If kids and sports are a common pairing, so, unfortunately, are kids and sports injuries: Some 3.5 million injuries are sustained by U.S. youth ages 14 and younger each year. In fact, nearly a third of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports related.
That means a world of hurt and not just for children and their parents. Organizations that sponsor sports, along with their administrators, coaches and volunteers, must understand the variety of injury scenarios and the types of sports injury insurance that would apply – as well as how to best mitigate risks to offset avoidable medical and legal expenses.
Start with this basic scenario:
Jen is a 12-year-old player in a youth soccer league chasing after a sideline pass. As the ball rolls out of bounds, both she and an opposing player go after it at once and Jen’s ankle is struck by her opponent’s cleat. Jen’s coach removes her from the game and she’s treated by the trainer who advises her parents to consult their doctor on necessary next steps.
Jen’s recovery will take proper treatment and care; costs are the parents’ responsibility to cover under their healthcare plan. Since the accident involved ordinary circumstances of play, the “assumption of risk” legal doctrine applies. Neither the league nor the player and her parents can be held responsible.
What if the injury is more serious, requiring rehab and a specialized boot for walking? The basic health plan may or may not cover such “extras.” Parents of young athletes should check their plans and consider low- or no-deductible plans that may have a higher premium but protects them against out-of-pocket costs to cover expensive medical bills for serious injuries.
Sports organizations at all levels also need specific protection against injury-specific lawsuits, making accident insurance important. Say Jen goes on to play collegiate soccer on scholarship and in her first game suffers the same injury she experienced as a 12-year-old. Happily, her family’s medical insurance kicks in, but does the school have an insurance policy to help cover the costs?
Yes, but terms will vary considerably from one school to the next. The NCAA requires its member schools to ensure athletes have insurance for sports-related injuries, but the schools don’t necessarily pay for it. Parents need to ask coaches and administrators about the school’s accident policy for athletes and double-check coverage specifics to guard against gaps in protection.
General liability insurance
Rewind to Jen’s youth soccer days. What if she was injured and medical expenses were incurred through the negligence involving employee(s) of the sports organization? Her parents might sue the organization for those expenses, claiming negligence on the part of the group or its employees. They would have to prove a “duty of care” was owed and that it was breached, and that the causal connection between them resulted in damage to the victim – in this case, Jen.
General liability insurance is the policy that protects the organization and its employees should negligence be proven. In that case, Jen and her family would not have to pay out of pocket for her medical expenses; the organization would have to pay a deductible that comes in far less than the expenses the insurer pays under the general liability policy. It’s not all cut-and-dry, though. Say Jen’s injury resulted from her coach’s negligence when he violated a policy of the organization. The carrier might then pursue the coach to recover the damages paid to Jen and her family.
The complex and nuanced nature of liability in youth sports injuries makes it a risk that all parties should make it a priority to address and manage, whether parents on behalf of their children or sports organizations on behalf of their employees and volunteers. That’s how to ensure youth sports are a positive and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
HUB International’s team of Sports & Entertainment Insurance experts are ready to guide you risk considerations for your sports organization. Talk to us today.