When you finish this chapter you will be able to:
Explain legal considerations for anyone acting as a health care provider.
Define the legal concepts of liability, negligence, torts, assumption of risk.
Identify measures that can be taken to minimize chances of litigation.
Describe product liability.
Identify the essential insurance requirements for protection of the athlete.
Describe the types of insurance necessary to protect an individual who provides health care to anyone who is injured.
In recent years, negligence suits against physical education teachers, fitness professionals, coaches, athletic trainers, school administrators, and physicians, arising out of sports injuries, have increased both in frequency and in the amount of damages awarded.8,9,14 An increasing awareness of the many risk factors present in physical activities is essential.
This chapter provides basic information about things that can be done to avoid litigation, and briefly discusses the types of insurance needed to protect the athlete and the coach, the fitness professional and the administrator. Liability means being legally responsible for the harm one causes another person.12 A great deal of care must be taken in following policies and procedures, to reduce the risk of being sued by an athlete and being found liable for negligence.16 It is important to reemphasize that it is essential for everyone to know the legal limitations of his or her responsibilities in providing athletic health care as dictated by the laws and statutes in the specific state where that individual is employed. Anyone providing any level of health care to an injured athlete must know exactly what his or her limitations are, to avoid overstepping boundaries and risking violation of the regulatory practice acts of various health care groups such as physical therapists and athletic trainers.
liability The state of being legally responsible for the harm one causes another person.
The Standard of Reasonable Care
Negligence is the failure to use ordinary or reasonable care—care that persons would normally exercise to avoid injury to themselves or to others under similar circumstances.21 The standard of reasonable care assumes that an individual is neither exceptionally skillful nor extraordinarily cautious, but is a person of reasonable and ordinary prudence. Put another way, it is expected that an individual will bring a commonsense approach to the situation at hand and will exercise due care in its handling. In most cases in which someone has been sued for negligence, the actions of a hypothetical, reasonably prudent person are compared with the actions of the defendant to ascertain whether the course of action followed by the defendant was in conformity with the judgment exercised by such a reasonably prudent person.