Articles Posted in Sports Injuries

Given the beautiful weather in the Sunshine State, it is no surprise that swimming pools are common across Florida. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 1.1 million swimming pools in Florida. While the majority of property owners include the necessary safety features when putting in a swimming pool. Swimming pools still present a significant hazard, especially to children.

Because swimming pools are so popular, there are a correspondingly high number of Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims based on Florida swimming pool accidents. Realizing that drowning is the leading cause of death among Florida children, lawmakers passed the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (RSPSA).

The RSPSA acknowledges that the most effective way to avoid a drowning death is supervision by a responsible adult. Of course, many Florida swimming pool accidents occur without an adult being present. This often occurs when a child is able to make their way to the pool unbeknownst to adults. Thus, the RSPSA requires that all Florida swimming pools contain at least one of the following safety features:

Nobody plays a sport with the intention of getting hurt, yet each year there are thousands of Florida sports injuries. Most are minor, but some can be quite serious. As a general matter, anyone who is injured while playing a sport can pursue a claim for compensation against the parties they believe to be responsible for their injuries. However, it is important for Florida sports accident victims to understand the doctrine of assumption of the risk.

The Assumption of the Risk

Most sports present some risk of injury. Under the assumption of the risk doctrine, plaintiffs who willingly take on known risks and participate in sporting events may be partially liable for any injuries they sustain. In Florida, this is called implied assumption of the risk.

In Florida, there is also the doctrine of express assumption of the risk, which can completely preclude an accident victim from recovering for their injuries. However, Florida courts limit the application of express assumption of the risk to cases involving express agreements not to sue and cases involving contact sports. A recent state appellate opinion discusses assumption of the risk in the context of a skiing accident. While the case arose in another jurisdiction, the court’s reasoning is illustrative of why express assumption of the risk is rare in Florida sports injury cases.

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While no parent wants to think about the possibility of an accident occurring while their child is at school, on occasion these accidents do happen. When a child is injured in a Florida school accident, the parents of the child may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the school based on the school’s duty to keep students safe.

In a recent case released by a state appellate court, a student’s lawsuit against a school district resulted in a defense verdict after the court instructed the jury that the school only owed the student a duty of ordinary care. The student had argued that, based on the “special relationship” that a school has with its students, the school owed her a heightened duty of care.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s interpretation, noting that schools have historically owed students a duty of reasonable care unless the harm was caused by some intentional conduct of a teacher or school administrator. Thus, in that case, the court affirmed the court’s decision to instruct the jury and the jury’s ultimate verdict.

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Anytime someone participates in a sporting activity, there is a risk that they could be injured. However, participants reasonably assume that the organization arranging the game has implemented rules to keep players safe and free from experiencing an unnecessary Florida sports injury.

In a recent opinion released by a federal appellate court, the court allowed a plaintiffs’ lawsuit to proceed against a youth water polo league based on the league’s failure to implement and enforce rules to keep players safe. The case illustrates the type of situation in which a Florida sports injury victim may be able to pursue a claim for compensation for the injuries they have sustained.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the mother of a student water polo player who was repeatedly hit in the head during the game and each time put back into play. The student ended up suffering a concussion and debilitating post-concussion syndrome.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating an important difference between Florida personal injury law and the laws of many other states. The case involved the defendant’s allegation that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury and thus, should be precluded from obtaining compensation for her injuries.

Assumption of the Risk

In some states, if it is determined that a plaintiff voluntarily assumed the risks that resulted in her injuries the plaintiff is not allowed to recover for her injuries. The theory is that a person who is aware of the risks involved in an activity is able to weigh the risks before engaging in a particular activity. In general, Florida courts will not preclude a plaintiff from recovering for her injuries even if she was determined to have assumed the risk of injury. Instead, the court will allow the jury to factor the assumption-of-the-risk analysis into its comparative negligence finding.

There are, however, two exceptions to this rule, one of which is the participation in contact sports. If a plaintiff is injured while engaging in a contact sport, they may be found to have assumed the risks involved. The other exception involves a situation where a person signs a contract agreeing not to sue.

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In Florida personal injury cases, the jury must make the ultimate decision as to whether the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and what, if any, damages are appropriate. In many cases, the judge will explain the legal issues involved in the case to the jury, and the jurors will then be able to use their common sense to resolve the issues. However, in some cases involving issues that are beyond the understanding of most jurors, the plaintiff may be required to present the testimony of an expert witness.

An expert witness is someone who is an expert in the specific issue raised by the case. In Florida medical malpractice cases, doctors are often used as expert witnesses. In Florida car accident cases, engineers may be called as expert witnesses. There is no hard-and-fast rule stating when an expert is necessary, but Florida law allows for an expert to be called whenever “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge would assist the trier of fact.” While some cases, such as Florida medical malpractice cases, require expert testimony, the decision whether to call an expert witness is normally left to the discretion of the parties.

In a recent appellate decision, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case because she failed to present expert testimony in support of her position.

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In some Florida personal injury lawsuits, the defendant can claim that the plaintiff should not be able to pursue a claim for compensation based on the fact that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved in participating in the activity that ultimately caused their injuries. This type of defense is common in cases involving skiing, sky diving, jet-skiing, and bungee jumping.In Florida, there are two types of assumption of the risk:  express and implied. Express assumption of the risk generally involves a party’s acknowledgement of the risks involved prior to participating in the activity, usually through a release waiver or some other contract. Implied assumption of the risk, however, does not require a signed release waiver, and it can be established through risks that were either known at the time or should have been known.

A recent case illustrates how one federal court of appeals applied the assumption of the risk doctrine to preclude an accident victim’s ability to recover compensation for his injuries.

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Most athletes know that playing sports can result in certain types of injuries. Most often, these injuries are muscle sprains or other injuries related to the overuse of specific muscle groups. However, certain sports present a higher risk of serious injuries. In some cases, those who are seriously injured while participating in a sporting activity may be able to seek compensation for their injuries from the organization that oversees the activity. Often, this is either a sports league or a school.Both sports leagues and schools that offer sports programs owe players a duty to ensure that the sporting event is run in a safe manner and that players are appropriately warned of the risks involved with participation. If an organization fails to warn a player who is later injured due to an undisclosed risk, the player may have a case for negligence against the organization.

Prevalence of CTE Among Football Players Much Greater than Originally Thought

Earlier this month, a neuropathological study was released, finding that football players at all levels may be at a greater risk for developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) than previously thought. CTE has frequently been in the news over the past several years, in part due to the lawsuit that several hundred former NFL players and their families have filed against the NFL.

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The Supreme Court of the State of California recently released an opinion in which they affirmed a lower court’s ruling granting summary judgment to the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit. The negligence suit was filed by the family members of a boy who died after striking a manhole cover and falling from his skateboard while riding on a roadway that was operated by one of the defendants. The suit alleged that the defendants negligently failed to maintain a safe roadway and should be held accountable for the damages related to the boy’s death. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that by participating in the inherently dangerous activity of skateboarding, the boy assumed the risk that he would be injured or killed by a condition on the roadway. As a result of the state supreme court’s recent decision, the plaintiffs will be unable to collect compensation for their claim.

A Tragic Accident Results in a Boy’s Death

The plaintiffs in the case of Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District were the surviving family members of a boy who died in a skateboarding accident in September 2011. According to the facts as recited in the appellate opinion, the victim and his brother were skateboarding around the hilly Mammoth Lakes area while their family visited a condominium that was owned by a friend. While waiting to meet their father, the boys rode their skateboards around the roads “for fun,” and they repeatedly pushed up and rode down the same hill near the condominium complex. As the victim was descending the hill on one of these occasions, his skateboard wheels became lodged in a small gap between the roadway and a manhole cover, and he was ejected from the board. His head struck the pavement, causing a traumatic brain injury and resulting in the boy’s death.

Judgment Is Affirmed for Defendants in Plaintiffs’ Wrongful Death Lawsuit

After the boy’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by his family, alleging that the defendants maintained a dangerous condition on the roadway. Before a trial on the issues, the district court ruled that the plaintiff could not recover damages as a matter of law, since the victim had assumed the risk of serious injury or death by skateboarding for leisure on the roadway.

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By this time, most people have heard at least something about the tragic degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE. This brain injury has been making headlines across the United States as it was recently discovered that many professional athletes have been suffering with this deadly disease.In the past, CTE was most frequently associated with professional boxers. In fact, it was often called “punch-drunk” syndrome. It is a type of brain damage which is caused by repeated trauma to the head. It is considered a degenerative disease because it persists and worsens over time, and eventually leads the brain to be susceptible to atrophy.

Sadly, the symptoms of CTE are particularly devastating. The most reported symptoms include impulse control issues, memory and cognition impairments, confusion, early-onset dementia, and other mental health problems. As the disease progresses it can lead to behavioral issues including: aggression, severe depression, and even suicidal tendencies. Until very recently, the disease could only be diagnosed after the individual has passed away. There has been some research that revealed signs of CTE just prior to a football player’s death; however, it is still generally considered to be a condition that can only be diagnosed after death.

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