowing a dangerous condition to persist.

Liability waivers and assumption of risk can limit recovery

A well-run sports club will require its participants to sign waivers of liability to forestall lawsuits. In Nevada, a waiver of liability is enforceable in cases of ordinary negligence. This means that the injured plaintiff needs to claim gross negligence to get past the waiver. Gross negligence involves more than just failing to take reasonable care; the defendant must have acted with blithe disregard for the safety of others. It might apply to the example above where the club supervisor knew about a dangerous condition and let the game proceed anyway.

In a lawsuit the sports club may also argue that the injured plaintiff assumed the risk of injury by participating in the event. Assumption of risk applies where the plaintiff has voluntarily exposed herself to a risk she knew about at the time. Sierra Pac. Power Co. v. Anderson, 77 Nev. 68, 71 (1961). A basketball player who sees that a court is wet but plays anyway might fall into this category. So might an ice hockey player who gets injured in an on-ice collision with another player.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help

Hopefully someone who is injured in club sports will be covered by insurance, either the club’s or the participant’s personal insurance. But if a lawsuit seems like the only path forward to recover for expensive costs associated with an injury caused by a club’s negligence, an attorney’s help will be needed. Even in cases where the participant signed a liability waiver or assumed some of the risk of participating, a lawsuit can still be a necessary strategy.

The attorneys at GGRM have worked with personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have questions about a club sports injury, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We’re reachable at 702-388-4476, or through our website.