What Parents of “Shredders” Need to Know

Can you sue if your child is injured at a skatepark?

By Aitken Aitken Cohn

California is the birthplace and beating heart of skate culture in the U.S. It’s also home to hundreds of skateparks from north to south—Los Angeles alone has 21—nearly every one boasting its unique landscape of ramps, bowls, stairs, pipes, and rails. Thrilling if you’re a skater kid; potentially terrifying if you’re a parent.

Skateboarding is one of the most popular sports around the globe—in the U.S., it ranks third among teens, just behind basketball and football. 8.7 million people, 70% under 18 years of age, participate in skateboarding. About 77% of skaters are male, 23% female.

What it’s been around since the 1930s, skateboarding didn’t become a recognized sport until the 1970s with the invention of synthetic wheels. Now it’s experiencing a boom and is projected to be a $2.4 billion industry by 2025.

Skateboarding also results in a sobering number of injuries, sending tens of thousands of people to the E.R. each year. A study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that between 1990 and 2008, around 65,000 kids per year (176 per day) visited an emergency room for skateboard-related injuries. In 2015, the number was 125,145. Roughly 89% of these accident victims are boys.

You should know some other facts if you’re raising the next Tony Hawk or Samarria Brevard.

  • A third of skateboard injuries happen to people new to the sport—within the first week of riding.
  • Common injuries include cuts and abrasions, fractures, dislocations, sprains, and head trauma.
  • 74% of all injuries are to the extremities—wrists and ankles in particular, also facial injuries such as broken nose or jaw.
  • 20% are head injuries, especially in kids under ten years old
  • 3.1% involve a serious head injury, such as skull fracture or TBI
  • 5% of skateboard injuries are severe—and almost all of those involve a collision with a motor vehicle.

Despite its daredevil image and is often considered “extreme,” according to National Safety Council data on sports-related injuries for ages 15-24, skateboarding ranks about 6th among dangerous sports, considerably lower than football.

Still, skateboarding has inherent risks. As the statistics reflect, inexperience is a major factor—not only being new to skating in general but also trying advanced tricks one is not ready for or using an inappropriate board for skill level. Falls are simply part of the sport.

The importance of wearing proper safety gear cannot be overstated—a helmet to prevent head injury, wrist guards, and knee/elbow pads. It’s also crucial to learn how to fall correctly.

According to skateboardsafety.org, the risk of dying while skateboarding at a skate park is close to zero. But that’s not the case when riding on the road. Many accidents do happen in skateparks, some of them severe, which may leave parents wondering—

Can you take legal action if your child is injured in a skatepark?

There are numerous variables in skatepark liability, including whether it is public or private property. Under certain circumstances, the owner of a private skatepark or the city, town, or park district that manages a public skating facility may be liable for an injury while using a skate park. But it’s on an individual case basis, and several layers of legal protection can make it challenging to recover damages.

Nationwide, cities and townships are protected under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and state-by-state, other laws may set boundaries of immunity and financial caps. And skateparks typically have “at your own risk” type warning signs posted. Some require that specific safety gear be worn or even that you sign a liability waiver to use the facility. Recreational Use statutes provide even further cushion.

However, despite the user’s assumed risk, the owner or municipality operating a park is responsible for the condition of the grounds and equipment. If your child’s accident occurred because of poorly maintained structures—for example, uneven or cracked pavement, broken or rusty equipment—or if the space was not well-lit or had inferior warning signage, you may be able to sue under premises liability. If a piece of equipment is defective, product liability can enable you to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

In certain instances, someone else’s actions at the skatepark may have led to your child’s injury. For example, the recklessness or negligence of another skater (failure to follow park rules or warnings, dangerous behavior nearby, etc.)—and can be held responsible. If someone in the park intentionally harmed your child, they may even face criminal liability.

If your child has been injured in a skatepark accident and you believe the facility is at fault, it’s vital to review the details of your case with an attorney as soon as possible. At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, our attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals in personal injury cases, including products liability and premises liability issues.