What Are My Legal Options After Suffering an Injury at a Sporting Event?
Attending major sporting events can be a fun, memorable experience. Unfortunately, it can also be a risky one. While spectator injuries at sporting events are not necessarily common, they do happen. On numerous occasions, fans at NFL or MLB games have been struck by stray pucks or baseballs—sometimes with fatal results. In 2013, at the Daytona International Speedway, debris from a collision shot into the stands, injuring 30 spectators. There are many other examples—from crowd riots to broken seats or faulty stairway railings—but the overall idea remains the same: injuries at sporting events happen to both the players and the spectators.
If you have been injured at a sporting event, you might wonder whether you have cause to file a lawsuit. After all, surely venue owners and event organizers have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for their spectators.
Assumed Risk and Waivers of Liability
Indeed, there is an expectation of safety at these types of events. However, there is also what is called “assumed risk,” which can complicate the path toward legal action for sporting event injury victims. For instance, if a fan attends a baseball game, he or she can reasonably assume that a few balls will be hit into the stands—either as foul balls or home runs. As such, there is always a chance of being struck by a stray ball while attending a baseball game. This risk is “assumed” and therefore is rarely seen as reasonable grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. A similar idea applies in hockey—though venues are expected to meet specific safety standards to protect crowds from these types of risks.
In addition to the assumption of risk, many sporting events also require attendees to agree to a “waiver of liability” when purchasing their tickets. These waivers include language to protect venue owners and event organizers from legal liability for anything that might happen to a spectator at the sporting event in question. Depending on the wording of these waivers, there may be ways to get around them. For instance, if a player were to attack a fan in the middle of a sporting event, the waiver likely would not preclude the fan’s ability to file a lawsuit. Waivers of liability typically involve negligence, not intentional acts.
Still, negligence cases can often lead to lawsuits. For instance, in 2016, a former student of a school district in Wisconsin sued the district for negligence. She had been injured two years before when the bleachers she was standing on at a high school football game collapsed. Her lawsuit claimed the school district had failed to maintain its facilities to keep them safe for students and other attendees. Unsafe bleachers, barriers, walkways, stairs, or other areas of a venue can create compelling arguments for venue negligence that is not covered under the assumption of risk or waiver of liability.
Explore Your Legal Options Today
If you have suffered an injury at a sporting event that you believe amounts to apparent negligence, you should at least sit down with a lawyer to discuss your options. At Corradino and Papa, LLC, our personal injury attorneys in New Jersey are here to help you with your case. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today.