Spring training in Arizona starts this month. That means hot dogs, amazing weather and the ability to get up-close-and-personal with players. Smaller stadiums make for a more intimate baseball experience, but spring training also presents some risks: flying foul balls, tripping down grassy outfield seats and shards from broken bats, just to name a few.
While spring training is meant to be a fun day out in the Valley, attending a game requires being aware of hazards. There’s a lot of drinking going on, there are massive crowds, and there is some dangerous equipment used by players. Here are injuries at spring training games to be wary of, what to do if you’re injured at a ballpark, and when an injury you experience is so severe, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer in Phoenix.
Foul Balls: Who’s at Fault?
Sports Illustrated reports on a so-called “Baseball Rule,” which is typically recognized by courts and stipulates that if you’re seated behind or near home plate, you should be protected by some kind of barrier, like netting. However, if you’re seated on a lower level and are not close to home plate, you have more time to react to a flying ball and, thus, the baseball team and stadium are not responsible for injuries due to flying balls.
Baseball teams explain the risk fans take upon themselves by expressing that the baseball ticket holder assumes all risk and danger of the game, including equipment and objects. Visible and spoken warnings to be aware of surroundings can also help protect teams and stadiums. In 2017, a man who was hit in the eye by a foul ball at a rainy New York Yankees game and states his line of vision was impaired because of fans’ open umbrellas, lost a personal injury lawsuit against the team. The Bronx Supreme Court ruled the plaintiff failed to heed the warnings on his tickets and on the backs of seats, as well as those made over the public address system.
The “Baseball Rule” does not always protect teams from winning lawsuits brought against them in cases of serious injury, though. A lawsuit filed in 2012 spotlighted a case where a 6-year-old child’s skull was shattered and caused traumatic brain injury after a foul ball hit her at an Atlanta Braves game in 2010. In 2017, the Atlanta Braves reached a settlement with the girl’s family, which has had to pay more than $66,000 in medical bills.
In September 2017, a line drive hit a young girl in the face at a New York Yankees game. She joined one of many children to experience injuries in a baseball stadium, and injuries involving minors bring into question their responsibility of risk. Nearly 1,800 fans are injured by batted balls a year in professional baseball stadiums. Because Major League Baseball has recommended enhancements to ballpark safety, stadiums that don’t take proper recommended safety measures may be called into question when injuries occur.
If a foul ball or flying bat hurtles towards you while you’re at a spring training game and you are unable to avoid it, seek medical attention immediately. Ask someone to shoot some photos or videos of the scene and where exactly you were, to capture what kind of safety measures were in place to protect you. Keep organized and detailed records of medical bills, doctors’ visits and pain evolution.
Contact a personal injury attorney if you think negligence on behalf of the ballpark, such as improper netting or failure to fix a hole in protection, was to blame for your injury. Especially when children and minors are injured at a ballpark, who is to blame can come into question.
Injuries Caused by Other Fans
Ballparks assume responsibility to keep baseball fans safe to the best of their ability. That’s why you’ll often see security guards milling about stadiums. When competitions get heated and avid fans are fueled by alcohol, sometimes fights or assaults break out in a sporting venue.
If you are attacked by another fan, call for help from security. Again, get medical attention immediately. Ask for help in gathering witness statements from anyone who saw the assault. Ask for a copy of the incident from the person who handles it at the stadium. Return to the scene to document anything like blood, broken sunglasses or spilled food or drinks. Make sure you have your own documented account of what happened.
If you sustain serious injury, keep track of all medical records. A personal injury lawyer can help you obtain justice, whether that’s by bringing a claim against the party who attacked you, taking action against a negligent ballpark that didn’t help you in time or didn’t provide adequate treatment, or all of the above.
There may be other instances where you experience an injury at a spring training game, such as if a fan hits you with a ball they have or you get hit in the eye by a flying object like a hot dog being thrown at you. The severity of the injury and the ability to prove negligence will affect any claim you want to pursue.
Other Ballpark Injuries
Like any public venue you visit, you face the risk of other injuries due to environmental conditions. Some of these are caused by negligence. Be aware of:
- Slips and falls: From tripping in a hole in the grass where your outfield seat is, to slipping and falling on beer that hasn’t been cleaned up, accidents can happen anywhere in a ballpark. Be aware of where you’re walking to prevent falls. If you see something dangerous, let someone know. If a hazard caused your fall, and it should have been prevented by being fixed by someone at the ballpark, negligence may be to blame. Take steps to report, document and get help for your injury, and consult with an attorney if it’s serious.
- Car accidents at the stadium: Because many fans drink alcohol while watching baseball games, there are likely to be some drivers who get behind the wheel when they’re intoxicated. You may get into a car accident in the parking lot or near the stadium due to someone drinking. Call the police, document the scene and consult with a car accident attorney if a drunk driver hit you and you experienced serious injuries.
- Injuries due to improper maintenance: Elevators, stairs, railings and any other baseball stadium apparatus should be properly maintained to ensure visitor safety. If you are injured due to a problem with something on the premises, a premises liability lawyer can help.
A serious injury can put a damper on your day at the ballpark. Be aware of your own alcohol intake, always watch where you’re walking, and report anything that is unsafe to someone who works at the ballpark.
Have a Ball – Don’t Get Hit by One
Hopefully, you never experience an injury at an Arizona spring training game. Never sit in a seat where you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Put down your smartphone during gameplay, and pay attention to the action that’s going on around you. Wear safe shoes, don’t instigate arguments with other fans, and keep others around you safe by reporting anything suspicious or dangerous.
If you do get hurt at a ballpark, get medical attention and document what happened. If you’ve experienced a serious injury at a spring training game in Arizona, contact Matt Millea, at The Millea Law Firm, for a free consultation.