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When You Sign A Waiver, Can You Still Sue?


Let’s say you’ve signed your child up to participate in a local sports activity. Plenty of other families do the same, and you are looking forward to cheering on your little one as he develops physical prowess and simultaneously gains social skills. Sure, you signed a bunch of papers while registering for league play. It’s just part of the process, right?

The Waiver

Yes, paperwork is a common practice these days, and one of those documents is likely a waiver, releasing the organization from responsibility if the event your child is injured. This document is an essential component of virtually any athletic organization’s sign-up, and for good reason.

  • Over 3.5 million injuries occur among children under age 15 while participating in sports or recreational activities every year;
  • While sports-related fatalities among child athletes are rare, they do occur, and are most often related to brain injuries;
  • Over one in five traumatic brain injuries in children are related to sports and/or recreational activities;
  • Sports that include physical contact and collisions produce the highest number of injuries among children involved in sports;
  • The majority—over 60 percent– of sport-related injuries occurs during practices.
  • Over 170,000 children visit emergency rooms due injuries on the basketball court annually;
  • Baseball injuries approach 110,000 every year, and there are three or four fatalities annually;
  • Over 200,000 children experience football injuries that land them in the hospital every year;
  • Ice hockey injuries bring 20,000 kids to emergency rooms annually;
  • Soccer injuries account for nearly 90,000 emergency room visits yearly.

When an Injury Occurs, who is Liable?

So you’ve signed a waiver, and you’re sitting in the emergency room waiting to hear the doctor’s assessment of your child’s sport-related injury. Who’s going to have to pay the medical bills?

Florida statute states that in order for a waiver to be enforceable, it must meet certain conditions:

  • It must be typed in all capitals;
  • It must be a minimum of 5 points larger than other print on the document;
  • It must be easily distinguishable from other material on the document.

However, simply meeting these criteria does not excuse an organization from liability. It covers injuries due to inherent risk of the activity. If it can be proved that the injury that occurred was due to something other than an accident during the normal course of events, there may be a case for negligence. For example, if your child sprains an ankle during soccer practice, it’s basically an inherent risk of the game. However, if your child experiences a concussion during football practice because he wasn’t wearing a helmet, that is a result of negligence, and could be actionable.

Examining Your Case

If you have questions as to the legal culpability of an organization following a child’s sport-related injury, we’d be happy to take a look at your situation at the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton. Contact us today for a free consultation.