Can You Sue for Your Child’s Sports Concussion?

Over a million children will suffer a sports-related concussion this year. These can be serious, disruptive events for both the young victims and their families. Sometimes, parents may wonder if they have legal recourse for what happened. As personal injury lawyers, we’d like to help you understand more about sports concussions and lawsuits.

Is this a case of bad luck? Or could you take legal action and pursue compensation?

Sports Carry an Assumption of Risk

Here’s the short answer: in most cases, no, you don’t have legal grounds to file a lawsuit. When you sign your child up for sports, you do so with the understanding that there’s risk involved.

The level and type of risk can certainly vary by sport. For instance, we can all agree that there are different risks associated with bowling, tackle football, and pole vault. There are also varying degrees of risk involved with sports travel, practice, and competition. Some sports have elements that are harder to control or predict. For instance, a cross country runner will compete at a variety of locations with uneven surfaces and in all kinds of weather.

Most likely, the school or sports organization your child joined had you both sign waivers agreeing to these risks, as well as doing your part to follow safety protocols. Good youth coaches will clearly warn young athletes of hazards and reduce their chances of being harmed. These efforts minimize the risk for both sports concussions and lawsuits to arise.

When is a School or Sports Organization Responsible for a Head Injury?

However, there are situations when schools or other parties can be held responsible for your child’s sports injury or concussion. To have a personal injury case, you’d need to be able to prove that someone failed in their duty to take reasonable measures to keep your child safe.

Here are a few hypothetical situations:

  • A coach puts his team in an unusually dangerous situation, such as having them scrimmage with a team several years older.
  • An athlete isn’t assessed after being struck in the head and put back in the game.
  • A helmet manufacturer knew of a defect but failed to recall their product.
  • One of the top performing athletes is a known, physically violent, bully. His behavior is overlooked so he can continue to remain on the team.

Suppose a child received a concussion because there were in one of the above scenarios. In this instance, the parents may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit as well as take other action against the at-fault party. Since you could well be dealing with a school or corporate entity, it’s best to navigate this process with a skilled injury attorney.

Does My Child Have a Concussion?

We opened this blog post with a startling fact: over a million of our country’s children will suffer a concussion this year. And while head injuries are all too common in the youth sports world, they are often not minor incidents.

The CDC reports to watch for these signs of a concussion:

  • Headache or throbbing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Confusion
  • Vision or sensory problems
  • Memory problems (may not remember what just happened)
  • Loss of consciousness (even temporary)

If you suspect your child could have a concussion, don’t wait. Take them to get medical care immediately. Doing so is vital for their short- and long-term healing. They should not return to sports until being cleared by a medical professional.

Washington State and Concussions – Zackery Lystedt Law

In 2006, Zackery Lystedt suffered a concussion after taking a hard tackle in the first half of a middle school football game. His coaches did not properly assess his injury and he was put back on the field. By the end of the game, Zackery began convulsing, cried out that he could not see, and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he underwent emergency, life-saving surgery. While he survived, he was left permanently disabled.

Three years later, Washington State passed the Zackery Lystedt Law, which lays out strict guidelines for teams and coaches to follow anytime an athlete could have a concussion. Sometimes known as the “shake-it-off law,” it requires any youth with a potential concussion to be carefully assessed. If the child does have a concussion, they must be cleared by a medical professional before resuming their sport.

If your child suffered a sports-related concussion in Washington State, the Zackery Lystedt Law could become a pivotal part to determining if you have a personal injury case or not.

(In case you’re wondering, Zackery surprised his doctors with a remarkable recovery and today is a passionate advocate for brain injury awareness. You can read more about his story at this Seattle Magazine article.)

Want to Speak with an Injury Attorney?

When it comes to sports concussions and lawsuits, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a personal injury attorney if you’re in need of targeted advice. Our attorneys at Ladenburg Law serve clients in Washington State and we don’t charge a fee for initial consultations. In fact, we only charge a fee if we’re able to win you a settlement. Given there’s no risk, please call us and learn if you have legal recourse for your child’s sports concussion.

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