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Competitor Gravely Injured During Sporting Event Receives £3 Million Damages

Participants in potentially dangerous sports usually understand the risks they are taking. However, as a High Court case showed, it does not necessarily follow that they are disentitled from receiving compensation in the event of an accident.

The case concerned a young man who came to grief whilst riding a wheeled vehicle along a rough woodland track as part of an organised event. He went over a hill at about 35 mph before losing control and colliding with a number of logs beside the taped-off track. He suffered a severe brain injury which left him functionally blind, wheelchair dependent and in need of 24-hour care.

Proceedings were launched on his behalf against the event's organiser on the basis that the presence of unpadded logs beside the track created an unusual and unnecessary risk to competitors. In robustly disputing liability, however, the organiser asserted that he had voluntarily engaged in a sport that carried with it an obvious risk of injury. Competitors had walked the course prior to the event; the track had been inspected and the position of the logs was not considered dangerous.

Following negotiations, however, the organiser agreed to settle the man's personal injury claim for a £3 million lump sum without making any admission of liability. In approving the compromise, the Court found that it represented a reasonable assessment of litigation risks and was in the man's best interests.