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School Sports Day – who’s responsible for that twisted ankle?

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As the summer term comes to an end and schools get ready for the holidays, it's the school sports day' season once again. That special day when everyone takes part in a host of activities from serious competitions to fun-runs, egg and spoon races, and parents getting a little bit too competitive for their own good.

The result, unfortunately, is that someone usually ends up with a twisted ankle or other injury, but whose fault is it? Does the school bear the responsibility if a dad in flip-flops takes a tumble, or is it down to the individual to take responsibility for their own wellbeing? Here's a quick guide to school sports day accidents.

The school's responsibilities

Every school has a duty of care to ensure the children are safe and well while in their care. That duty of care also extends to ensuring visitors to the school are protected and safe, which means school sports days are a real headache for school administrators.

However, that does not take away the fact that the school is ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone on its premises at any time, including sports day.

If the worst happens, what can I do?

If you or your child has been injured at school and you believe it to be the fault of the school, then the first thing is to talk to a solicitor specialising in personal injury claims. They will be able to look at your case and give you an impartial opinion as to whether you have a chance of succeeding with any personal injury compensation claim. You will usually have a maximum of three years from the date of the accident to put in a claim, although the sooner you do it, the faster the case will be resolved.

One thing you will need is proof that the school's negligence was the direct cause of the accident and of any injuries sustained. If you or your child just fell over when running a race, then unless the track was in poor condition it's unlikely that the school will be held responsible. If, however, you were injured because of poor ground maintenance or unsecured trip hazards, then you may have a basis for a claim.

Everyone carries one vital piece of equipment these days - a camera-phone. If you can, make sure you get pictures of the scene showing the cause of the accident. This will help your compensation case immeasurably as any insurance company will ask for clear evidence before considering any claim.

On your marks...

Part of the fun of a school sports day (especially at primary schools) is that the parents join in the fun too. So expect to see red-faced mums and dads reliving their own school sports days and puffing their way up the track in the mums and dads races. However, it may be wise to get in a little bit of training beforehand, and make sure those trainers are properly laced up. A study by AposTherapy found that half of physiotherapists in the UK have had to treat parents that injured themselves in a school sports day race. Apparently, it's that dodgy egg-and-spoon race that causes the most trips and falls too.

As physiotherapy can be expensive, there may be the temptation for parents to make a personal injury claim against the school to pay for treatment. However, as we said earlier, it's important to ascertain who is really responsible for the injury. If the school is found to be at fault and you do claim compensation, then the cost of physiotherapy treatment would be covered under Special Damages' which is designed to pay for medical treatment and out-of-pocket expenses. As there is a limit on the amount of time you have to claim for an accident at school, it's important to speak to a solicitor specialising in personal injury claims sooner rather than later. A personal injury shouldn't mar the fun of a school sports day, but if the worst does happen then you have the same rights as anyone else to make a claim if the injury was the result of negligence.

Deryn Fisher is a Solicitor in the Civil Litigation Department and can be contacted on 01323 434416 or by email

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