Whether you're playing sports or watching the action in person, there's always the risk of an injury. A stray ball, a dangerous play, an overexcited fan... these things happen.
The problem is that after an injury you're stuck with the medical bills. To ease your burden, you could ask the person who hurt you to help you out with the costs. If they refuse to do that, you could file a lawsuit so they don't get away with being stingy.
Or can you?
Turns out, when it comes to sports injuries, you might be prevented from filing that suit.
The legal issue standing in your way is a doctrine known as assumption of risk. It prevents victims from filing lawsuits for injuries that they knew, or should have known, were coming.
It's a pretty limited doctrine, as there aren't many situations in which the law presumes that you know about the risks of an activity. But sports injuries comprise the biggest category to which assumption of risk applies.
The rationale is that people know sports can be dangerous. Players move quickly, objects fly around at significant speeds, and often contact is a part of the game.
Even for non-contact sports, there can be incidental collisions that result in injuries. These things aren't anyone's fault; they just happen.
The law assumes you know those things going into the game. If you choose to participate, you can't later sue someone for your injuries.
That doesn't mean you can't sue for any injuries that happen during a sports game. But you can't sue for any injuries related to the inherent risks of sports.
If you're kicking the ball around and you take a soccer ball to the face, a lawsuit would likely be precluded under assumption of risk.
But if you're shooting hoops and someone punches you in the face, you could file suit for your injuries (because no one would assume that a punch to the face was part of the sport). An accidental elbow to the face, however, may fall within the assumption of risk.
Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't play sports. Unless you're a competitive athlete, a friendly neighborhood game of football probably won't cause too much damage or injury. Just don't forget to stretch!
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