A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a blow or jolt to the head results in a disruption in normal brain function. While many different types of accidents can cause traumatic brain injuries, a significant number each year occur within the context of sports or recreation activities. In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that nearly 250,000 people under the age of 19 were treated in emergency departments for sports injuries that included a traumatic brain injury. TBIs are extremely serious injuries that can often leave victims with significant medical expenses, lost income, and significant physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Because of these and other significant issues associated with traumatic brain injury, many people who sustain a TBI during sports wonder whether they will be able to sue to recover these and other losses they may have sustained. Generally speaking, people cannot sue for injuries they sustain while playing sports, except in limited circumstances. Of course, every case is different, so anyone who has sustained a TBI while playing sports should discuss his or her options with an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer.
Assumption of the risk
Under a legal doctrine known as “assumption of the risk,” an individual cannot sue for injuries that he or she sustained when voluntarily engaging in an activity known to that individual to encompass certain risks. As a result, if a football player sustains a TBI after a tackle, he or she would likely not be able to sue. There are some cases, however, in which a person who sustains a TBI during sports would be able to bring a legal action. These include the following:
- Traumatic brain injuries caused by defective equipment – The doctrine of assumption of the risk does not apply to sports equipment that is defectively manufactured or designed. Some of the types of defective sports equipment that may cause a traumatic brain injury include helmets, skates, shoes, bats, and gym equipment.
- Traumatic brain injuries caused by unreasonably hazardous conditions – Sporting events take place on a variety of surfaces and fields. If these facilities are improperly maintained and that improper maintenance results in an injury, a victim would likely be able to sue. Examples of improper maintenance can include improperly installed or inadequately maintained fixtures like goalposts or basketball hoops, cracks in pavement, uneven playing surfaces, or unfilled holes on a field.
- Traumatic brain injuries caused by intentional acts – Assumption of the risk does not include consenting to intentional physical assaults that are not a normal part of the game. For example, while a football player undoubtedly assumes the risk of being tackled, he or she has not assumed the risk or consented to being punched in the face. Furthermore, injuries caused by reckless acts that are completely outside of the normal activity involved in the sport could be actionable as well.