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Injured at a Sporting Event: Can You Sue?

When it comes to major sporting events like NASCAR races or college football games, it’s not just the players on the field who are at risk of injury. Spectators may also suffer sometimes serious injuries at major sporting events.

Last year, for example, 28 people were injured at a NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway when pieces of a car involved in crash flew into the stands. Sporting event-related injuries can sometimes be fatal, such as the man who fell to his death from an elevated walkway during a San Francisco 49ers game last season.

Spectators injured at sporting events can potentially file a personal injury lawsuit to recover for their injuries, but there are several important issues to consider when it comes to sporting even injury lawsuits.

Assumption of Risk

In some circumstances, fans attending sporting events may be found to have assumed the risk of injury by their attendance. Assumption of risk acts as a defense to an injury claim by showing that the person who was injured knew the risk of injury was present in an activity, but voluntarily chose to engage in that activity anyway.

For example, lawsuits for injuries caused by foul balls hit into the stands during baseball games are, in many states, subject to what is called the “baseball rule.” The baseball rule generally holds that as long as the most dangerous areas of the stadium are protected by netting, spectators who sit in unprotected areas of the baseball stadium assume the risk of being hit by a foul ball.

Waiver of Liability

Tickets to sporting events also may have a waiver of liability printed on the ticket. These waivers typically include language stating that the holder agrees to waive liability for injuries that occur during the event in question.

However, depending on how these waivers are worded, they may be difficult to enforce. For example, a waiver of liability for negligence (i.e., accidents) will likely be OK; however, a waiver of liability for intentional acts probably won’t hold up in court.

Contributory Negligence

If excessive alcohol consumption or other risky behavior may have played a part in the injury, another potential defense to an injury claim may be contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence, when a plaintiff’s own conduct is partially responsible for causing his injuries, recovery is barred. Most states have now moved to a comparative negligence approach in which a plaintiff’s own negligence reduces, but does not entirely eliminate, recovery for an injury. However, in states that follow a modified comparative negligence approach, a plaintiff who is equally (or more than 50 percent, in some states) responsible for his own injuries may not recover.

Despite these potential hurdles, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help you recover for injuries sustained at a sporting event. To learn more about personal injury lawsuits, check out FindLaw’s section on Accident & Injury Law.

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