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Sporting accidents and injuries: What are your legal rights?

Every year, over 17 million Aussies participate in sport. Whether it’s a hit of tennis, a game of social touch or a few laps at the local pool, sport is a great way to take care of your body and your mind.

Every fan knows that sport comes with an inherent risk of accident and injury. It’s part of the game. But the effects of a sporting injury can be worse than you might think. You may need to take extended time off work for your recovery, and medical bills can quickly stack up.

So what happens if you’re one of the many Australians injured while playing sport? Are you entitled to compensation to help you get back on your feet?

More of a gym junkie? Click here to read how to avoid common injuries during your workout.

Keeping sports safe

Anyone with the official capacity to organise and manage sporting programs – such as sporting clubs and associations – has a duty to ensure the sport is as safe as possible for participants. If this duty is breached, and you get hurt, you may be entitled to compensation.

This commonly includes circumstances where an injury arises because of:

  • An unsafe playing pitch, surface or dangerous sporting grounds
  • Faulty or defective sporting equipment
  • A referee or umpire failing to ensure the reasonable safety of the players, or
  • Inadequate supervision by a trainer or instructor.

Accepting the risk

Generally speaking, sports are considered to involve obvious risks. When we voluntarily engage in sport, we know (or should know) there exists the possibility of getting hurt. Whether you’re injured from a legal rugby tackle, being hit by a cricket ball or colliding with another player, it’s accepted as part of the game.

Under the law, this gives rise to a defence for negligence known as voluntary assumption of risk. If you’re injured through the ordinary course of the game or sporting activity, you can still bring a claim for compensation. However, the defendant can argue that by partaking in the sport, you were fully aware of the risk of injury and freely chose to accept it.

Girls football team walking onto field | Shine Lawyers

Unsportsmanlike behaviour

Sometimes conduct goes beyond what’s expected of the particular sport.

If you’re hurt from an illegal tackle, an intentional punch or other dangerous behaviour that clearly falls outside the rules of the game, the voluntary assumption of risk defence can crumble. By participating in sport, you don’t sign up to any and all dangerous conduct that arises, only what’s expected as an ordinary part of the game.

In these cases, the individual or body responsible for your injury may be liable to pay damages to help cover the cost of medical expenses, treatment costs and lost wages.

Shine Lawyers – Get in touch

If you’ve suffered a sporting injury, whether on or off the field, we’re here to help. Our lawyers are compensation experts and offer obligation-free initial consultations to discuss your legal rights. Get in touch and begin your legal journey today.

Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: April 4, 2018.

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  • Constantijn wrote:

    My wife often has to travel for work by train where the tickets are bought for her by a third party. Recently having been delayed by the train company she was directed by the train operators staff to claim compensation for her 5 hour delay and was paid promptly. The issue here is that my wife told the third party about the compensation and she was told in no uncertain terms, all the way up to the CEO, that as they bought the ticket she must pay them the compensation! The train companies do not detail who should get the compensation, the traveller or the purchaser. Who do you think should be compensated? My wife did the right thing by telling the purchasing body but they said that as they are a public body she has to give them the money. If she hadn”t made the claim then the buyer would not have known about the delay. Who is in the right?

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Constantijn, there are a couple of factors here – if the third party is your wife’s employment, it could come down to the terms of her employment, and the reason for the compensation could also be a factor (i.e. if it was for the time delay or related to the purchase of the ticket). If your wife wanted legal advice on this she can get in touch with our New Client Team who can get more details from her and put her in touch with the relevant team. Our contact details can be found here: ~Steph

  • Julie Fortis wrote:

    Hi, my son 21 years old was king hit unprovoked and unexpectedly during a rugby league game and has a severe injury to the face including his jaw requiring surgery to repair bone structure. We know he is covered under srl insurance for up to 80% of cost but have to pay cost up front and will be out of pocket 20% of medical cost which will be very expensive, we do not have $1000’s of dollars sitting in a bank acct. Is a king hit (coward punch) considered an assault on a sporting field and if so do we have legal rights for cost of out of pocket expenses and would we have a right to have other player charged with assault if necessary. Thanks

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for reaching out, and sorry to hear about your son’s experience. We’ll need more information to help him determine the best course of action. A member of our New Client Team will be able to gather more details, talk through the services we offer and let you know if we can help. Contact details are here: ~Toby

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