Whether you decide to go bungy jumping or join a hockey league, signing a waiver is often part of the deal if you want to participate in a sport.  To put it frankly, you sign or you don’t participate. The reason companies and teams are asking participants to sign a waiver is often due to the sports-related injuries that can occur.  Sports injuries can happen in the blink of the eye—a skier gets hit by a snowboarder on the slopes, a hockey player gets cross-checked, loses his balance and falls backward, hitting his head on the ice.  Here are some of the things you need to know to help protect your rights, if you are injured while participating in a sport or even an extreme sport.

A brain injury occurs when there is physical trauma to the head and is typically classified into two categories; closed and open head injuries. A closed head injury means that there is no obvious sign of trauma: no sign of bleeding or objects protruding from the head.  Yet the injury is still serious and it is what you can’t see that is cause for worry. Often closed head injuries are difficult to prove and require  MRI or CT scans may be necessary to prove the extent of the injury.

When someone falls and hits their head on a hard surface such as ice, the ground or pavement, this can cause the brain to literally move within the skull, resulting in damage to the vessels or tissue or both.  Severe trauma to the head can cause damage to blood vessels or cause bleeding which can cause pressure in the skull, affecting the flow of blood and oxygen supply to the brain.  In some cases, further damage to the brain tissue may result.

What if I am injured playing hockey and I signed a waiver? 

Many clubs, organizations or businesses will ask you to sign a waiver in order to participate in the sport or activity they offer. By doing so, you acknowledge the inherent risk of participating and thereby limit the liability of the organizers for any loss or damage you may sustain while participating. Waivers are contractual terms, which in most cases protect the organization or team from being sued. It is the responsibility of the organization to ensure the terms of the waiver are communicated to the participant.  The law also recognizes that there are inherent risks involved when participating in certain sporting activities.  Generally, injuries sustained from those assumed risks are not compensable.

The level of risk or the situation which caused the injury may be open to interpretation. The courts will decide if the injury occurred as a result of risk over and above what is considered part of the game.  A claim may be sought if an athlete has sustained an injury from faulty equipment, or as a result of reckless or serious aggressive behaviour from another player which caused an injury to happen. There is also a lot at stake in many cases, as a serious sports injury can result in the loss of income, along with the need for short or long term health care including the cost of medical, rehabilitation and healthcare costs.

But I wear a helmet; I am protected from concussions or brain injuries right?

Wearing a properly-fitted helmet designed for the sport and certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) will help protect you from injury caused by falls, but in some cases, depending on the nature of the incident and the force of impact, an athlete wearing a helmet may still suffer a concussion or sports-related injury.   Helmets should be replaced every five years or sooner, depending on the wear and tear. Check your manufacturer’s warranty and information on your helmet for recommendations and terms of use.

If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a sports accident, you may be eligible for a claim for compensation which may help the injured party seek compensation to help pay for costly medical care, rehabilitation and home care. Sports injury cases are complex and best reviewed by a sports Injury lawyer who is familiar with the sports injury law.

At Horowitz Injury Law, we have nearly 35 years of experience and a proven track record of advancing claims for athletes who have sustained injuries as a result of playing recreational or organized sports. We care about our clients and handle each case, empathy. One of our sports injury lawyers in Toronto will be happy to speak with you at no charge to assess whether or not your claim may have merit.  Call Horowitz Injury Law today for a free consultation at 416-925-4100.