The Olympic games – summer or winter, it’s something athletes often spend their lives dreaming about, competing in trial after trial just to win a spot on the team. When things go wrong, though, is there any recourse for the athlete or the families involved? Do athletes have rights?
The most recent Sochi Winter Olympics only highlighted the danger of competition at this level. Russian skier Maria Komissarova was airlifted from Sochi to Germany after a ski cross crash fractured her spine. U.S. athlete Jackie Hernandez smashed her head against the snow, falling unconscious in a snowboard cross event. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver highlighted the dangers, too, with Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili being killed on the course. When athletes are hurt, many commentators blame the courses involved or even the equipment. It’s not uncommon to hear sportscasters talk about the difficulty of a course. After Kumaritashvili’s death, there was much controversy surrounding the fact that the course itself had been designed for the absolutely maximum speed possible. After the injuries in Sochi, it was suggested that the courses were simply too treacherous for skiers and snowboarders to compete. Do athletes have rights to make their concerns heard?
The Laws Don’t Always Apply to Athletes
Assumption of risk is at play in every athletic event, from those for very young children to those at the Olympic level. The idea here is that an athlete has voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risks inherent to a dangerous activity, or a dangerous sport in this case. If assumption of risk is at play, an athlete either cannot recover damages or is only allowed to recover reduced damages.
Not only does that doctrine come into play when athletes are injured, but so, too, do the personal injury laws surrounding the area in which the event is held. In the case of the Olympics, you’re dealing with the laws of the country where the competition is being held, and personal injury attorneys aren’t always as present in other countries as they are in the United States. If, though, your child is competing in an event within St. Petersburg or the Olympics were being held here, athletes might be able to recover something based on U.S. personal injury laws. Athletes do have rights.
Before recovery would be possible, however, the athlete or his family would have to prove that the equipment, facilities, or designers of a given activity created some sort of unusual risk that wouldn’t typically be faced within the normal course of that sport. Likewise, they would also face a reduction in the verdict for the amount of negligence that the athlete had in contributing to the accident.
The Finish Line
Athletes take risks. It’s what makes them great at what they do. It’s what drives us to watch the sports in the Olympics year after year. Often, though, those risks don’t come with the protection of typical personal injury laws. Find an attorney in Saint Petersburg to help.