Last updated on June 18th, 2019 at 03:26 pm
As the football season nears to an end, with summer just around the corner, there will be a significant pickup in the number of people attending sporting clubs and sporting events. While many areas of personal injury claims are relatively straightforward, black or white in terms of negligence and liability, the same cannot be said for sporting injuries both in the professional game and amateur events. So, where do you stand with regards to sporting injuries, accidents and personal injury claims?
As we have covered on numerous occasions, the key to any successful personal injury claim is proving the negligence of one or more third parties. If it is difficult to prove negligence then there is every chance that the claim could be rejected and the claimant left with significant legal, medical or repair costs. There have been a lot of court claims with regards to sporting incidents and they have thrown up a number of interesting (although shocking may be a better word) rulings.
Even those injured during amateur sporting events can potentially lose significant income if they have a prolonged absence from work. That is before we even begin to look at professional footballers who can earn upwards of £100,000 a week!
There are a number of factors to consider which include:-
Standard Of Facilities
Ultimately the standard of facilities hosting any professional or amateur sporting event is the responsibility of the owners. We have seen instances where badly maintained stadiums and various facilities, including the pitch, have directly led to injuries. Legally, those hosting any sporting event have a legal obligation to ensure the safe well-being of those involved as well as spectators.
Common issues with sporting facilities include:
- Uneven and dangerous playing surfaces
- Badly maintained seating and standing areas
- Substandard facilities such as toilets and rest areas
- Food poisoning
If you have received an injury as a consequence of playing or watching a sporting event you may well have a valid sports injury claim for compensation. However, it is worth noting that attending any sporting event where there is physical contact does itself carry a degree of risk which will be taken into account in the event of a prosecution for compensation. That is not to say that owners of sporting facilities will be exempt from compensation but there needs to be a clear case of negligence.
Over the years we have seen a number of personal prosecutions with regards to tackles in football matches which have led to career threatening injuries and a significant reduction in future income. Again, where there is any physical contact there is an element of risk (which in many cases is the reason for playing and attending sporting events) but there is also an obligation for all participants to act appropriately, within the law, and as far as possible respect the safe well-being of other participants. Reckless challenges, physical assaults and other similar incidents have occurred on numerous occasions across the whole sporting spectrum. The idea that somehow “what happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch” is a fair comment when all parties are acting lawfully but there is no exemption for unlawful acts during any sporting event.
When you bear in mind football superstars are now changing hands at up to £200 million and earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, the mind boggles at the potential compensation claims for deliberate injuries or blatant negligence.
Substandard Training, Training Facilities And Tactics
It goes without saying that substandard training facilities which directly cause injuries to individuals are likely to lead to personal injury claims. The idea that substandard training techniques and potentially dangerous tactics can also lead to legal claims may surprise many.
While those involved in any sport, both in terms of training and participation, readily accept a degree of risk there are legal boundaries. Over the years we have seen various aggressive training methods, resulting in injuries and accidents, coming before the courts as victims look to seek compensation. While initially pursuing compensation for injuries received as a consequence of training methods may seems a little “soft”, if you sit back and think about it, it is perfectly valid. The idea that participants are somehow coerced to undertake aggressive training methods to be “part of the team” would be taken into consideration as would the training methods themselves.
We have seen instances in the past where tactics used by coaches, via team members, have resulted in injuries to various parties. If you were walking down the street and somebody injured you with a premeditated attack then it would seem to be an open and shut case with regards to negligence and liability. So, in the eyes of the law it is no different if a team or individual is instructed/chooses to undertake a premeditated tactic which is likely to cause injury – they open themselves up to legal action. In many ways this perfectly illustrates the fact that events on a sporting field are not exempt from similar events in everyday life.
Damage To Property And Third-Party Injuries
This area of sporting compensation tends to prompt the most controversy, confusion and dismay in equal measures. We will take a look at some of the more common questions asked and historic rulings.
Stray Cricket Balls
Those living anywhere near a cricket field may well have experienced stray cricket balls causing damage to their property and in some cases damage to individuals. There have been numerous court cases over the years with very different rulings. To the general public, the idea that the cricket club would be liable to damage caused to property and individuals, as a consequence of stray cricket balls leaving the field of play, seems perfectly straightforward? However, over the years a number of compensation claims have been refused for various reasons including:
- Claims by insurance companies that damage or injury caused was “an act of God”.
- Suggestions by cricket clubs that because these were fairly irregular events they could not be held liable.
- One cricket club even suggested that as there were no paid employees within the cricket club they could not be prosecuted under health and safety regulations.
This gives you an idea of the potential hurdles in front of those looking to pursue compensation as a consequence of damage or injury caused by stray cricket balls. In the event that stray cricket balls have caused damage on numerous occasions in the past it may be possible to prove negligence as the cricket club was well aware of the potential dangers. The erection of safety nets and other similar barriers would appear to be warranted in this particular situation. Even though sporting clubs do have their own insurance to cover public liability issues, history shows us that it can be very difficult getting them to part with any compensation!
Stray Golf Balls
Those living in the vicinity of golf courses are likely to regularly experience stray golf balls as a consequence of erratic shots by golfers. Over the years we have seen instances where car windows have been smashed, homes have been damaged and individuals have also encountered a range of mild to serious physical injuries. This particular area of sporting injury/damage prompts an array of difficult questions such as:
- Should individuals be held accountable for their erratic golfing shots?
- Do golf clubs have an obligation to bar inexperienced golfers from particularly dangerous holes?
- Are these “acts of God”?
- Is there a need to erect protective netting or barriers?
- Does the positioning of individual holes increase the risk of erratic shots and potential damage to surrounding houses and people?
We have seen many instances where stray golf balls have caused significant damage to properties and cars but the claimants have lost their case for compensation. There is obviously a need for the golf club and individual golfers to protect the surrounding properties and people as far as possible but “acts of God” do occur. However, it is worth noting that each individual case will be considered on its own merits as opposed to a one ruling suits all approach. So, don’t give up until you have taken advice about a possible claim!
As we approach the summer season, cricketers and golfers are already getting their sporting equipment together. On the other hand, many living in the vicinity of cricket clubs and golf courses will be readying themselves for yet more dangers. There is an inherent risk associated with all forms of sport and sporting clubs/those running events have an obligation to protect participants and the general public as far as reasonably possible. However, there will be instances where damage occurs as a consequence of unintended actions.
The line between liability and no liability is very thin because if damage is caused on a regular basis by stray cricket or golf balls, then clubs and participants should perhaps be more proactive regarding safety measures?
The situation regarding injuries for those participating and watching sporting events is also slightly blurred. Again, there is an inherent risk in playing the likes of football and rugby and unless a tackle which caused injury was reckless or negligent there might not be a case for compensation. However, the idea that unlawful acts which occur on a sports field are somehow exempt from similar events in everyday life is quite simply wrong. If you have received an injury or had property damaged as a consequence of a sporting incident then you may well have a claim for compensation if you can prove negligence.