If your child is a student athlete and gets injured, you've been warned: Not all school sports-related injury lawsuits will succeed.
School sports injuries run the gamut from a simple bruise or cut to more permanent injuries that can affect students for life. When injuries happen, parents often think about taking legal action. But because of a number of reasons, the outcome of school sports injury lawsuits can be very hit or miss -- some end in large payouts, while others are tossed out of court.
Why is this? Here are some common reasons:
- Absence of negligence. Most successful lawsuits involving school sports injuries will require negligence by the school or someone else. Negligence requires several elements: a duty owed to the victim (by a school or coach, for example), a breach of that duty, proof that the breach caused the victim's injury, and damages. In many cases, courts find that a duty has not been breached; sometimes accidents happen, and sometimes it can be the student athlete's own fault.
- Assumption of the risk. This is a defense to negligence. If a student athlete was aware of the inherent risks of the activity and voluntarily participated anyway, the defense may apply. This is a common element in many school activity waivers.
- Waivers. Many school sports require parents to sign a waiver before a child can participate. While waivers may not necessarily mean that parents are giving up all of their rights to sue, the fine print may seek to limit the extent of the school's liability.
- Prior similar cases. This is another pesky hurdle that can prevent school sports injury lawsuits from moving forward. When a parent wants to sue over a child's injuries, there will likely have been a similar case in the past. If that prior case went in the school district's favor, that could be bad news for later, similar cases brought by parents. Courts often use precedent for the sake of efficiency and consistency.
So if your child is unfortunately injured from playing school sports, assess your situation carefully. It may also be wise to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help guide you through the process and spell out your options.
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- How Do You Sue a School District? (FindLaw's Injured)