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What Every Parent Should Know About High School Sports Injury Lawsuits

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Opposing high school football teams line up against each other.

High school sports can easily result in serious injuries, but parents are typically left with little legal recourse against schools, staff, and local governmental organizations. More often than not, any motions to file injury lawsuits against these entities are promptly dismissed through summary judgment.

The result is time and money wasted on both sides, with parents and injured athletes having little to show for their trouble.

Behind these frequent dismissals lies very practical and sensible legal protections put in place for schools and other sports organizations. Without these protections, many sports programs could not afford to exist, but they nevertheless frustrate efforts to recover damages in instances where severe neglect or misconduct could have been the cause of significant, debilitating sports injuries.

Assumption of Risk and High School Sports Injury Lawsuits

The legal power school districts and athletic organizations wield against most sports injury claims lies in several elements:

  • Liability waiver forms most parents sign explicitly waiving the right to legal action in exchange for the ability for their child to participate
  • Explicit legal protections, like:
    • New Jersey Statutes Title 2A:62A-6, granting immunity from liability to volunteer sports officials, including referees
    • New Jersey Statutes C.18A:40-41.5, granting immunity from liability for sports injuries to any institution that maintains the minimum level of liability insurance
  • Case precedents establishing doctrines like “assumption of risk”

In regards to that last point, “assumption of risk” doctrines argue that athletes and parents of athletes both understand the inherent risks in recreational activities, especially contact sports. Injuries, including head injuries, bone breaks and injuries causing severe pain, are to be expected during the normal course of play and practice.

Additionally, any athlete who causes injury to another usually cannot be held liable based on findings similar to a 2014 New Jersey state appeals case where a youth lacrosse player broke another player’s arm. The three-judge panel determined that inexperienced athletes are likely to cause injury through “youth exuberance” during “rough-and-tumble” sports like lacrosse, meaning the injured athlete’s family could have anticipated the risks.

Getting Compensation for a High School Sports Injury

Parents are generally expected to file a claim through their own medical insurance to receive compensation for their child’s treatment expenses. However, these policies do not cover “general damages” for the injury, which can include pain and suffering, permanent or significant disability, loss of ability to enjoy other activities and other such losses.

Parents can attempt to recoup these losses through filing a claim with the school’s third-party liability insurance provider, but they should note that both the insurer and the school will likely resist any type of payout. Insurers have a financial incentive to use existing laws and signed waivers to deny compensation under most instances, including possibly negligent behaviors on the part of coaches and other school staff.

School boards likewise want to avoid having an injury claim on their record, which raises insurance costs and also leaves a negative impression of the school overall.

Therefore, parents seeking compensation beyond what their medical policy can offer will need skilled representation from an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney. Peter N. Davis and Associates, LLC can help you review your options, including the ability to settle with school liability insurance providers or even potentially file injury lawsuits against involved parties. Contact us today via the phone number above or using our simple contact form to obtain a free consultation regarding your possible case.