Football injury compensation claims

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Howard Willis

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A guide to making a No Win No Fee football injury claim

According to the Football Association (FA), the number of people playing football in England is increasing, with 8.2 million now participating in the game in some form. This is supported by data from the Sport England Active People Survey (APS), released in January 2015, which also highlights that football is by far the largest participation sport in the country.

Due to the very physical, fast-paced and semi-contact nature of the sport, injuries are a regular occurrence, and it is reported that over 34% of all participants may sustain some type of injury. As such, many of the sports injury claims handled by solicitors relate to football.

The most commonly encountered footballing injuries, seen in both professional and amateur football, include:

In the majority of cases, a player's injury occurs accidentally during the course of a game or as the result of a "fair" tackle, within the bounds of what is considered acceptable play.

More serious "freak" accidents can also occur, however the key issue a solicitor will consider when assessing a claim is "Was the injury the result of negligence, recklessness or dangerous conduct?".

Can an injured player claim compensation for his injuries?

All team sports players accept that they may sustain the occasional bump or bruise and aches and pains as a result of play. However, when football injuries are more serious, causing longer term pain and suffering, and result from circumstances that lie outside the rules of the game, it may be appropriate to bring a claim for compensation.

This logic applies to professional, semi-professional and amateur players.

The main factors that cause football injuries that may justify bringing a claim include:

1) Reckless, dangerous or violent behaviour from other players

Late, reckless or malicious tackles by opposing players may inflict significant, sometimes life-changing, injuries. These may include fractured legs, dislocations, torn ligaments, and trauma to the head (including concussion) and spinal injury.

An assault by opposing players or even a player's own team mates may cause multiple and serious injuries, depending on the violence of the attack. A player sustaining a kick to the head may need extensive surgery for broken bones and teeth; a head butt might break the assaulted player's nose. It is not necessary for a criminal case to be successful or to have concluded for a player to make a criminal injury claim.

In the professional or semi-professional game, a club may be liable for the negligent actions of a player who causes serious injury to another whilst they are acting in the course of their employment (vicarious liability). This legal principle permits a player to claim for personal injury because the harm occurred during the playing of the game and, therefore, in the course of the second player's employment.

Although the club's vicarious liability may include in-match fighting, it is not likely to extend to incidents occurring outside a match context.

2) Poorly maintained playing facilities

Badly maintained pitches, which cause players to slip or trip, may result in injuries - typically to the ankles and lower leg. 

Where glass or chemicals are present on a pitch that has not been inspected thoroughly, any players coming into contact with them may sustain cuts or burns injuries.

Players using indoor courts (e.g. five-a-side football) may slip or fall if spills have not been cleaned, or unsuitable cleaning products have been used.

Owners of sports facilities have a duty to provide safe playing environments, so may be found liable if the injury was a result of a poorly maintained pitch or court.

3) Poor training or coaching

Although rare, poor coaching instructions or inadequate or reckless training exercises may also cause one player to injure another or themselves. It may be more difficult to establish negligence in regard to coaching-related injuries. Contact a specialist solicitor to discuss your options.

Claiming for a football injury

Although most football clubs have insurance policies to cover occupiers liability accidents and football injury claims, insurers may invoke clauses or limitations within the policy, making it necessary for a Claimant to demonstrate that the Defendant was liable for his injury. 

Anyone wishing to bring a claim for a football injury is advised to gather as much evidence as possible to establish liability and to support the claim.

This evidence could include:

  • A copy of any video taken of the game
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs of the injuries
  • Photographs of the facilities if the accident occurred due to the poor state of the pitch or court

What may be claimed?

Depending on the injury, claims may be made for general damages to cover pain, suffering and loss of amenity (how the Claimant's quality of life has been affected by the injury). Claims for special damages will include loss of earnings (if the Claimant is unable to work due to his injury), cost of any treatment and any other costs incurred as a result.

The level of damages awarded may vary according to the level at which the sport is being played at. At the elite professional level, damages are likely to be significant if the accident has caused a long-term or career-ending injury.

Next steps

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