Articles Posted in Sports Activity Injuries

Recently, an Indiana appellate court issued a ruling regarding personal injury claims resulting from participation in sports activity. According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a horse jockey who was injured while training a horse at a racetrack. The jockey was injured when another horse, which had thrown off its rider, barreled into the jockey’s horse tossing him to the ground. The jockey sued the racetrack and the horse’s owner for damages based on negligence and premises liability. However, the court found in favor of the defendants, and the jockey was prevented from recovering damages for his injuries. The court’s opinion could have far-reaching implications for individuals injured while participating in sporting activities.

In reviewing the plaintiff’s claims, the court first reviewed Indiana sports-injury law, and mentioned a few important precedents. First, there is the rule of assumption of duty, which states that an actor who provides safety measures as a service to another and is aware the services will reduce a risk of harm to that individual owes a duty of care to that individual. A defendant violates that duty of care, and may be held liable for resulting injury, if (1) they are negligent in providing that service and it results in an increased risk of harm, or (2) the individual receiving the services relies on the actor in assuming the risk of injury involved. Next, the court discussed the concept that a sports participant cannot be held liable for causing injury to another while engaging in conduct ordinary to the sport unless they acted recklessly or with intent to cause the injury. This rule is rooted in public policy, and designed to prevent discouragement of athletic participation due to vexatious litigation.

In applying these principles to the case in its opinion, the court first pointed out that the plaintiff did not make any allegations that the racetrack owner’s negligence in employing certain safety measures it had in place increased the risk of harm to the plaintiff. Furthermore, the plaintiff did not present any evidence showing that he relied on the racetrack’s safety measures properly when deciding to engage in the activity. In effect, the court found that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury associated with participation in the activity. Therefore, the court ruled against the plaintiff in regard to his claims against the racetrack owner.

Swimming pools provide Indiana residents with an enjoyable way to spend time with family and friends. However, as with many recreational activities, swimming pools can pose significant dangers to users. In fact, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Indiana swimming pool accidents rate among the highest in the country for drownings involving children under 15 years old.

Swimming pools pose various hazards and dangers to their users, including, drowning, slip and falls, and injuries because of pool drains. In many instances, these accidents occur because there are a lack of safety features and devices such as fences and flotation devices. Moreover, many times, owners fail to employ lifeguards and maintain railings and ladders. Swimming pool owners and operators can take simple steps to prevent common pool and spa hazards. Owners should install fences around their pool. They should also ensure that there are proficient adult lifeguards and swimmers on site. Moreover, owners and operators should keep up with pool maintenance.

In many cases, owners can be liable for injuries that people sustain while using their pools. Liability depends on the owner and the visitor’s legal classification. Generally, visitors are designated into three categories, either an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. An invitee may be a guest who uses a public pool. Typically, the owner must maintain and repair the pool to prevent injuries. Licensees, are commonly social guests using a pool on private property. In these cases, the owner must warn their guests of hazards that may not be obvious. Lastly, owners must not intentionally harm trespassers, but they do not owe them any other duty unless the pool is an attractive nuisance.

One of the more common defenses that Indiana personal injury victims encounter when attempting to recover for their injuries is that of assumption of the risk. Essentially, the assumption of the risk doctrine bars a plaintiff from recovering for their injuries when the plaintiff is fully aware of the risks involved in an activity, but chooses to participate in the activity notwithstanding those risks. In many personal injury cases, such as Indiana car accident cases, assumption of the risk rarely comes up. However, assumption of the risk frequently arises in Indiana sports injury cases.

In Indiana, a plaintiff’s assumption of the risk can be used to assign the plaintiff a percentage of fault for the accident, thus reducing their total recovery amount. Only in rare circumstances will a plaintiff’s assumption of risk result in the plaintiff being prevented from recovering entirely. Recently, a state appellate court released an opinion in a skiing accident case discussing assumption of the risk.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a ski instructor at a ski resort. One day, while the plaintiff was giving a ski lesson to a six-year-old child, the defendant came speeding down the mountain. The plaintiff was in an area marked for “slow skiing.” However, as the defendant approached, he went off a jump to perform a trick, and ended up colliding with the plaintiff upon landing. The plaintiff was seriously injured and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

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Winter is officially here, and along with the season comes the ability to participate in some of the most fun and exciting sports – skiing and snowboarding. Part of the reason why these sports are so thrilling is also what makes them so dangerous. High speeds, steep hills, moguls, tight turns, and trees all contribute to the overall experience of skiing, but also to the risks involved. The question often comes up, can a resort be held liable for an Indiana ski accident?

In theory, a ski resort can be held liable for injuries that occur while a guest is skiing. However, almost all ski resorts have taken precaution to ensure that they will not be held responsible for injuries that are caused due to the inherent risks of the sport. Determining what constitutes an “inherent risk” is subject to interpretation and is typically a job left to the courts. Notwithstanding the potential hurdles involved, anyone injured in an Indiana ski accident should reach out to a dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyer to discuss their situation.

A recent case illustrates the difficulties one plaintiff had attempting to bring a claim against a ski resort after an accident with a snowcat. Although it did not take place in this state, it may be illustrative of how an Indiana court would approach the topic.

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When someone is injured due to the unintentional conduct of another, the injured party may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit. One of the first legal questions that must be answered in these cases is what duty was owed to the injury victim. In a recent personal injury case involving a plaintiff who was injured by his golf partner while on the course, the court wrestled with this exact question.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and defendant were golfing together, using a golf cart to navigate through the course. On the eighth hole, the plaintiff was seriously injured when the defendant struck the him with the golf cart. The two sides offered very different versions of what occurred.

The case was tried in front of a jury. When it came time to instruct the jury on the relevant law, the parties disagreed on the standard under which the defendant’s conduct should be viewed. The defendant claimed he could only be liable if he acted with reckless indifference, whereas the plaintiff claimed the proper standard was negligence.

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Everyone going to a ball game knows the risks and the rewards of sitting up in the stands, specifically the fast flying baseballs being batted toward your seat. Sometimes a fan will get extremely lucky and, in the case of Cleveland Indians fan Greg Niel, leave the ballpark having caught four foul balls. On the other end there is a certain degree of danger simply being in those seats. The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to review where liability may lie in the case of Juanita DeJesus who was struck in the face at a RailCats game by a high-flying pop-up foul ball.The Gary South Shore Railcats won the latest appeal in the Indiana State Court of Appeals. The court concluded that there is an obvious well-known risk assumed by sitting in the stands of a baseball game that a ball could be hit at or toward you. This game took place on opening day, and the ball was hit by the second batter of the day. DeJesus suffered several broken bones in her face and the loss of sight in her left eye.

DeJesus’ attorney argued that the team and park were under the obligation to protect those in the stands from this foreseeable harm and that they failed to meet this obligation by not netting off the fans from the field. The Court of Appeals disagreed, having cited rulings in numerous other lawsuits based on similar grounds. It found no ruling that ever admitted a ballgame attendant could be ignorant of the risks. Furthermore, the appeals court highlighted that DeJesus was not only warned three times about the risks of a foul ball at the game but also noted that she attends games regularly and could have purchased different seats if she did not accept the well-known risk.
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In the past month we have blogged about a series posts covering important personal injury information for Spring/Summer activities. In today’s post, we will give a brief overview of current Indiana sports law.

A preliminary report released this month released by USA Football and conducted by Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention, based out of Indianapolis, examined the safety of youth tackle football and the long and short term injuries associated with play.In America today, 2.8 million children (age 6-14) play in an organized tackle football league. The study involved nearly 2,000 athletes in 10 football leagues spanning six states, although the findings are not complete as the study is expected to span another whole year.

The report found that nearly 10% of youth athletes suffered an injury. Approximately two-thirds of those injuries were minor enough that the athlete could return to the field that same day. No catastrophic head or neck injuries were reported but almost 4% suffered a concussion.

Lawsuits stemming from Sports Injuries
Sports related injuries fall into a field of negligence in which “assumption of risk” becomes a deciding factor. Assumption of risk is not always cut-and-dry but rather involves what the injured party knew or expected or should have expected before entering the activity and whether the activity was foreseeable. Severe head/brain injuries can have long unforeseen damages associated with them. The personal injury suit will likely require expert witness testimony to predict the long term costs and damages associated with such injuries.

Indiana law, as of 2012, requires any student athlete who is suspected to have sustained a head injury or possible concussion to be removed from all play until the athlete is evaluated by a trained health care provider.

The NHL and player’s union may now face liability in a wrongful death suit brought on behalf of Derek Boogaard for the brain injuries he suffered during his hockey career and the subsequent narcotics addiction allegedly caused by his condition.
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A boy injured during a paintball game may not recover damages from the boy who shot him, according to a Wisconsin appeals court. In Houston v. Freese, a boy who removed his helmet during a game, then suffered an eye injury when he was hit with a paint pellet, sued the boy who fired the pellet for negligence and recklessness. The appeals court found that state laws governing “contact sport” claims precluded a negligence claim, and that the defendant was not reckless as a matter of law.

Jacob Stelter, age 13, invited seven friends to play paintball in an outdoor course that his older brother Kyle had built near their house. Jett Houston and Alex Freese were among the friends who came over. Kyle, who was an experienced player, gave instructions to the group on safety procedures and equipment. Each boy had a mask with goggles for face and eye protection. Kyle instructed them to keep their masks on at all times in the game area, even if they had been eliminated from play. The boys played elimination rounds, in which players had to leave the game area when they were hit with a pellet. They called time-outs sometimes when a player was leaving the field.
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Indiana ranks in the middle of the fifty states and the District of Columbia when it comes to injury prevention, according to a recent study. The study, entitled “The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” is the work of the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a health care policy organization, in partnership with the philanthropic Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study ranks states and D.C. based on ten “key indicators” relating to injury prevention laws or regulations. Indiana has five of the ten. It also ranks the states based on the total number of annual injury-related deaths per 100,000 people. With a rate of 60.4, Indiana ties Kansas for the twenty-seventh highest rate.

The study analyzed injury data, which it says account for 180,000 deaths per year in America. The lifetime costs of injuries in the U.S., which includes both immediate costs and ongoing care needs, as well as lost income and productivity, exceeded $406 billion in 2000. Injuries, as compared to communicable and non-communicable disease, are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of one and forty-four. At 97.8 njury-related deaths per 100,000 people, New Mexico has the highest annual rate. New Jersey, with 36.1, has the lowest. Indiana and Kansas, tied at twenty-seventh, are almost exactly in the middle.
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