Youth sports are among the leading causes of traumatic injuries during childhood. According to research, children participating in youth sports experience an estimated 3.5 million injuries “which cause some loss of time of participation” each year, and almost one third of all childhood injuries are sports-related.
If your child has been injured while participating in youth sports in Wisconsin, it is important to assess your family’s legal rights. While health insurance covers most recreational sports-related injuries, deductibles and copays can add up quickly, and the financial and non-financial costs of serious childhood injuries can far exceed the costs of medical care. Depending on the factors involved in your child’s accident, there are a number of parties (through their insurance companies, if applicable) that could potentially be responsible. You may be able to recover your family’s losses without the need to go to court. This is true for injuries suffered while participating in sports and activities including:
- Team sports (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, and hockey)
- Tennis, gymnastics, tumbling, climbing, and other individual sports
- Track and field events
- Skateboarding, BMX, and motocross
- Skiing and snowboarding
- Swimming, diving, and other watersports
Common Factors in Injury-Involved Accidents in Youth Sports
In most cases, youth sports injury claims involve the law of negligence. This is the same law that applies to auto accidents, dog bites, and other types of personal injury claims. In Wisconsin, facility owners, youth sports organizations, schools, coaches, referees, umpires, and other individuals and entities have a legal obligation to exercise a reasonable duty of care. If they fall short of meeting this duty, they can be held legally responsible for the consequences of their failure.
Some of the most common forms of negligence that cause and contribute to youth sports injuries include:
1. Inadequate Facility Maintenance or Construction
Many youth sports injury claims fall under the law of premises liability. Just like retail store owners and commercial property owners have a duty to mitigate the risk of injury due to safety hazards on their premises; sports facilities, camps, campuses, gyms, and other premises used for youth sports must be maintained and free of unreasonable risks as well. If your child was injured because he or she slipped; fell; or collided with a goalpost, bench, or other stationary object, you may have a claim against the owner of the premises where the accident occurred. However, you must be wary of a doctrine called “recreational immunity” which a property owner may invoke in order to attempt to avoid responsibility.
2. Failure to Provide Adequate Safety Equipment
Sports teams, clubs, camps, and other organizations must ensure that child participants have appropriate safety equipment during practices, games, and competitions. This could mean supplying necessary safety equipment such as gym mats, or preventing children from participating if they do not have a helmet, pads, appropriate footwear, or other necessary equipment. If facilities provide rental safety equipment, they must adequately maintain their equipment in order to ensure that it provides the intended level of protection.
3. Inadequate Training of Coaches, Referees, Umpires, Camp Counselors, and Other Employees
The adults and adolescents involved in youth sports programs should be adequately trained to avoid unnecessary injury risks and to take appropriate action when a child suffers a sports-related injury. When a coach pushes a child too hard, a referee or umpire fails to intervene in a potentially dangerous situation, or a camp counselor fails to provide necessary instruction to camp participants, the organization behind the activity may be liable for any resulting injuries.
4. Inadequate Supervision of Children During Youth Sports Activities
Similar to inadequate training, inadequate supervision is a common factor in youth sports injuries as well. Whether a child is participating in a potentially dangerous activity (such as swimming or gymnastics) or interacting with other children in a team environment, adult supervision will often be necessary to avoid unnecessary risks for injury.
5. Failure to Ensure Access to Necessary Medical Care
When a child complains of pain or exhibits other symptoms of a sports-related injury, the adults involved should provide prompt access to necessary medical care. Depending on the circumstances involved, this could mean rendering first aid, consulting with team trainers, or calling 911. If coaches or other personnel pressure a child to “fight through” pain or if anyone involved fails to seek medical attention when necessary, the injured child and his or her family may be entitled to financial compensation for the consequences of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
What If I (Or My Child) Signed a Liability Waiver or Release?
Many athletics facilities, schools, camps, and youth sports organizations require child participants or their parents to sign a liability waiver as a condition of participation. If you or your child signed a waiver (or “release”), does this preclude you from filing a claim for just compensation?
Not necessarily. If your child signed before he or she reached the age of 18, the liability waiver may be unenforceable. Similarly, if you or your spouse signed and the language of the waiver is too broad, it may not hold up in court. Additionally, if you signed a waiver for one party (such as a sports club) but another party (such as an athletics facility) is to blame for your child’s injury, then the waiver may not apply to your claim at all.
Financial and Non-Financial Losses from Youth Sports Injuries
As we mentioned above, the costs of a youth sports injury can extend far beyond the costs of immediate medical care. Children and their parents can both suffer losses due to sports-related injuries, and the only way to recover these losses is to file a claim for just compensation. In a typical case involving a severe traumatic injury, the child’s and parents’ losses will include:
- Current and future medical expenses and prescription costs
- The parents’ lost wages due to time missed from work
- The child’s pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- The child’s disability and loss of earning capacity
- The child’s loss of enjoyment of life
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
Was Your Child Injured in a Youth Sports Accident in Wausau, WI?
If your child was injured in a youth sports accident and you would like more information about your family’s legal rights, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with a personal injury attorney at our Wausau, WI, law offices in confidence, please call (715) 842-2291 or request an appointment online today.