Who’s liable when your child or teen is injured while participating in a youth or high school sports program? Jacksonville personal injury attorneys explain. Each year, upwards of 30 million children and teens participate in youth sports with schools and civic organizations throughout the United States. Unfortunately, scores of those kids and teens end up in America’s emergency rooms with often serious, game-ending injuries. But can parents hold teams, coaches, athletes, organizations or facilities managers accountable for losses suffered with those injuries?
Suing for youth or high school sports injuries is a tough call, say personal injury attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell. Most often, legal responsibility falls not on coaches, schools or sports organizations, but on young athletes’ parents for several reasons. A primary reason is that sports injuries are considered a normal, foreseeable and unavoidable part of athletic competition. So, when parents allow their children to participate in sports, they and the child willingly accept the normal risks of those particular sports. The ability to successfully sue in cases of sports injuries typically comes only when an athlete or his or her parents can prove that an injury was caused by the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another participant, coach or facility owner.
A parent also may be able to sue a youth sports facility or school if it can be proven that some defect in the facility caused or contributed to the accident. Laws also may vary according to whether an injury was caused during a sanctioned game or a practice session. That’s important to remember because, although 62 percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice, more than a third of parents fail to assure that their kids take the same safety precautions at practice that they would during a game. In the past few years, Florida legislators have made an effort to curb the instance of brain injuries, including concussions, in youth and school sports.
It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of high school athletes return to the field, court, track or mat before properly recovering from a serious head injury. Many students and parents fail to realize the extent of a young athlete’s brain injury. And many student athletes feel pressure to return to the game as soon as possible to help maintain the team’s competitiveness. As a result, Florida requires independent sports sanctioning authorities to adopt bylaws or policies requiring youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion or other head injury in a practice or competition to be immediately removed and not allowed to return without written medical clearance. Those clearances must be authorized by health care practitioners trained in the diagnosis, evaluation, and management of concussions as defined by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee of the Florida High School Athletic Association.
The legal ramifications are important to know when you consider:
- High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year;
- More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year;
- Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the U.S.;
- Since 2000 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players.
If your child or teen is injured playing a school or organized sport, get medical treatment immediately, then contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can be reached at 800-251-1111.