Who Is Liable for a Student-Athlete’s Injuries?
The beginning of the school year also marks the beginning of high school football, cross country and other sporting events. While these activities can be fun and beneficial for students, what happens if your child suffers in the waning summer heat or takes an especially hard hit to the head? Students are especially vulnerable when they sustain head injuries, because the brain doesn’t fully develop until we’re in our 20s.
That begs the question: is the school or school district liable for injuries that student-athletes sustain while participating in a school sports program? What about the coach or assistant coach?
The answer to that question is usually no. Liability for student-athlete injuries normally falls on the parents. Sports participation is voluntary (although the parents must agree that their children can participate), and certain injuries are a foreseeable aspect of athletic competition. However, if a coach or another school official acted negligently, recklessly or even intentionally, you might have a viable personal injury claim.
For example, if a coach or school ignores an extreme heat advisory and doesn’t take safety precautions (like making athletes take frequent water breaks or even postponing or canceling practice), that conduct might constitute negligence or recklessness. School officials are also responsible for maintaining sports equipment and ensuring that the practice fields, locker rooms and other facilities are safe for students.
Examples of Student-Athlete Injuries
In 2015, a female lacrosse player sustained a traumatic brain injury during a high school game. She was hit in the head by an opponent’s stick but was allowed to keep playing. Her concussion wasn’t discovered until after the game ended, when she began vomiting and had trouble walking. Her family filed a lawsuit against the Orange County School District and the Florida High School Athletic Association, claiming that it was negligent not to immediately evaluate the player for head trauma, and that the delay in diagnosis made her injuries worse than they might otherwise have been.
In 2013, a varsity football player fell during practice and hit his head on a field striper that had accidentally been left in the practice area (he wasn’t wearing a helmet). The trainer gave him a bag of ice but allegedly left him in the locker room alone for more than 30 minutes. The 16-year-old then drove himself home, where his sister found him incoherent and semi-conscious. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury after being taken to the emergency room. The family sued the Hillsborough County School District for negligence, and the defendants agreed to settle the case for $2 million.
Student-athlete injuries can be scary to deal with on your own. Be sure to contact an experienced attorney if you suspect that the injury was caused by negligent, reckless or intentional conduct.
Reach Out to Us for Professional Help
Contact a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if your child has been injured while participating in a school sports program. We will help determine whether you have a viable claim and discuss your best course of action.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Tampa, Orlando, Miami, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.