Who is Liable for a Student Athlete’s Injury in Florida?
Youth sports are popular in Florida. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) reports that 308,173 high school students participated in a team or individual sport in the state in the 2018-2019 academic year. As beneficial as joining a team can be for a student, there are also some risks. Injuries and accidents can happen in even the safest of sports.
As a parent, you may be wondering: Can a school or organization be held liable for a student athlete’s injuries? The short answer is “it depends”—it is possible to prove liability, but there are also some unique challenges. In this article, our West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers explain the key things parents should know about student athlete injury claims in Florida.
Assumption of Risk: No Liability for Injuries that Occur in Normal Course of Play
As a general rule, most parents are required to sign a liability waiver before their child can play a sport for their school or an independent organization. To be clear, signing a written liability waiver does not mean that you are always prevented from filing a personal injury claim. However, in student athlete injury cases, proving liability can be difficult.
The primary issue is the assumption of risk doctrine. The parents of student athletes are typically required to “assume the risk”—both implicit and explicit—that their child may get hurt while playing. As such, parents are usually prevented from bringing a personal injury claim for injuries that occur as a part of the ordinary course of play.
As an example, imagine that a student athlete suffered a severe ankle sprain after stepping on another player’s foot while playing defense in a high school basketball game. It would be very difficult to pursue any legal claim without additional evidence of wrongdoing. That type of injury is relatively common to basketball—and thus the risk is generally assumed by the parent.
Schools, Organizations, and Coaches May Be Liable for Negligence
It is important to emphasize that neither the assumption of risk legal doctrine nor a written liability waiver provides schools or organizations with a full defense against a student athlete personal injury claim. Under Florida law, schools and independent sports teams cannot waive gross negligence. If the athlete’s injuries occurred outside of the normally accepted risks of playing the game, a parent may be able to bring a successful personal injury lawsuit. Some notable example of school/organization negligence include:
- Lack of proper training or supervision;
- Coaches encouraging reckless or dangerous behavior;
- Playing field defects; and
- Equipment malfunctions.
Do not assume that you are without legal options. If your child suffered a serious injury while playing school sports and you believe that there was negligence, you should consult with an attorney. Our legal team will help you understand your rights and options.
Contact Our Florida Personal Injury Attorneys for Help
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers provide reliable, results-driven advocacy to injured victims. If your student athlete was injured while playing an organized sport, we can help. Call us now for a free, no obligation consultation. With office locations in Miami and West Palm Beach, we represent injured victims throughout Southeastern Florida, including Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Monroe County.