Who is legally liable for injuries in amateur sports games?

Question

Who is legally liable for injuries in amateur sports games?

Answer

In many cases, you won’t be able to hold anyone else liable for an injury you suffered while participating in amateur or recreational sports activities. But there are a few scenarios that might trigger the legal liability of another participant in the sport, or the liability of a third party.

The legal doctrine of “assumption of the risk” bars you from trying to hold fellow participants or property/facility owners liable when you are injured while playing a sport or game, as long as the circumstances that led to your injury were inherent to -- or at least reasonably related to -- the sport. The idea behind “assumption of the risk” in this context is that, by agreeing to participate in the sport or activity, you’ve also agreed to assume the possibility that you’ll be injured.

So, if you blow out your knee playing Ultimate Frisbee or get a concussion in a pick-up game of tackle football, you probably can’t hold anyone else liable for those injuries.

But if your injury was the result of unreasonably aggressive behavior on the part of another participant -- you’re playing basketball and the guy you’re guarding punches you in the face because he doesn’t like the way you play defense -- “assumption of risk” wouldn’t bar you from pursuing an intentional tort lawsuit against the person who hit you.

Also, if your injury was caused by (or made worse by) sports equipment or some other product that was defective or didn’t perform the way it was supposed to under the circumstances, you may be able to bring a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.                        

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