Visitor Question

Negligence of trainer after my son got a concussion at a hockey game…

Submitted By: Katie (Utica, NY, USA)

My son is 18 and attending college, and I am asking this on his behalf. My son got hurt while playing hockey at a school sanctioned hockey game. Initially he seemed ok, however the school trainer thought it would be best to pull him from the game and check him out for a concussion. She concluded that he had a minor concussion and advised he go home to rest.

He asked if he should go to the hospital and be checked out, and she advised there was nothing that the doctors could do for him so just go home to rest. It’s now 3 months later and my son is still having symptoms. He has been back to see the trainer several times.

The first few times she had him walking or running on the treadmill. When he was able to do those things she allowed him back to hockey practice. My son has tried hockey practice several times and every time the symptoms return with a vengeance. He usually ends up vomiting, with a severe headache, and very dizzy.

My son returned to the trainer several times complaining that the symptoms would not stop. She stated they would get better with time.

About 2 weeks ago she said she was going to try to get him into a “concussion clinic” and have him checked out. He returned several times to check with her about this and she still hadn’t made the referral to this clinic. Finally, my son could not stand the symptoms any longer and made an appointment with his regular doctor. He will see his doctor in two days.

So the question I have is, can my son sue the trainer and by extension the school as it has become clear that she should not have made the determinations that she made? She is only a trainer, not a doctor, however my son trusted her in her position as the trainer, and trusted her judgement in making those decisions.

I’ve been advised that my son should have been seen as soon as possible for testing after the concussion, so the doctors would have a baseline of how bad his injury was and when he started to improve. A trainer should know that.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Katie,

There is a legal term called “mitigation of damages.” In the area of personal injury, mitigation refers to a victim’s legal duty to seek immediate medical care when the victim becomes ill or injured.

In the scenario you present this means you will likely not be successful in a negligence claim against the trainer or the school for failure to provide (or cause to be provided) treatment for your son. This is because you and your son failed to seek the medical treatment you believed your son required.

In the facts you present you state. “He usually ends up vomiting, with a severe headache, and very dizzy.” These were very serious symptoms. The question any judge would ask is why, in the presence of such serious symptoms, did you fail to immediately take your son to a doctor?

You shouldn’t have waited to see when or if the trainer was going to decide to refer your son to a doctor when you failed to do so yourself. Therefore, it appears you really do not have the basis of a negligence claim against the trainer or the school. It would still be best for you to meet with a local attorney to review the specific facts of your case. There may be something important you missed in your description.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: February 4, 2014

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