Magazine article District Administration

Approaching the Concussion Crisis Proactively: High Schools and Districts Can Expect Claims for Negligence after Athletic Injuries

Magazine article District Administration

Approaching the Concussion Crisis Proactively: High Schools and Districts Can Expect Claims for Negligence after Athletic Injuries

Article excerpt

While the increasing number of concussion-related injuries in the NFL--and the player lawsuits that followed--have captured the country's attention, less attention has been paid to the rise of similar claims coming from high school student-athletes.

The litigation exposes high school districts to an increased risk of classaction lawsuits and significant monetary damages. Schools must determine whether their existing insurance will respond to such liabilities.

Lawsuits on the rise

In 2015, Alex Pierscionek, who played football at Chicago's South Elgin High School, sued the Illinois High School Association over its head injury policies, making it the first state association that could face class-action scrutiny. While the court dismissed the lawsuit--finding the association had taken steps to make football safer and that imposing cosdy requirements could force some schools tc drop the sport--Pierscionek is not alone. In addition to class-action lawsuits, high school players have also sued as individuals for their injuries. A U.S. District Court last year awarded a player in Iowa nearly $1 million after a jury found the school district at fault because its nurse was negligent in notifying coaches and the player's guardian of a possible concussion. In Florida, the family of a former football player who suffered a serious brain injury on the school's football field received a $2 million setdement. Such examples are numerous.

Know your coverage

Football is far from the only sport facing a potential lawsuit epidemic. Field hockey, lacrosse, girls' soccer and other activities are subject to risk of injury, including concussions. Because of the potential exposure to multimillion dollar liability, school districts and underwriters need to make sure they understand their insurance program. While each case is unique, high schools and districts can expect claims for negligence, among others, in the coming years. …

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