Spectator Liability: A Growing Concern

// March 5, 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As spring and summer months approach, a resurgence in outdoor activity will soon follow. With all those who will participate in sports comes just as many spectators cheering them on from the sidelines. Parents everywhere will gather on fields to cheer on children participating in baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field, flag football and tennis.

Participation in sports increases the likelihood of sustaining an injury, which most participants and their guardians understand from the start. Organizations should have the necessary risk-management procedures in place for these scenarios. However, there is another risk associated with sporting events that many don’t think about: spectator liability. According to HealthDay, though spectator injuries are uncommon, they tend to be life-threatening and life-changing when they do occur.

In 2015, a Boston Red Sox fan ventured out to Fenway Park. What was supposed to be a relaxing day at the ballpark resulted in life-threatening blunt trauma injuries to her head after shards of a shattered bat struck her in the face. This raised the question of where the liability fell. If one attends a game, do they assume the risk of potential injury by default? According to LawInSport.com, the line is blurred because spectators knowingly put themselves in potential danger.

While this is an extreme example of spectator injury, the danger is present, and the likelihood only increases with the increase in sports participation. To drive home the potential severity of these risks, an ESPN article reported that an amateur baseball team in New Jersey incurred over $150,000 in claims expenses due to a spectator injury from an overthrown baseball. Implementing the appropriate risk-management practices, such as facility maintenance/upkeep, proper training and employee/volunteer screenings, can help alleviate these exposures to ensure long-term success for organizations.

While having good risk-management practices in place, such as up-to-date equipment and waivers of liability, is recommended for any sports organization, having coverage in place can alleviate significant financial losses for which the organization may become liable. USLI offers a variety of insurance and value-added solutions for both youth and adult sports organizations. Our comprehensive package policy offers:

  • General liability
  • Property
  • Directors and officers
  • Employment practices
  • Optional accident and health for youth-only organizations
  • Participant legal liability coverage
  • Abuse and molestation limits up to $1 million available for youth-only organizations
  • Assault or battery coverages for youth-only organizations are included at no additional charge
  • Certain special events
  • Inland marine
  • Crime

True to our service promises, USLI is able to offer a quote for most sports organizations over the phone with as little information as the number of participants in a league or on a team. In addition, USLI’s Business Resource Center provides value-added resources that greatly benefit youth organizations, such as discounted background checks, concussion training, child-abuse policies and much more.

Please contact your Nonprofit Package underwriter today for more information about our Sports Advantage product.


As always, thank you for your support and business.

Contact Brian Smith
Southeast Team Leader | 888-523-5545, ext. 2727

Written by Kristin Ryan
March 5, 2020