Posts Tagged ‘spectator injuries’

Spectator Injuries at the Ballpark

Does the “Baseball Rule” need to be revisited?

Spectators and baseball stadium employees occasionally suffer injuries from home run balls and shattered bats flying into the stands. However, foul balls were the most frequent cause of the 1,750 spectator injuries that occurred last year in major league baseball, according to Elias Sports Bureau.  That number translates to about two injuries for every three games. That’s more than the 1535 occurrences of batters being hit by pitches in the 2013 season.

What’s worse is the rising trend in foul ball injuries. Contributing to the increase in incidents are seats in the new and renovated ballparks being seven percent closer to the field, stronger players, and spectators who are increasingly distracted by smart phones and the flashing messages and graphics on enormous electronic scoreboards.

Hard-hitting facts

Fans have almost no time to respond to foul balls driving into the stands, sometimes at more than 100 mph. A ball traveling at 80 mph is traveling 117 feet per second. Spectators sitting 150 feet from home plate have only a second to dodge the missile.

In response to the 2002 death of a fan by a flying puck, the National Hockey League required netting behind the goal and taller Plexiglas shields over the side boards. Major League Baseball has done almost nothing to reduce such risks and maintains that individual teams are responsible for the safety of spectators. Following the death of a minor league first-base coach in 2007 after being hit by a line drive into foul territory, it was mandated that all base coaches must wear helmets.

The “Baseball Rule” culture

The courts are apparently paying attention:  judges hearing appeals in Georgia and Idaho this year rejected arguments invoking the “Baseball Rule.” That’s a long-standing principle that absolves stadium owners and teams from liability as long as the spectators in the seats behind home plate are protected by netting.

MLB teams are responsible for their stadium backstop designs, display of warning signs and following local safety ordinances. Injuries this year took place in seating in field level and 2nd-tier seats, as well as the higher sections that are typical landing grounds for home run balls.

Source: David Glovin, bloomberg.com, 09 Sept. 2014.

Sports Premises Coverage

Weighing the options of Premises Medical Expense Payments

Should your sports or recreation organization carry Premises Medical Expense Payments under your General Liability policy or not? The experts are divided on this issue.

The Premises Medical Expense Payments limit applies to situations where a spectator or other third party is injured due to a slip-and-fall or similar premises related accidents on premises owned by or rented to the sports organization. It also applies to other premises on which operations are being conducted. This coverage will pay ambulance, hospital, and doctor bills on behalf of the injured party, regardless of fault on the part of the sports or recreation organization. This is an attempt to dissuade the injured party from hiring an attorney. The limit of coverage is typically $5,000. If the medical bills exceed $5,000 and/or if a lawsuit is filed, the Each Occurrence limit would then be applicable.

It’s important to note that Premises Medical Expense Payments coverage does not apply to injury to Premises Medical Payments Coverageany sports participants since injuries arising from athletic activities are excluded. Athletic participants such as players, coaches, managers, etc. must look to a separate Accident insurance policy for similar coverage.

Some insurance carriers specializing in the sports niche believe that liberal use of the Premises Medical Expense Payments limit with small claims to prevent them from turning into larger claims due to attorney involvement. Other carriers have a different philosophy and prefer to take a hard line approach of denying any responsibility from the beginning. Such carriers exclude Premises Medical Expense Payments coverage from the policy.

Premises Medical Payments for Sports Organizations

Premises Medical Payments (or simply Medical Expense) can be an important coverage for sports organizations to have on their General Liability policy.  Normally, a General Liability policy does not respond unless there is a threat of a lawsuit. However, Premises Medical Payments allows the carrier’s claims department to respond and pay benefits without the threat of a lawsuit.

Premises Medical PaymentsThe purpose of Premises Medical Payments is to appease the injured party by quickly offering to pay their medical bills in an effort to convince them not to hire an attorney.

The normal policy limit for Premise Medical Payments is $5,000.  In the event that damages exceed $5,000, the fallback position is to revert back to the Each Occurrence limit for bodily injury liability.

Premises Medical Payments is typically used for minor spectator injury claims.  Most policy forms exclude Premises Medical Payment coverage for athletic activities which are defined as practicing, instructing, or participating in any physical exercises or games, sports, or athletic contests.  However, this exclusion is not a problem since athletic activities should be covered by an Excess Accident policy.