Law Column: Assaulted during a match

Law Column: Assaulted during a match

I play Gaelic Football at senior level. During a match, a player from the opposite team punched me in the face in an off-ball incident. I did nothing to provoke him and luckily the referee witnessed it. 

The player was sent off and disciplined by the GAA appropriately. I have been left with a fractured eye socket and detached retina. I had to have surgery on my eye. I have been out of work and my medical bills have racked up. Am I entitled to compensation?

I am sorry to hear of your recent injuries and wish you a speedy recovery. When players step onto the pitch they expect to encounter a certain level of physicality; shoulders, tackles and a few knocks have become widely accepted within GAA.

What is not acceptable is when physicality becomes criminality. An unprovoked punch to the face resulting in a fractured eye socket and detached retina requiring surgery is in legal terms considered assault causing harm (Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person Act 1997).

I note that the player has already been dealt with under the GAA Disciplinary Jurisdiction. The options available to you are as follows;

(1) PERSONAL INSURANCE POLICY

You may be covered under your personal health insurance policy for sports-related injuries. In circumstances where your injuries were criminally inflicted, I suspect you will not recover under your personal health insurance policy. I suggest you contact your Broker or Insurance Company who will be in a position to confirm the position.

(2) GAA INJURY BENEFIT FUND

This may provide cover for certain limited medical costs. There are also lump sum payments for certain injuries of a more serious nature than you suffered. The GAA website provides details.

(3) CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

You can make a statement to the Gardai which will begin a criminal investigation for assault causing harm. If the player is charged with assault he faces the prospect of prosecution in the District or Circuit Court. If found guilty he may be liable to imprisonment, a fine or both. If the player is so charged it would certainly be in his interest to offer compensation to you.  

(4) CRIMINAL INJURIES COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL 

This provides redress for those who have suffered injuries which were criminally inflicted. Your claim must be lodged within a strict time limit of three months from the date of the incident.

The tribunal will seek a copy of the Garda Report on the crime, receipts of all your medical expenditure and proof of your loss of earnings. The tribunal will also seek details of the injuries suffered by you. The tribunal can award money for out of pocket expenses such as medical expenses, medication, loss of earnings etc as a result of the injuries suffered. 

The tribunal cannot however award compensation for pain and suffering known as ‘general damages’.

(5) PERSONAL INJURIES CLAIM

You can take a civil claim against the player who assaulted you. This involves suing the player in order to obtain compensation for your injuries. Before initiating a civil claim against the player you should consider whether that player would have the means to compensate you if you were successful in your civil claim.

Your Solicitor would be best placed to advise you on your prospects of succeeding and what level of compensation would be adequate for your injuries. The benefit of taking a civil claim over going to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribubal is that you can claim compensation for your pain and suffering (general damages) as well as claiming for your out of pocket expenses (medical bills, loss of earnings etc).  

*Rachel Finn is an Apprentice Solicitor in Cantillons Solicitors of 38/39 South Mall, Cork an award winning law firm practising in all areas of litigation. Since the firm was founded in 1980, they have been involved in precedent making cases, amongst them Best V. Wellcome, Louise O’ Keeffe v. Ireland and most recently Costello V. HSE, a medical negligence claim in which they achieved damages of €17.8 million, the highest ever award in Irish personal injury litigation to date.

Cantillons Solicitors received the award of Munster Law Firm of the Year (Over 5 Solicitors) at the AIB Irish Law Awards 2016.

*This weekly column is a readers’ service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

No individual correspondence will be entered into. Email your queries to legalqueries@cantillons.com

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