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19 January 2018

Do Athletes Ever Have Grounds For Lawsuits After Sports Injuries?

baseball player sliding into base

Anyone who plays or watches sports understands that injuries are part of the game. Contact sports like football and hockey involve extremely athletic and powerful individuals colliding with each other on a regular basis. While many sports injuries are a natural byproduct of the nature of the sport, that doesn’t mean that all injuries are unpreventable. Sometimes, injuries occur unnecessarily due to forms of negligence. But what types of situations could prompt legal action after an athlete, professional or otherwise, gets injured?

Can Professional Athletes File Lawsuits For Sports Injuries?

A professional baseball player recently filed a lawsuit against the Chicago White Sox after he was severely injured in his first game in the big leagues. 22-year-old Dustin Fowler made his Major League debut for the New York Yankees on June 29, 2017, playing at Guaranteed Rate Field against the Chicago White Sox. However, before Fowler could even step to the plate for the first time, he was seriously injured while playing defense in the outfield. While chasing a foul ball, he collided with an unpadded metal electrical box between a railing and half wall in right field.

Fowler’s knee slammed into the wall, rupturing his patella tendon. He was brought off the field on a stretcher and an ambulance rushed him to the emergency room at Rush University Medical Center. At the hospital, doctors performed surgery which would end his first Major League season after less than an inning of play.

Fowler filed a lawsuit against the Chicago White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (the company that owns the ballpark), alleging that both entities failed to keep the field safe for play. This is an example of premises liability. He’s seeking damages for severe and permanent injuries, pain and anguish, medical expenses, past lost earnings, and potential future lost earnings.

In Fowler’s case, the injury was caused by circumstances beyond the normally expected dangers of professional sports. If he had broken his leg while sliding into a base, clearly this would not be grounds for a lawsuit, as this type of injury is par for the course in professional baseball. But the existence of an unnecessarily dangerous condition directly caused his injury, which prompted legal action.

Are Little League, High School, and College Athletes Entitled To Compensation For Preventable Injuries?

Lawsuits from professional athletes are rare for a couple of reasons. First, the facilities they play at are usually state-of-the-art, safe, and free from preventable hazards. Second, these athletes usually have the financial means and healthcare coverage to handle the expenses related to their injuries, However, non-professional athletes in Little Leagues, high schools, and colleges aren’t always so fortunate when they get injured.

Even when non-professional athletes have health insurance, this coverage may not be sufficient to cover the other related expenses suffered after an injury. In some cases, these injured athletes (and their families, in the case of child injuries) may require additional compensation through personal injury lawsuits.

How Can Negligence Cause A Sports Injury?

Like all other personal injury lawsuits, establishing grounds for a claim is about proving negligence. Your legal team must establish that the injury was preventable and only occurred because of another party’s negligence. Some examples of such negligence may include:

  • Dangerous or poorly maintained fields and facilities
  • Defective or unsafe equipment (such as helmets, pads, etc.)
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Poorly trained coaches and employees
  • Inadequate on-site medical care

Determining the circumstances behind you or your child’s injury usually requires a detailed review of your case by an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our New York City personal injury lawyers can work to investigate your case, determine if negligence played a role in the injury, and prepare a case against the negligent parties so that you can get the financial support you need for damages related to your injury.