How Extreme Sports Have Created New Legal Problems

Are you protected?
By Andy Lalwani
Andy Lalwani // FAKE IMAGE

The realm of extreme sports has become wildly popular in recent years. Participating in an extreme sport entails that you understand the inherent risks and dangers, and that you are willing to put yourself in harm’s way. It’s fairly common for participants to sustain injuries in extreme sports such as the Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and some extreme winter sports. The question here is whether you can sue for sustaining injuries during the course of an extreme sport.

Can I Sue for Damages Related to an Injury Sustained During a Race?

The short answer to this question is no. In most cases, you won’t be able to sue for damages for injuries sustained during an MX race. The rationale behind this is the “assumption of risk”, which is a legal doctrine wherein an individual is barred from recovering damages for injuries sustained when the claimant willingly exposed him or herself to a known danger. This is often the case with extreme sports, wherein participants are asked to sign a waiver that releases organizers from any liability should the participant sustain injuries during the event.

Do Waivers Prevent Me From Suing the People Who Caused My Injuries?

No, waivers do not bar you from suing the people responsible for your injuries, as these waivers only apply to “ordinary negligence”, which are injuries that arise from inherent risks involved in a particular activity. This principle is best demonstrated in martial arts competitions, where participants are expected to get hit often. Outside the competition, if a person were to hit another, they would be liable for assault. 

However, because they are engaged in an activity where it’s expected to hit each other, they are willingly putting themselves in harm’s way. The moment that the competition is over, the principle of assumption of risk will no longer apply, and thus, any harm inflicted on a fighter will be deemed assault. The key term here is “expected danger”. There are some instances that a person may be able to collect damages for injuries even during a sporting event.

Intentional Acts are when a competitor intentionally causes harm to a fellow competitor. Extreme sports have rules, and if the act done to cause injury is not classified as a known danger, then the person who caused the injury may be held liable, such as when a rider gets into a fistfight with another rider.

Recklessness is when a competitor’s reckless actions, whether through a lack of skill or a lack of foresight, injures another participant, such as when standard safety procedures are ignored by a rider, which leads to an accident.

Product Liability is when defectively designed, manufactured, or marketed equipment causes an injury to a participant, such as when a bike’s faulty suspension system breaks upon landing, thus causing the rider severe injuries.

Negligent Coaching occurs when a coach exposes a competitor to unreasonable risk. 

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Even when you willingly expose yourself to danger, there are circumstances that will allow you to claim damages. Should you find yourself in one of the situations illustrated above, always make sure to consult with a lawyer like this Seattle Motorcycle Attorney to help you secure compensation for your injuries.