Is a kid’s sports waiver legally binding?
Youth sports are a great way for kids to get exercise, make friends, and build lifelong skills. All sports pose some risk of injury, which many youth sports organizations respond to by asking parents or guardians to sign waivers.
When a child is injured playing youth sports, the adults responsible for them may wonder if they can bring a claim against the sports organization. They may fear that the waiver prevents them from securing compensation for their child’s losses.
In South Carolina, waivers are often considered on a case-by-case basis. Not all waiver language is enforceable, and not all waivers can be enforced in every possible injury situation.
One common clause in children’s sports waivers is a “liability waiver.” A liability waiver is a contract in which the child’s parent or guardian agrees to give up the right to bring a lawsuit against the sports organization or its staff, even if the child’s injuries are caused by the organization’s or staff’s negligence. In exchange, the parent receives the opportunity to enroll their child in sports.
South Carolina courts treat liability waivers with skepticism. The courts acknowledge that the protection from lawsuits provided by these waivers can tempt sports organizations and staff to behave more carelessly, increasing the risk of injury.
Consequently, South Carolina courts require liability waivers to contain very clear language indicating that the parent or guardian intends to give up their right to hold the organization and staff liable for negligence. Likewise, the liability waiver must be focused on a particular set of situations. It cannot free the organization or its staff from all liability for any type of negligence ever.
Youth sports waivers often contain “assumption of risk” language as well. An assumption of risk clause attempts to give the organization and its staff an “out” in court. If a player is injured, the organization or staff can argue that the player and family assumed the risk of injury when they chose to play the sport.
Assumption of risk clauses have limits too. For instance, the risk must be foreseeable by the player or their responsible adult. The risk of a concussion while playing soccer, for example, is likely a foreseeable risk. The risk cannot be hidden or known only to the sports organization or staff.
Kids’ sports waivers are not automatically enforceable merely because the parent or guardian signed the waiver. The language in the waiver must be examined carefully and compared to the actual facts surrounding the injury. Talk to an experienced South Carolina injury lawyer before you decide what to do next.
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