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Does the Player Always Assume the Risk in a Sports Injury?

Published on Nov 1, 2019 at 1:57 pm in Brain Injury.

Runners at start of track race

If you’ve been injured while playing a sport, you may be wondering if there’s a legal course of action you can take to recover from your injuries. In some cases, the player assumed the risk in a sports injury, but this is not always the case. Determining liability depends on the specific facts of a case. Signing a waiver doesn’t necessarily mean you’re completely accountable for what happened to you. In order to understand your rights, let’s start by taking a look at the most common sports injuries.

Common Sports Injuries

According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, the most common cause of sports and recreation injuries include:

  • Drowning (1-4 years old)
  • Playground (5-9 years old)
  • Tobogganing (10-14 years old)
  • Sports; i.e. hit by a ball, soccer, hockey, skateboarding, diving, football, etc. (15-19 years old)
  • Skiing/snowboarding (20-24 years old)
  • Snowmobiling (30-34 years old)
  • Baseball (35-39 years old)
  • Cycling, boating, ice skating (50-54 years old)
  • Animal riding (55-59 years old)

While sports injuries vary, there’s the risk of sprains, strains, knee injuries, swollen muscles, Achilles tendon ruptures, broken bones, dislocations, and rotator cuff injuries. The most common way to treat mild sports injuries is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

The Risk of a Traumatic Brain Injury

With any sport, but especially contact sports like hockey, there’s the risk of more severe injuries. In the event someone sustains a concussion, multiple concussions, or another type of head injury, they could be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs are challenging to recover from, as the brain is delicate. While some patients may only deal with mild symptoms like headaches and confusion, others could lose cognitive or motor function.

The Assumption of Risk in British Columbia

Assumption of risk is a legal term that refers to an individual’s choice to participate in any activity with an acknowledgment of the associated risks. It is also referred to as the Volenti Doctrine. The defendant in a case will use the assumption of risk in an attempt to prove the plaintiff knew about the possibility of physical injury or property damage, and therefore, their client would not be liable.

Risk is assumed in one of two ways: express and implied. Express risk means the individual chose to participate in a potentially dangerous activity after they’ve signed a contract or written agreement. This often takes the form of a written liability waiver.

In British Columbia, you have to be at least 19 to sign a written liability waiver. There is also an assumption of risk for minors, with their parent or guardian being generally liable. These agreements are typically signed by athletes. Once you’ve signed, you’ve legally recognized that there are risks associated with the sport you play and you could sustain potential injuries, for which the venue or team would not be liable. It’s important to note, however, that when it comes to filing a legal claim some releases prove to be insufficient. As a result, the defense cannot rely on them.

When there is no written contract or agreement, the defendant can claim the injured party is liable under the implied assumption of risk. This means that the risk involved with the activity was clear.

How the Assumption of Risk Affects a Legal Claim

If the defendant wants to prove the assumption of risk applies to your claim, they’ll need to show you were fully aware of the risks involved, you consented to accept those risks, and you waived any possible claim for damages. Even with a signed contract, this can be challenging to prove. In order to file a successful claim as the plaintiff, you’ll need the help of an experienced legal team. At Wishart Brain & Spine Law, our lawyers have extensive experience helping accident victims recover compensation for what they’ve lost.

In the event negligence played a role in your injury, the assumption of risk may not apply. For example, if a helmet manufacturer cut corners to save money by putting improper padding inside the helmet and you sustained a concussion as a result, you would likely be eligible for compensation.

Recovering from any sports injury can be a challenge. That’s why you need reliable legal representation by your side. We’ll thorough investigate your accident and the resulting injuries to determine if you have grounds for a personal injury claim. Cases involving the assumption of risk can be challenging, but we’re prepared to stand up for your rights and seek the monetary award you need to get your life back in order. For more information, contact us today.

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