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Posted On February 17, 2020

Assumption of Risk: When a Hockey Player Is Injured

It is well known that players assume some risk when they play the game, but that doesn’t mean that they assume all risks associated with the sport. When, for example, hockey players are injured, the club, rink operator, or other players can be held liable if rink negligence, rink employee negligence or intent to harm caused the injury.  Most facilities are run exceptionally well, but mistakes and negligence can still occur. 

Voluntary Assumption of Risk

Sporting injuries are different than other types of personal injuries. That’s because participants assume a certain level of risk by choosing to participate in the sport. Essentially, players acknowledge that they voluntarily assume the risk that they can suffer an injury during regular play. For instance, strains, sprains, concussions, broken bones, etc. As such, injuries that occur as a normal part of play are not compensable.

In Nevada, voluntary assumption of risk is legally enforceable so long as the player has knowledge of the risk associated with the sporting activity, the player appreciates the dangers of the sporting activity, and the player accepts the risk prior to engaging in the activity.  However, this assumes the rink and the employees will maintain reasonably safe premises. 

Negligence and Willful Action

While many sporting injuries are not compensable, there are instances when injured players can pursue compensation. For example, victims may be able to file a lawsuit against a player who intentionally causes injury by violating established rules or standards of play. Likewise, coaches and team managers can be held liable if they allow a player with a concussion or contusion to continue playing at the risk of exacerbating a known injury. Additionally, owners, operators, and others responsible for maintaining the arena can be held liable for failing to properly maintain the facility. For example, by not repairing masonry, barriers, doors, and other structural elements designed to protect players and guests from injury, operators may make themselves liable.

Establishing the Cause of Injury

Defendants in personal injury cases stemming from sporting events must owe the plaintiff a duty of care to be liable for any injuries. Plaintiffs must establish that the other party was reckless or negligent in their actions. This means the nature of the act and any related circumstances were beyond reasonable expectations, or that the degree of force used to engage the player was such that it was likely to lead to injury. Examples include “high checking” the player, removing a face mask before striking the player, using their skate as a weapon, violating established rules in order to gain an unfair advantage, or continuing play after the referee blows the whistle.

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