Alexis Bernier

Sports and Civil Liability

This blog follows the one published on October 11th about civil liability in golf. Today, the topic of the blog will focus on sports in general.

When we’re practising a sport, we often just think of having fun and performing well. But what happens when a person gets injured or injures someone else during an activity? Can we be compensated? The answer to that is partly yes but it all depends on the circumstances. Firstly, civil liability must be brought up once again because this notion comes into play when someone causes damage to another. It is true that a person is responsible for repairing the injury caused by his own fault. However, the victim must prove the three following elements in order to receive compensation:

  1. You were at fault
  2. There was injury caused to a third party
  3. There is a direct link between the fault and the injury caused to the third party.

It is important to understand that as an athlete, especially in contact sports, you accept to be exposed to certain foreseeable risks and, therefore, you have a certain responsibility.

A few examples

Let’s take a skier who loves hitting the slopes of Mont Saint-Bruno as an example. As he is rapidly descending the famous La Rabastalière course, he slams into a snowmaker and fractures his arm. In this situation, who is at fault? The skier or the owner? The circumstances of the accident must be determined first.

Many questions can arise:

  • Was there a sign indicating the presence of a snowmaker?
  • Did the owner do everything in his power to avoid any collision?
  • Was the skier going too fast?

If the skier is able to prove that the snowmaker was not visible (negligence), that he sustained injuries as a result of the collision (injury) and that there is causality between the two, the owner could be held at fault. However, if the owner can prove that the skier was going too fast and that this is the reason why he was not able to avoid the snowmaker, there would be no case. The skier would have to pay his own medical expenses.

Let’s take another example. A snowboarder enters a snow park and decides to perform some risky tricks on the rails without wearing a helmet. He falls and hits his head on a ramp. Can the owner be liable? In this situation, the answer is no. The owner even installed a sign at the entrance of the snow park indicating that wearing a helmet is mandatory. It would therefore be unfair for him to have to pay for the recklessness and imprudence of the snowboarder. In a nutshell, if the owner of the ski hill could prove his innocence by explaining that he had done everything in his power to avoid an accident, the verdict will lean in his favour.

Lastly, let’s look at a hockey example. Hockey is a contact sport and unfortunate incidents sometimes happen. This was the case of Andrew Zaccardo who became quadriplegic after an illegal body check from an opponent. Of course, this resulted in a $8 million lawsuit against the league and the player who was at fault. It must be understood that even it’s not intentional, the player committed a fault (unintentional body check), an injury (bodily harm to Andrew) and there is an undeniable link causal connection between the body check and the injury. In this example, Andrew was fully aware of the dangers of the sport but was not clearly not able to react to the body check from behind.

That being said, even if the sport is a recreation, certain acts constitute a civil fault and it is for this reason that civil liability is paramount for everybody. Not only does it cover you in the event of damage caused to others anywhere in the world, it also protects you in your daily sports.

Have fun but play safely!

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Alexis Bernier Damage Insurance Broker See the profile

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