Racecar driving is a dangerous sport. When 3,300-pound cars traveling over 200 miles per hour race against each other on a small track, injuries are bound to occur. But the drivers aren't the only group in danger. NASCAR fans face flying debris that can cause serious, unexpected injury. This month, a Florida man filed a personal injury lawsuit against NASCAR for a 2015 crash on the Daytona International Speedway that left him with injuries on his head and back.
William Fulton was a spectator at the 2015 Coke Zero 400 event last July when NASCAR driver Austin Dillon's car was hit and launched into the air during the race. The protective netting failed to stop the crash from reaching the spectators, and Fulton was hit on the head and shoulder while trying to shield his wife from flying debris from Dillon's car. At the time of the crash, five spectators were treated for injuries and one was hospitalized. Fulton is suing NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and International Speedway Corp. for his injuries.
Many spectator sports with risks follow the “baseball rule” that protects stadium owners and operators from spectator lawsuits involving rogue balls and bats that cause injuries. Different states and teams have adopted slightly different variations of the rule, and there has been a trend towards focusing more on the safety of the spectators
Tracks that host NASCAR events are required to have $50 million insurance policies and are held liable for injuries to spectators. But like baseball tickets, NASCAR tickets often have disclaimers that attempt to shield companies from lawsuits from spectators. For example, the Daytona International Speedway has a disclaimer that reads:
“The holder of this ticket expressly assumes all risk incident to the event, whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual event, and agrees that all participants, sanctioning bodies, and all employees, agents, officers, and directors of Daytona International Speedway, its affiliates and subsidiaries, are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence.”
But disclaimers cannot completely shield sports venues owners and operators from all types of lawsuits. The companies still have a duty to maintain certain safety standards, and to work to eliminate dangers for spectators as best as possible.
Fulton's lawsuit makes several claims of negligence against the three companies, including failing to install safe barriers, to maintain a safe distance between spectators and the track, to provide fences that keep crash debris from reaching spectators, to warn spectators of the risks of viewing the sport, and for allowing and encouraging “pack racing” that increases the chances of collision.
The 2015 race was not the first foray into injury and lawsuit for the Daytona International Speedway. In 2013, twenty-eight spectators were injured after a 12-car pileup ended with a racecar flying into the stands.
Still, racecar events are not even the most dangerous events for spectators. Soccer, hockey, and baseball games have all had more spectator injuries and deaths than racecar events.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a spectator at a sporting event, you may be eligible for compensation for your injures. Call our offices today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.