Signing Sports Liability Waivers

It is hard to send your child away to summer sports camp or to send them off for a football camp in the fall. What if he or she has a bad fall? What if they get hurt and you’re not there to help? These feelings can intensify when a camp asks you to sign a sports injury waiver. You may think that once you put your signature on the page, you’ve forfeited your right to compensation if your son or daughter suffers an injury. Fortunately, a waiver will not always prevent you from obtaining compensation. The following will outline some of the fundamental considerations surrounding this kind of waiver.

Read the Form

To begin with, most waivers have their own unique specifications. For instance, some waivers might not cover certain forms of ordinary negligence. So if the sporting facility wasn’t up to snuff (perhaps there were exposed nails), then you might have a case if the waiver fails to include this type of danger in its provisions.

To that end, it’s important to read the waiver – or better yet, to have an attorney read it. You, or your lawyer, may find some aspects to be unenforceable. For instance, the camp might try to cover its tail in one fell swoop by including a provision that prevents lawsuits in all cases. This would likely be considered too broad and thus unenforceable because it fails to live up to a public policy analysis. But it’s almost always best to check with an attorney before jumping to conclusions.

Volenti Non Fit Injuria

Every time a person decides to play a sport, he or she also decides to take on a certain amount of risk. This is known as the doctrine of the assumption of risk, or in technical Latin terms, volenti non fit injuria. This doctrine is a form of defense used during civil proceedings to show that a plaintiff must have known of certain risks before entering into the injurious situation. For instance, if your child is going to play a sport, it is reasonable to assume that he or she might be tackled or accidentally tripped. Injuries resulting from common occurrences such as these would most likely be covered by a waiver, but even if the waiver were to fail to cover common injuries, it might be difficult to recover compensation on these grounds.

Intentional Injuries

It is important to distinguish between common injuries and injuries that are inflicted intentionally by an associated party, such as a coach or a teammate. If a member of the other team purposefully injures your child and you can prove that this is the case, you may be able to obtain compensation for damages. Similarly, if a coach is grossly negligent in his or her treatment of your child – that is, if a coach recklessly leaves the team to its own devices, knowing this could lead to injury – you may be able to file a suit. It is possible in cases of gross negligence to obtain punitive damages in addition to economic damages.

Inherent Difficulties

Thankfully, signing a waiver doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your right to recover damages. There are some limited situations, as mentioned, that a court might deem outside the purview of a liability waiver, even if the camp went to great lengths to cover all the bases. However, most sport injuries – other than those incurred by gross negligence or malicious acts – are included in waivers or are covered by the assumption of risk doctrine, so you might have a hard time pursuing compensation in such cases.

It is always a good idea to seek the help of an experienced sports injury lawyer. He or she will be able to help you navigate the ambiguities of sports injury waivers and determine what your rights are in your particular situation.

Sean Lally About Sean Lally

Sean Lally holds a BA in Philosophy from Temple University where he also studied theatre for several years. Between 2007 and 2017, he worked as a professional actor for several regional theater companies in Philadelphia, including the Arden Theatre Co., EgoPo Productions, Lantern Theater and the Bearded Ladies. In 2010, Sean co-founded Found Theater Company, an avant-garde artist collective with whom he first started to cultivate an identity as a writer.