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Injured as a Spectator? Who’s Liable?


When you head to a sporting event, hyped up and ready to cheer on your favorite competitor, you don’t expect to wind up having to be hospitalized. And yet, it’s surprising just how many innocent fans end up in emergency rooms across the country.

Dangers at Sporting Events

In addition to injuries directly related to the particular event (such as being hit by a stray golf ball or crashed into by a 250 pound basketball player who overran the court), other types of accidents occur in stadiums and arenas with enough frequency to be mentioned:

  • Crowd stampedes that lead to injuries;
  • Collapsing stands or railings;
  • Fights among opposing fans;
  • Injuries related to items that have been thrown.

Wounded Spectators

Unfortunately, when contingencies are not thoroughly addressed in advance, all too often fans wind up paying a hefty price for their loyalty to a particular competitor, and simply attending the event itself results in serious injuries to spectators:

  • The Talladega Superspeedway was the scene of spectator injuries in 2009, when the car driven by Carl Edwards flew into the safety fence. While the fence did protect fans in the stands from the vehicle itself, fragments of twisted steel did go flying out into the crowd, sending two women to a local hospital.
  • Following a 2013 twelve-car pileup at the Daytona International Speedway,over 30 spectators were assaulted by flying scraps of metal and engine parts. Half of them were treated on the scene, while the others were rushed to nearby hospitals.
  • A Texas Ranger fan was killed when she was hit by a rogue baseball in 2011.
  • A 2013 incident involving a stray hockey puck injured one woman’s face.

Duty of Care

Whether it is a local high school rugby game, little league football, college basketball, or professional race car driving, spectators have to acknowledge that there is always some risk of personal injury. Nonetheless, venue owners and event organizers do have a certain duty of care toward attendees.


Generally the courts do assign some degree of liability to the owner/operator of the premises. It can be argued that owner/organizers do, indeed, have a duty of care toward spectators, and, at minimum, reasonable measures must be taken to protect fans from predictable hazards.

Another view is the limited duty perspective, which concludes that spectators who are at the highest risk of danger should be protected the most. That might be fans in the front rows of the race track or nearest the ice in a hockey game.

Following an Injury

Regardless of the type of injury or the event at which it occurred, the experienced legal team at the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton is dedicated to providing the legal representation you deserve to hold all responsible parties liable. Contact us in Daytona & Ormond Beach for a confidential consultation today.