Enrolling your child in a sport can be a great way to teach him or her sportsmanship, teamwork and discipline. You might never expect your child to suffer a serious injury while on the field, track or court. Sadly, thousands of children and youth each year end up in hospitals throughout the U.S. with sports-related injuries – often due to someone else’s negligence, such as a school or sports coach. These injuries can range from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. If your child suffers a serious injury at an athletic event in California, find out who may be responsible by discussing your case with a personal injury attorney.
Sports coaches in youth programs have a legal responsibility to look out for the safety of their players. The coach is the adult that is with the kids most often – the one that supervises training, practices, meet-ups and games. The coach will owe high standards of care to players. Coaches should have proper experience and training in sports safety. They should know how to do their jobs while making the safety of the kids a priority.
A sports coach could be responsible for a player’s injuries if the coach negligently allowed harm to befall the player, such as fatigue, dehydration, heatstroke, overexertion, bullying, muscle strain or second-impact syndrome. If a reasonable and prudent coach would not have allowed the child to suffer the injury, or would have reacted differently to an emergency, a parent may be able to hold the coach accountable.
The School or Sports Program
Unless the coach is an independent contractor, the party that hired the coach will be vicariously responsible for child injuries the coach causes. This is the case at most schools, for example. Rather than a parent only being able to hold the coach responsible – a party that may not have sufficient insurance – a parent could bring a claim against the larger school or school district based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, Latin for let the master answer. As long as the coach was an employee and performing work-related tasks at the time of your child’s injury, you could hold the school vicariously liable.
The school or larger sports program may also be responsible for your child’s injuries if it contributed to them directly. If the organization refused to pay for new gear, for example, and your child suffered an injury because his helmet split open upon impact, the school could be liable for negligently failing to provide safe equipment. If your child attends a public school, the liable party could be the government. Claims against the government in California have unique rules under the Tort Claims Act and often require assistance from attorneys to litigate.
The Property Owner
If your child suffered serious injuries at a sports event due to a property defect, the person or entity that owns the sports field, arena, stadium, court or swimming pool could be liable for your damages. Common property defects that can injure players include holes in the ground, concealed sprinkler heads, torn or worn gym mats, exposed metal, dangerous bleachers, lack of safety netting, slippery courts, unsafe swimming pools, dangerous animals or people, and toxic substances or chemicals. A property owner could also be liable for a criminal attack your child suffered, such as sexual assault, if the owner reasonably should have provided better security.
The Sports Equipment Manufacturer
Some player injuries trace back to faulty, defective or dangerously designed sports equipment. A defective baseball bat, for example, may break apart and send pieces flying into the stadiums. A defective helmet could fail to properly protect your child’s head from impacts from balls, other players or hockey pucks. If a piece of sports equipment contained a defect and this caused your child’s serious injuries, you may have a product liability case against the manufacturer.
Discuss your sports event injury claim with a lawyer in California, regardless of who you believe might be responsible. A lawyer can investigate the accident and help your family identify the correct defendant.