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Association of Personal Injury Lawyers

Sport injury compensation lawyers

Sport injury

Injuries caused to, or by, either participants or spectators in the course of sporting and recreational activities, can if they are caused by negligence, give rise to a claim for damages. From football and rugby to boxing and extreme sports such as kite-surfing, for example, negligent actions may lead to injury.

Only specialist sports injury lawyers are listed on this page.

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Mr Paul Pike of JPS WALKER SOLICITORS in Manchester
Personal injury - Senior Litigator
Personal injury legal practice
Personal injury - Senior Litigator
Robert Sardo has been pursing compensation claims for accident victims for over 20 years. He qualified as a Solicitor in October 1992 and has been a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel since 1999. He is one of APIL’s Senior Litigators and... Read more
Personal injury legal practice
Personal injury - Fellow
Jon has over 15 years' of experience of personal injury litigation. Jon is a Fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), and is a former member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel. Jon began his career in 1996 with Hugh James... Read more
Mr Michael Pace of ANDREW & CO LLP in Lincoln
Personal injury legal practice
Personal injury - Fellow
Michael is a past President of the Lincolnshire Law Society. He is a partner and head of the Personal Injury and Motor Law Team at Andrew & Co LLP. He has experience of both claimant personal injury work and defendant criminal... Read more

All firms will probably provide the first half hour of your consultation free of charge, either by telephone or in person.

It is strongly recommended that you should consult with two or three accredited injury lawyers before making a decision on who to instruct.


Do I need a lawyer to make a sports injury accident claim?

Yes you do! Many insurance companies like to contact the people involved in an accident to try to settle the claim directly. They sometimes do this even after you have instructed your own solicitors. This could be your own insurer or the insurer for the other person or company involved in your accident.

While this is allowed, there are good reasons why you should not deal with the other person/company’s insurer directly and why you should instruct a lawyer:

  • The lawyer will be able to use the online ‘claims portal’ to deal with your claim. This electronic system speeds up the claim process. Provided that liability is admitted and the claim is worth £25,000 or less, it could be finalised quickly and efficiently through the portal.
  • The other person/company’s insurer is likely to make you a lower offer than you are entitled to, in the hope that you will settle quickly and the claim can be closed. Our own research shows that claimants receive offers which are at least 42% lower when they are not legally represented. For this reason alone it is in your best interests to instruct a lawyer to represent you.
Insurer offers
  • The other person/company’s insurer will pay your costs and expenses if you are legally represented and successful with your claim. Dealing with the insurer directly is time consuming and is not straightforward. If you do not instruct a lawyer and deal with the insurer yourself, you are unlikely to be able to claim back the cost of the time and effort you have to put in to settle the claim.
  • A lawyer will ensure that you are properly medically examined. While it is tempting to take the first amount offered by the insurance company for a broken bone, there is a risk that this might not be your only injury which requires compensation. For example, long term pain, the risk of developing arthritis in the future, or psychological after-effects may also develop: your lawyer will ensure that the medic is alive to these issues.
  • If the accident was your fault, you should never make admissions to the injured person’s insurance company. You should seek legal advice to protect your financial and legal position.

Common causes of sports injuries

  • Faulty or poorly maintained equipment
  • Unsafe pitches
  • Insufficient instruction or supervision from trainers, coaches, or fitness staff
  • Referees or umpires who fail to properly control the game which leads to injury
  • Players’ dangerous or illegal moves
  • Assault

Which type of sporting injury can I claim for?

When you take part in sporting activities you ‘consent’ to some risk of injury, so it is important that you can show either ‘reckless disregard’ for safety or a deliberate intention to injure.

For instance, in the football case of Ben Collett (Manchester United FC) v Gary Smith & Middlesbrough FC, Ben was subject to a high tackle, which was over the ball, by Gary Smith. Two bones in Ben’s leg were broken and his high level professional football career was over. Middlesbrough FC settled the claim in Ben Collett’s favour.

In rugby, the case of Ben Smolden v Whitworth and Nolan highlights the issue of consent. Ben was left paralysed after a scrum collapsed. While Smolden consented to the usual element of violence associated with playing rugby, he had not consented to the bad behaviour of another player called Whitworth, and neither had he consented to play in a game which was inadequately refereed.

Smolden alleged that the other player had deliberately collapsed the scrum and that the referee, Nolan, had failed to prevent the collapse. The court accepted that Whitworth was not to blame, but the game had been blighted by 20 scrum collapses when there were usually around six per game. The court found that the referee had not given sufficient instruction to the front rows of the scrum and "failed to exercise reasonable care and skill" in preventing scrum collapses. He was found liable for Smolden’s injuries.

Concussion is also a live issue. Injuries occur in horse racing over jumps, rugby union and American football, although the risk of concussion in motor sport and motocross has been identified as another area where it is a hazard. See ‘contact sports’ below.


Injuries caused by contact sports

In contact sports, such as rugby or American football, players already consent to a certain level of violence. Players know that they are likely to be involved in collisions. But injuries caused by reckless disregard or deliberate intention to injure can give rise to a claim.

  • Assault
    For example, in Gravil v Carroll and Redruth RFC, a fight ensued after a failed scrum and Carroll threw a punch, fracturing the bones around Gravil’s right eye. Carroll later admitted in a RFU disciplinary hearing that he had deliberately assaulted Gravil, but denied that it was a pre-meditated assault. He was temporarily suspended by the RFU. In Gravil’s subsequent claim for damages, the Court of Appeal found in Gravil’s favour.
  • Inadequate supervision/skill and care of the referee
    In rugby, the case of Ben Smolden v Whitworth and Nolan highlights the issue of consent. Ben was left paralysed after a scrum collapsed. While Smolden consented to the usual element of violence associated with playing rugby, he had not consented to the behaviour of which he accused Whitworth or to play in a game which was inadequately refereed. He alleged that he had deliberately collapsed the scrum and that the referee Nolan had failed to prevent the collapse. The court accepted that Whitworth was not to blame, but the game had been blighted by 20 scrum collapses when there were usually around six per game. The court found that the referee had not given sufficient instruction to the front rows of the scrum and "failed to exercise reasonable care and skill" in preventing scrum collapses. He was found liable for Smolden’s injuries.
  • Concussion
    This is also a live issue. Injuries occur in horse racing over jumps, rugby union and American football, although the risk of concussion in motor sport and motocross has been identified as other areas where it is a hazard.
    • In American Football, the NFL has implemented a set of guidelines called The NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committees’ Protocols Regarding Diagnosis and Management of Concussion;
    • In Rugby the RFU has issued guidance on returning to play after a head injury and rugby players from Aviva Premiership Rugby and Greene King IPA Championship are taking part in a study led by the University of Birmingham as part of its work to develop a ground-breaking pitch-side test to diagnose concussion and brain injury;
    • The British Horseracing Authority has a series of concussion management protocols, which aim to ensure that riders are better protected and prevented from riding while under the influence of a concussive injury. More information can be found here: https://www.britishhorseracing.com/press_releases/education-regulation-research-central-new-concussion-management-initiatives.

Assumption of risk

In sports, such as football, rugby or American football, players already consent to a certain level of violence. Players know that they are likely to be involved in collisions. But injuries caused by a reckless disregard or a deliberate intention to injure can give rise to a claim.

This also applies to spectators. Almost everyone who attends a cricket match, an ice-hockey game or cycle race, for example, will accept that there is a small risk of injury. If you watch a cricket match, you must be prepared to dodge the ball as it flies into the stands. Similarly, sitting in the front rows of a hockey match carries a risk of injury: spectators are regularly reminded to ‘keep an eye on the puck at all times’ during games.

But it has to be a reasonable risk. Anything which amounts to negligence cannot be accepted as within the realms of the reasonable risk of that sport. For an example of this we can look at the decision in Corbett v Cumbria Kart Racing Club, Tracksport Challenge Ltd and RAC Motor Sports Assoc Ltd in 2013. In this case, a racing club and the organisers of a moped race positioned an ambulance behind a flimsy barrier of tyres at the track edge. A moped side car and its rider crashed through the barrier and collided with the ambulance parked behind it. The impact with the ambulance caused catastrophic head injuries to the rider.

The court held that it was always foreseeable that a moped might leave the track on the bend and so the organisers should have ensured that the barrier was adequate to prevent any collision with the ambulance parked behind it. They were negligent for not doing so.


Can I claim if I was injured as a spectator?

In some circumstances, the answer is yes.

Almost everyone who attends a cricket match, an ice-hockey game or motor race, for example, will accept that there is a small risk of injury. If you watch a cricket match, you must be prepared to dodge the ball as it flies into the stands. Similarly, sitting in the front rows of a hockey match carries a risk of injury: spectators are regularly reminded to ‘keep an eye on the puck at all times’ during games.

But it has to be a reasonable risk. Anything which amounts to negligence cannot be accepted as within the realms of the reasonable risk of that sport.

For a good example of this we can look at the decision in Fenton v Thruxton (Barc) Ltd and Motor Cycle Circuit Racing Control Board in 2008. In this case, a spectator at a motor racing event was injured when a bike left the track and collided with him in a designated spectating area. The pre-race track safety inspections had been inadequate and had concentrated more on the riders’ safety, rather than the spectators. The organisers and track owners were liable for the spectator’s injuries as a result.