A 6-foot, 250-pound man runs directly towards you at the full speed. Seconds later, the man slams into you, sending your body into the air before hitting the ground. And you lose consciousness…
In an ordinary scenario, you would sue this guy to recover your damages. Unfortunately, not if you are a football player and this injury was caused by another player during a game.
This is a concept known as “assumption of risk.” To play such physical sports, you must assume the risks that are inherent in the nature of the sport. For instance, you would reasonably expect a hockey game to involve high-impact physical contacts and serious bodily injuries. When you sign up for hockey regardless of the inherent danger, you impliedly consent to bodily contacts.
Surprisingly, this concept also applies to a non-contact sport such as golf. Although playing golf does not usually involve a helmet or knee pads, many American courts held that a golfer also assumes certain risks inherent in the activity, including being hit by an errant ball. In both California (2007) and New York (2010) cases, a golfer suffered permanent injuries when hit by his teammate’s ball. But because such occurrence is reasonably expected in a golf game, the courts decided that the teammate was not liable for the golfer’s loss of vision and other injuries. In both cases, courts explained that the teammate would be liable if such injuries were caused by the teammate’s intentional or unreasonably reckless act, but an unfortunate errant ball simply did not arise to such level of liability.
The assumption of risk in sports makes sense; without it, the threat of lawsuits would deter sports participation altogether. Sports should be more about sportsmanship, than scores. The bottom line: Respect and caution are the most effective protective gears.