Youth derive many benefits from playing sports. Studies have shown students who play sports tend to be healthier, have higher self-esteem, earn better grades, have closer family attachments and show more restraint in avoiding risky behaviors.
However, participation in competitive sports also increases a student’s risk of injury. While occasional bumps and bruises are to be expected, the Fort Lauderdale sports injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm know that many of these incidents result in severe harm.
According to study authors at Safe Kids Worldwide, a branch of the Children’s National Health System, 1.35 million young athletes in the U.S. suffer serious sports-related injuries that must be treated in a hospital emergency room. Put another way, that’s one child injured in sports every 25 seconds. In fact, 1 in every 5 children who is rushed to an emergency department is there because of a sports-related injury. Another 500,000 youth are treated at their local doctors’ offices.
That eye-opening report, “Game Changers,” revealed the primary types of injuries in these cases are:
The report indicated every 3 minutes, a child is diagnosed in an emergency department for a sports-related concussion.
Of the sports that were most likely to result in injuries for youth between the ages of 12 and 17:
- Ice Hockey
And although ice hockey was last on the list, it had the highest percentage of concussion-related injuries: Thirty-one percent. Wrestling had a 14 percent concussion rate, soccer and football 13 percent, cheerleading 12 percent, baseball and softball 11 percent and basketball and volleyball 7 and 6 percent, respectively.
Researchers called these injuries both “predictable” and “preventable.”
Although there are some variables and contingencies, generally schools and other organizations that sponsor sports owe a duty to participating youth to ensure there is not an unreasonable risk of injury.
It’s true there is a level of risk assumed by children who are involved in any physical activity. However, the school or agency still has a general duty to protect children from harm. Some examples of cases in which a school district may be liable for injuries:
- Poor maintenance of equipment, such as helmets, diving boards or balance beams;
- Failure to develop and implement policies and procedures for supervision;
- Failure to ensure coaches and staff are properly trained to recognize and respond to injuries like concussion, heat exhaustion and growth plate injuries;
- Failure to instruct children and parents about the inherent dangers of the activity and proper techniques to best avoid injury (such as regular conditioning, wearing the right protective equipment, etc.).
- Failure to control dangerous equipment.
Teachers, coaches and supervisors owe a duty to correct, control or warn of any dangers, as well as to respond appropriately to emergencies.
And it’s not just schools. Liable entities could also include day cares, summer camps and private organizations, like the YMCA.Establishing Liability
It can be challenging to establish liability against a school or coach following a sports injury for a number of reasons. Among those:
- Sovereign immunity. This is a legal doctrine that prevents the government and its subdivisions (i.e., a school district) from being sued without its consent. Per F.S. § 769.28 , are a number of exceptions for this rule, and a school that is negligent in failing to supervise or protect students in its care may be held responsible for this. But sovereign immunity is a common – and sometimes effective –defense.
- Assumption of risk. If a student athlete is aware of the inherent risks of an activity and voluntarily participated anyway, defendant may assert it is not liable for injuries sustained.
- Waivers. Many youth sports agencies and sponsoring schools require parents to sign a waiver before a child can participate. This fine print can limit the degree to which a school or organization can be found liable (though it usually won’t completely eliminate it).
Our attorneys will be looking to identify all potentially responsible parties, from coaches to school districts to the manufacturers of sporting equipment. We will analyze whether there existed:
- A duty of care owed;
- A breach of duty;
- Injuries resulting from that breach.
Those elements will be essential in proving liability and securing compensation for a child sports-related injury.
For information on legal action following a child injury in Fort Lauderdale, contact The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.