Interview: Chris Faiella

School Sports & Recreation Injury Lawyer

Chris Faiella, Unnecessarily Perilous Pastimes

School Sports & Recreation Injury Lawyer

IP: Why are you writing Perilous Pastimes?

Chris Faiella: As a personal injury – sports injuries attorney I see firsthand the life altering injuries suffered as a result of inept coaches for student athletes, inadequate medical treatment, and defective sports and recreational equipment like ATVs, Jet Skis and the rest. Some injury in sports and recreation are just part of life, but unnecessary catastrophic student sports or recreation injury and death are unacceptable, for us as parents and for our children.

IP: What do you hope Perilous Pastimes will accomplish?

Chris Faiella: Each year there are more than 1 million injuries suffered by young people in sports and recreation. Unfortunately, many injuries are not caused by the inherent risk of the activity but are caused by people and businesses that prioritize a game, success, expedience, or money over people. Many of the victims are children and young adults. I want to make people aware of these problems so they can take action to avoid them.  I also want to let them know that there are ways to fight back if they or a loved one is harmed.

IP: What are some of the dangers Perilous Pastimes covers?

Chris Faiella: The book will cover sports and recreational activities that commonly produce injuries such as football, hockey, and others. It will also address recreational products such as Jet Skis and ATVs. In addition, the book will spotlight underlying causes including negligent coaching, improper training practices, and careless supervision of school athletic programs, ineffective medical care, and defective products.  

IP: Who are the most common victims of these perils?

Chris Faiella: The vast majority of sports injuries and recreational product injuries involve children, student athletes and other active young people. Children, even at high school or college age, rarely understand or appreciate these perils, but they do suffer the consequences. They trust their coach to know what he is doing, they trust their Jetskis to be safe… It’s up to adults to reduce these risks and to stand up to wrongdoers when young victims are harmed.

IP: What is an example of peril in sport?

Chris Faiella: Parents and the public assume that athletes will be given medical aid and treatment if they are in distress, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Athletes have died because schools and staff have failed to properly assess athletes or render medical care in an emergency.

IP: How can parents protect their children from these perils?

Chris Faiella:  With knowledge of the perils parents can mitigate those risks by ensuring their child has proper instruction, equipment, and supervision.  If the parents observe or experience improper conduct they must bring it to the proper authority.  If a child is harmed, parents can protect them by taking action to hold responsible parties accountable. This also has the effect of deterring negligent conduct in the future.

IP: Can a University, College or School be liable for Sport injuries?

Chris Faiella: Often yes, depending on what caused the athlete’s injury. A school can be liable if the school or the staff is negligent or they provide defective facilities, or equipment. A school and staff members can be liable whether the incident occurred during a game or while in practice or training. Examples of negligence would include putting an athlete who is already injured back in the sport, failing to provide necessary emergency medical care, negligent coaching instructions, or supervision of athletes.

IP: If a person is harmed while participating in sports can they recover money damages for their injuries?

Chris Faiella: Yes, but it depends on how the injury came about. The law has long recognized that a participant cannot sue a person for causing them injury in sport when the activity producing the injury is integral to the sport itself. However, a person can bring suit if the act is not a normal part of the sport, breaks the rules of the sport, or is reckless or intentional.

IP: What are some of the hurdles to holding the wrongdoer accountable?

Chris Faiella: Many of these cases involve liability waivers that were signed before the student athlete was injured. These waivers can be overcome in many cases but make it impossible to recover in some cases. Many cases also involve governmental employees or entities which can shorten the time to bring a claim drastically, or grant the wrongdoer special immunities. As a result, quick action after a serious injury or death is required. Parents and athletes should seek legal help immediately or they could lose their rights.

IP: Are there any positive trends out there?

Chris Faiella: Certainly there are. The media is spotlighting individual cases which raises awareness of unnecessary school sports injuries or defective recreational products that cause injury to our kids. Also, some schools are implementing student safety programs for playgrounds and athletic programs but unfortunately these are too often implemented following a horrific injury or death. We have the knowledge and technology to develop, share, and implement some best safety practices for schools, teachers, and coaches. We owe this and many more efforts to keep our kids safe at school events and when participating in recreational activities in their free time. It’s doable if parents demand it and put pressure on the schools, insurance industry, and manufacturers of recreational goods.

For more information: Unnecessarily Perilous Pastimes: Bad Coaches & 17 More Dangers to your Kids (Sutton Hart Press).