Handbook Item

Hockey Canada Insurance Program

Everyone realizes that accidents sometimes happen. A little thought will lead to an equally clear conclusion – sometimes an accident could have been avoided by exercising more care. Sometimes accidents that lead to injuries were caused by negligence.

Negligence is a legal concept of fault or blameworthiness which, stripped of complicated terminology to its essential components, means that someone failed to do something they should have done, or did something they should not have done. The standard of conduct the law expects is that of the reasonable person, having regard to all the factual circumstances of the case.

Where an injured person (the Plaintiff) believes that his or her injuries were caused by the negligence of someone else, he or she has the right to commence a lawsuit claiming an amount of money (damages) from the allegedly negligent person (the Defendant). Damages may be claimed for losses of two types: monetary losses, such as medical expenses, loss of wages and the costs of care, and non-monetary losses for pain, suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life.

In our legal system, the issues raised in lawsuits by the Plaintiff and Defendant are often decided after a trial by a trial judge or judge and jury. The Plaintiff has an onus of proving both the negligence of the Defendant and the amount of the damages he or she claims on a balance of probabilities. This means the Plaintiff must show, through evidence, that it is more likely than not that the Defendant failed to do what was reasonable in all the circumstances of the case, and that the Defendant’s unreasonable conduct caused the Plaintiff to suffer harm of some kind.

The amount of damages which a court might award to an injured Plaintiff will vary depending on the severity of the injuries suffered. A very serious, permanent injury which was caused by negligence may legitimately lead to significant damage awards. Even relatively minor injuries, from which the Plaintiff makes a full recovery, may justify an award of thousands of dollars in damages. Damages are not, in the great majority of cases, intended to fine or punish the Defendant. They are only to compensate the Plaintiff.

The litigation process may be slow moving. Cases often take several years or even longer to reach trial. It frequently appears inefficient or cumbersome to those involved in lawsuits. Any lawsuit will cause the parties on both sides a certain amount of anxiety, inconvenience and expense. Involvement in a lawsuit is seldom an experience that is enjoyed by anyone, whether Plaintiff or Defendant.

There are risks of injury in almost every activity. Hockey is a vigorous, physical game played at high speeds, which carries with it obvious inherent hazard risks, both to participants and spectators. The courts recognize that the standards of reasonable conduct applicable to hockey players during practices and games are not the same standards which apply on the streets or at social gatherings. However, hockey players are not immune from potential liability for negligence. Deliberate cheap shots and fighting which result in injury to other players may well lead to legal liability. Where it results in physical injuries to another person, unnecessary roughhousing, showing off or fooling around which isn’t part of the game might also be criticized by the courts, whether it occurs on the ice, on the bench or in the dressing room. Coaches and others who encourage or condone such actions might also be held responsible for any injury that results. All participants should attempt at all times to ensure that hockey is played cleanly and fairly, that dangerous activities which are not part of the game are avoided and that everyone treats others with the same care, consideration and respect they hope to receive in return. The reason isn’t only to avoid potential lawsuits. Remember, no amount of money, no matter how large, can restore the physical health, remove the scars or erase the pain of an injured person.