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June 26th 2014

Personal Injury

Suarez ‘biting’ incident brings sports claims cases into the spotlight

Jane Woodcock

Jane Woodcock

Senior Legal Executive and Head of Personal Injury

Suarez ‘biting’ incident brings sports claims cases into the spotlight

By Jane Woodcock, Personal Injury expert and Senior Legal Executive at Neil Hudgell Solicitors

By Jane Woodcock, Personal Injury expert and Senior Legal Executive at Neil Hudgell Solicitors

URUGUAY and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez may finally have bitten off more than he can chew as he has been hit with a four month ban from football for taking a chunk out of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in their 1-0 World Cup win on Tuesday.

Television footage clearly showed the striker biting Chiellini’s left shoulder (although Suarez claimed he “bumped” into him and was hurt himself), bringing much scrutiny over the player’s poor disciplinary record, and the bad example being set on the world stage.

All the talk has previously centred on what length of ban he deserved, especially given he had twice been banned before for biting opponents on the field. Now, the debate between football pundits and in newspapers will be whether a four month ban – and nine international matches – is long enough.

But what about the wider implications should such incidents now start to become more commonplace on football pitches up and down the UK? Could those guilty face action, and the victims make a case for a claim?

Most sports are physical and fast-paced. Incidents resulting in injury happen at high speed, usually as a result of an instinctive action. It is also commonly accepted that players regularly hurt one another (both unintentionally and intentionally) as part of many sports such as ice-hockey and rugby – often it’s that element of physicality which brings in the crowds!

But where is the line crossed between sports stars breaking the rules in the heat of the moment and being in danger of being cited for a claim?

The key would be proving that a serious injury has been caused by the negligence or recklessness of another person or organisation. The injury would have to be suffered from something that wasn’t part of the game, was out of the norm, and should or could reasonably have been prevented.

In the current high-profile case, the Italian defender could clearly be seen showing a wound to his shoulder on television, so had this happened in the UK, there could be grounds to bring a claim for Personal Injury, as it could certainly be argued that it was a negligent, dangerous or reckless action that produced the injury.

The question then would be who is responsible?

Is it the player himself – his employers could argue he had acted entirely of his own volition -or his club – as given he is their employee, in ordinary circumstances and employer would be liable.

Given the act was so closely linked to his employment and his involvement in the sporting event, there would surely be a strong argument to say he was acting in the course of his employment.

Another consideration would be whether the incident and injury could be classed as sufficient to bring a claim against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), a government body set up to compensate victims of crimes of violence,  and there would be clear argument available  that a bite would amount to an assault, and therefore fulfil the necessary criteria.

Suarez is now starting his lengthy ban, and will miss out on any further success for his country in the World Cup.

The question is, should he and others face more than just a sporting ban in the future, and should the victims have a clearer route to claiming compensation?

At Neil Hudgell Solicitors, as experts in personal injury, we view sports cases with the same seriousness as injuries suffered at work or in a public place.

Even though you are in a sporting environment where injuries are commonplace, people still have a duty of care to ensure your health and safety, and that includes opposing players and teams.

If there is evidence that a failure to meet a reasonable standard of care, or a malicious act has resulted in injury, your case will be assessed alongside all others, and if we feel you have a claim for compensation, we’ll be a key part of your team.

Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0

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