Civil Liability and Risks in Sports

In certain cases, during sports events or special situations, it's necessary to demand civil liability from participants. When can it happen and what should the athlete do?
Civil Liability and Risks in Sports

Last update: 11 December, 2019

The concept of civil liability in sports is still quite complex. Practicing any sport involves voluntarily accepting some risks, such as injuring yourself during a competition. It is, of course, a very important aspect that you must take into account. But, you could also harm other athletes and you may have to compensate them for it.

So, when is it necessary to take responsibility for the damages caused to third parties in a sports setting? Who are the third parties? Are they only the sportsmen, the amateurs, or the event organizers?

Civil liability and sports riks

In practice, the concept of civil liability refers to the possibility of legally charging a person for the consequences of their actions over a third party.

Basically, each person must take responsibility for their actions and for the repair of physical and moral damages generated directly or indirectly to other individuals. The civil liability applies to everyone who has rights and duties. This means people who are capable of acknowledging and accepting the consequences of a free-will action. Therefore, it’s not possible to charge individuals who fall under the condition of non-liability.

Civil liability in sports: boxing.

When does it apply?

Your actions, as a sportsman during a competition or a match, that comply with the sport’s ethical and non-ethical rules can’t be charged under civil liability.

For example, a boxer can’t be charged for knocking out his opponent, as long as the action complied with the rules. Particularly given that both athletes accepted the possible risks that came with practicing the sport.

But it’s different when the one causing harm is violating the sport’s rules . Particularly when their behavior isn’t ethical when it comes to the spirit of the game.

In other words, civil liability in sports exists when the usual sport’s risks aren’t the cause of damages to third parties. In fact, in order for it to apply, the damage must be the result of imprudence, negligence or intentional actions.

Following the boxing example, the sportsman can be held responsible for the harm they cause by hitting their rival in forbidden areas of the body. And by committing general infractions to the sportsmanship ethic. A very famous case was that of Mike Tyson biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Furthermore, in sports with moderators or guides, such as hiking, there’s usually a contractual responsibility you must sign before engaging in the sport. Fundamentally, the professionals who are training with you, commit to not being imprudent or negligent. They also agree to not take advantage of their knowledge in order to cause others harm.

A woman hiking.

Civil liability: organizers of sports events

It’s not only athletes and coaches: organizers of sports events also have obligations and civil responsibilities when it comes to their professional activities.

The clearest example of this is their duty to provide security to both the athletes and the technical team. As well as the amateurs and fans that participate in the events.

Basically, it’s their obligation as organizers to ensure that the facilities allow the sports practice to unfold in a safe environment, and thus avoid damage to participants. Failure to comply with civil liability can lead to an obligation to pay for the damages or to provide compensation.

However, there are some exceptions. Such as when another individual causes damage during an event and neither the staff nor the conditions have anything to do with it.

Finally, indemnification or repair wouldn’t apply to civil liability when there’s proof that the third party caused the incident intentionally.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.