Injuries, Liability and Discrimination

Injuries sustained during sporting events, either as a participant or a spectator, are quite common. However, lawsuits for these injuries are not always successful because participation in many sports carries a risk of injury, and that the participant usually assumes that risk.

What does "assumption of risk" mean?

Assumption of risk means that you may not be able to recover damages for an injury resulting from someone else's actions if you voluntarily assumed the risk of harm when engaging in a particular activity.

If I sign a waiver before participating in a sports event, do I have any recourse if I am injured?

Your ability to sue and win depends on several factors. Was the language in the waiver that released the other party from liability conspicuous? Did you understand what the waiver meant when you signed it? Did you have enough time to read it before you signed it? Basically, the waiver should be fair and reasonable. The exculpatory language should be easy to understand and should stand out in the document; it should not be in fine, hard-to-read print. Before signing the waiver, you should be able to read and understand it; you should not be rushed into signing it.

TIP: Make sure you carefully read and understand any waiver before signing it. If a particular clause does not make sense to you, you should ask to have it explained.

I injured my leg skiing. Will the ski resort pay my medical bills?

It depends on the cause of your injury. Generally, skiing has an inherent risk of injury, and you assume that risk every time you hit the slopes. This means that if you are injured because you ran into a tree (which you possibly could have avoided) or fell because you did not know how to stop, the ski resort is not liable for your injury because those types of injuries are inherent in the sport of skiing. However, the ski resort must not increase your risk of injury by improperly maintaining the slopes. What does this mean? If the cause of your injury was, for example, an improperly placed sign, or one that was not visible to you, the ski resort is liable.

Are reckless skiers liable for their actions?

Yes. Reckless skiers can be held civilly and criminally liable for injuries to others. If they are civilly liable (e.g., negligent), they will have to pay damages. If they are criminally liable, they will probably pay a fine and face possible imprisonment.

A foul ball hit my son at a baseball game. Can I sue the team or stadium for his injuries?

No. By attending the baseball game, your son assumed the risk of being hit by a ball during the game. Depending on his age, you might be able to argue that he did not understand the nature of that risk, but it is not a very strong argument.

If my golf ball leaves the course and breaks a picture window, will I have to pay to replace it?

No. You are not liable for injuries to persons or property that are outside of your line of play. A picture window (presumably one on a house alongside the golf course) is not within your line of play, and therefore you are not liable for its replacement.

Does yelling "fore" on the golf course protect me from a lawsuit if my ball hits someone?

Yes. When playing golf, golfers must exercise care toward the safety of nearby persons from being hit with a ball (this duty does not apply to persons outside the golfer's line of play). This is usually done by yelling out a warning ("fore") either before hitting the ball, or after the ball is hit if it appears to be errant (i.e., a stray ball). If the ball hits another person, and the golfer had yelled out an adequate warning, he will not be liable for the injury.

Are the "male-only" tee times at my golf club illegal?

Yes. Gender discrimination at golf country clubs is illegal, and male-only tee times are discriminatory toward women.

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