Accident Recovery: Future Damages for Promising Student Athletes

In 2010, one of our clients was involved in a major auto accident in Palm Beach County in which she sustained severe injuries to her wrist and lower extremities.  Multiple surgeries were partially successful, but she sustained extensive and permanent nerve damage and will require an ankle fusion sometime in the future. Before the accident, she was a gifted athlete and had received a scholarship to play college softball. Her insurance carrier refused to tender the minimal insurance limits and we sued on her behalf—she now has the funds to pay for all her medical needs for the rest of her life.

Compensation for the Career That Will Never Be

Professor Richard T. Karcher of Florida Coastal School of Law aptly describes the challenges plaintiffs face in their attempts to recover damages for the lost earning capacity of injured athletes. First, the plaintiff must prove that the wrongful conduct of the defendant was in fact the cause of the plaintiff’s lost chance or opportunity to earn future income as an athlete. Second, the plaintiff must prove the amount of loss sustained to a reasonable degree of certainty.

These cases center on whether or not the plaintiff has brought forth sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he or she has lost the ability to pursue (or continue to pursue) a professional sports career due to the defendant’s conduct. An amateur athlete pursuing a loss of chance case doesn’t need to prove that they would have been a professional athlete, only that they have lost that opportunity. This is generally shown via a highly fact-intensive inquiry into the likelihood of the plaintiff’s chances at a professional sports career, and whether that chance has now been lost or reduced due to the defendant’s actions.  Evidence must be presented of awards and other achievements that demonstrate the extent of the plaintiff’s athletic skills and physical attributes, as well as expert testimony as to the plaintiff’s athletic prowess before they were injured.

Determining Earning Potential

The second part of the test, the Earning Potential Range (EPR) calculation, takes into account:

  • The athlete’s history of professional earnings;
  • The average earnings of similarly positioned players;
  • The actual earnings of comparable players; and
  • The average length of a professional career in the plaintiff’s chosen sport (including the plaintiff’s position in that sport).

The high end of the EPR consists of star veteran players at the top of the wage scale and young professionals (even those earning a minimal salary) who have an excellent track record. On the low end are the promising young amateurs—although with excellent legal representation these individuals can still hope to receive compensation reflecting their lost potential.

Experienced and Caring Representation

If you are a young athlete who has been in an auto accident, your recovery is more challenging than most—on many levels.  While you heal your physical and emotional wounds, make sure that you receive the compensation you are entitled to through experienced and caring representation from a law firm with an excellent track record in financial recovery for athletes.

If you have any questions on this blog or need information on other personal injury queries, please call the Law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath located in West Palm Beach at 1-800 4-RIGHTS  (1-800- 474-4487)  We welcome your call and look forward to helping you.