Sports Law • Risk Management

Five Things to Know About Negligence: Part I

Negligence should be of concern for all sports organizations. Below are five things about negligence that should be shared with all members of your organization.

1. Each person must act reasonably in any given circumstance. Plan to protect other persons and property from foreseeable harm. At the very least, follow what is required and/or customary for your sport and follow what is done for similar sports in your geographic vicinity. Then when something unforeseen arises, know if you have an obligation, or duty to respond. Any response must be reasonable according to the skills of the person providing the response. In other words what is expected of an expert, like an athletic trainer or a doctor, may be different than a layperson with no medical training.

2. A person may not create or keep an environment that would likely cause another to be hurt. Inspecting and repairing premises and equipment will immensely help create a safer environment. Knowledge of proper storage of chemicals and other equipment can also help. Again, it is best to follow what is customary for your sport as well as for your facility. There are numerous ways in which the environment can contribute to injury so prepare accordingly to reduce the likelihood of liability.

3. Injuries may cause physical, emotional, financial or property damage. When preparing to protect against losses, anticipate injuries other than just those that physically affect another person or damage property. The bottom line of a sports organization may be also be affected by emotional and financial injury. Therefore, create a plan for ways to minimize the array of injuries.

4. If a victim has an opportunity to avoid the injury, the victim should do so. All persons are expected to act reasonably, including victims to injury. For instance, when your team travels to other facilities, each team member has a responsibility, when possible, to avoid injuring his or herself. The rationale is that negligence may partially be attributed to a victim who had an opportunity to avoid the incident. If a victim’s actions are also seen as negligent, a victim’s chance to recover from another negligent party may either be reduced or barred completely.

5. An impairment, disability, or incompetency of the mind is not an excuse and such person can still be held responsible for causing another person to be hurt. Under the legal theory of negligence, a person can recover from an injury that was accidentally caused by another. Thus, it does not matter the mental state of the person who caused the incident, and that person can still be held responsible for his or her actions. For instance, if you are running a camp in which you have been given the responsibility to watch over a person with a mental disability, be especially aware of that person’s actions. To help minimize harm, guardians should help their charges with mental impairments avoid being negligent.

Read “Five Things to Know About Negligence: Part II” for more information.