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As summer approaches and the weather warms up across the country, summer sports are in full swing. Many people who engage in sports run the risk of getting injured, but can participants recover for damages sustained during recreational sports activities?

Primary Assumption of Risk

It is a general rule that each person has a duty to use ordinary care and may be liable for injuries that occur due to his failure to exercise reasonable care. Under this doctrine of primary implied assumption of risk, or PIAR, there is typically no duty to eliminate or protect a participant of a sport or recreational activity against risks inherent to that sport or activity, unless actions by the defendant increase the risk of harm.

This means that co-participants, including players, coaches, and sports facility owners or operators are not obligated to protect you from the inherent risks associated with a sport, even if they were somehow negligent. PIAR applies to contact sports as well as non-contact sports

Exceptions to PIAR

There are some exceptions to PIAR under which co-participants might be held accountable for your sports-related injury, including:

  • Intentional or reckless conduct. If the conduct of co-participants was more than just negligent, they sometimes can be held accountable.
  • No inherent risk of harm. You aren’t expected to assume risks in sporting events that are not inherent to the sport.
  • Increased risk of harm. Everyone has a duty not to increase the risk of harm or injury to other participants in the activity.
  • Product liability. When a product defect contributes to an injury, such as a defective ski binding or a faulty football helmet, the manufacturer and product distributor may be held accountable.

Although participation in a recreational sporting event commonly involves some assumption of risk, knowing your rights and exemptions under the law is just as important as understanding PIAR.

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