The legal term, ‘Volenti non fit injuria’ translates as “to a willing person, injury is not done” and is a common law rule which states that if someone places themselves willingly in a position where harm might result, they are not able to bring a claim against the other party. By way of example, a boxer consents to being hit and to the injuries that might result from being hit. However there may still be a claim as the boxer does not consent to his opponent punching him outside the normal terms of boxing (being hit by a frying pan by his opponent).
In English tort law, Volenti is a full defence providing the defendant is able to prove the two required elements:
- The claimant was fully aware of all the risks involved; and
- The claimant expressly (by statement) or implicitly (by actions) consented to give up all claims for damages.
With this in mind, there are a lot of sports undertaken where Volenti would be a defence for a defendant but as seen in Watson v British Boxing Board of Control (2001) QB 1134, there may be a way of pursuing a claim for compensation when injury has been suffered and it might not mean pursuing a claim against the person which caused the actual injury.
Watson consented to the fight, which would ordinarily be considered a defence of Volenti but this consent was not consent to the inadequate safety measures provided by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC). The rules on medical coverage, provided that two doctors were to be present at all times during boxing matches. During the match, Watson was knocked out by Chris Eubank and it was seven minutes before doctors arrived to treat him, he received no oxygen in that time and spent 40 days in a coma. When he regained consciousness, Watson sued the BBBC on the basis that they had put the rules in place to ensure a boxer’s safety and as such owed him a duty of care which they were in breach of. The BBBC were found to be at fault for not ensuring that he was properly and immediately treated. Watson was successful in his compensation claim.
So even if you have suffered personal injury by partaking in an event or sport where you have consented to the risk of injury, it is worth seeking legal advice, as there may be others that owe you a duty of care; have breached that duty of care, making you entitled to personal injury compensation.