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Spectator injuries at sporting events: Who is liable?

For sports fans, there's nothing like the thrill of watching a game live and in-person. That's why, despite many games being available on television, fans still pay good money to visit the stadium, arena, park or rink of their favorite teams.

Unfortunately, sporting events can be dangerous for fans as well as the athletes participating in them. Indeed, most tickets have warnings printed on them. But when someone gets hurt at a sporting event, which parties may be liable? And are those warnings enough to shield teams and owners against being sued?

The answers to questions like these are almost always case-specific. They may also depend on the laws of whatever state the sports facility is located in.

During this month in 2002, a 13-year-old girl was killed after being struck by a puck at an NHL hockey game in Ohio. The puck had ricocheted off of a player's stick and struck another spectator before hitting the girl. The force was still sufficient to cause massive swelling in her brain, which is what led to her death two days later.

The National Hockey League had already required arenas to have 8-foot glass barriers in them to protect fans. But after this girl's death, the league additionally required the installation of 18-foot mesh nets behind each goal. The NHL also settled with the girl's parents for about $1.2 million.

Similar problems have been seen at baseball games, where fans can easily be struck by flying balls, broken bats and even fully intact bats that fly out of players' hands. Auto racing is even more dangerous. Numerous fans have been killed or seriously injured when cars either crash into stands or car parts (like tires) fly into the stands.

Most major sporting venues place warnings on tickets, scoreboards and will even make special PA announcements in an effort to reduce their own risk of liability. But these warnings are not always enough to prevent lawsuits, and they don't necessarily indemnify the property owners.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured at a sports facility or on any other private property, you may be able to pursue compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. To learn more about your rights and options, please discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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