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When the Stands Aren't Safe: Rodeo Spectator Injuries

When the Stands Aren’t Safe: Rodeo Spectator Injuries

Rodeos are an integral part of Texas culture, where excitement and tradition collide. Whether you’re a spectator or a participant, there’s no denying that rodeos offer a thrilling experience filled with heart-pounding moments. However, this event doesn’t come without risks.

For cowboys and cowgirls, the possibility of getting injured at a rodeo comes with the job. But what about the spectators? What happens if they get hurt?

One of the most dangerous scenarios is when a bull escapes the arena and charges into the crowd, causing pandemonium and potential injuries to those in its path. This frightening situation occurred in Oregon just this month and more than two decades ago right here in Fort Worth, Texas, where our law firm is headquartered.

Rodeo Spectator Injuries

In this article, the personal injury attorneys at Varghese Summersett explain common spectator rodeo injuries, who could be liable for bull or animal escapes, the process of recovering compensation, and how our law firm can help.

If you have been injured or a loved one killed at a Texas rodeo or at the Forth Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, it’s important to seek help from an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to substantial compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Common Rodeo Spectator Injuries

Common Rodeo Spectator Injuries and How They Occur

Rodeos are thrilling events that attract large crowds eager to witness the excitement of bull riding, barrel racing, and other high-energy competitions. However, the excitement of a rodeo can sometimes come with risks, especially for spectators. Here’s a look at some of the most common rodeo spectator injuries and how they occur:

  • Sprains
    How They Occur: Sprains are common when spectators trip or fall while navigating crowded stands or uneven terrain. Ankle sprains can happen when stepping on unstable ground, while wrist sprains might result from trying to break a fall.
  • Concussions
    How They Occur: Concussions can occur from a blow to the head, such as being hit by a flying object like a stray piece of equipment or debris from the arena. They can also result from falls where the head strikes the ground or another hard surface.
  • Lacerations
    How They Occur: Lacerations, or deep cuts, can happen in various ways at a rodeo. Spectators might suffer lacerations from sharp edges on seating, fencing, or other structures, or from accidents involving animals or equipment.
  • Bone Fractures
    How They Occur: Bone fractures can result from falls from heights, such as bleachers, or being pushed or jostled in a crowded area. They can also occur if a spectator is struck by an animal or heavy object.
  • Trampling Injuries
    How They Occur: In the event of a panic or rush, such as if an animal breaks free and enters the spectator area, people might be knocked over and trampled by other spectators. These situations can lead to severe injuries, including fractures, internal injuries, and more.
  • Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration
    How They Occur: Texas rodeos often take place in hot weather, and prolonged exposure to the sun without adequate hydration can lead to heat exhaustion or dehydration. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, and fainting.
  • Animal-Related Injuries
    How They Occur: Although rare, there is a risk of injury from animals, especially if safety barriers fail or an animal escapes. Injuries can range from bites and kicks to more severe trauma if an animal collides with a spectator.
  • Respiratory Issues
    How They Occur: Dust and other airborne particles are common at rodeo events, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma or lead to respiratory infections.

Understanding these risks and taking appropriate precautions can help spectators enjoy the rodeo safely. However, if an injury does occur, it’s important to know that legal recourse is available. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help determine if there is a basis for a claim and guide the injured party through the process of seeking compensation for their injuries.
Examples Of Rodeo Bull Escapes

How Bulls and Other Animals Escape at Rodeos

Bulls are strong animals and can sometimes break through fencing and other measures put in place for safety. Being placed in an environment that the animal is not accustomed to and the chaos that the spectators bring to the arena can cause a bull to become stressed. This can result in an escape or other unpredictable behavior. In addition, human error or equipment malfunction can also contribute to animal escapes at rodeos.

In some cases, rodeo organizers or contractors may be held liable for these incidents if they were negligent in maintaining a safe environment for both participants and spectators. For example, if safety barriers were poorly maintained or inadequate, this could potentially lead to liability.

Examples Of Bulls Escaping And Injuring Spectators

  • In June 2024, at the 84th Sisters Rodeo in Oregon, a bull named Party Bus jumped over the arena fence during the final bull ride. The bull ran through the crowd and concession area, flipping one person into the air.  Several people were injured and suffered a leg injury, facial injuries, a possible broken nose, facial abrasions, a suspected head injury, and a suspected broken collarbone.
  • In August 2023, a terrifying incident unfolded at the Utah County Fair rodeo in Spanish Fork when a bull escaped from the arena and charged into the parking lot, injuring two spectators. A night of entertainment quickly transformed into panic and horror.
  • In 2022, a terrifying incident unfolded at a rodeo in Northern California when a bull managed to escape the arena, injuring five spectators and highlighting the inherent dangers present at such events. In a statement released by a spokesperson shortly following the incident, they claimed, “Livestock jumping the fence is a very rare occurrence.” However, it is still necessary to remain vigilant regarding incidents such as these to ensure that you are prepared to protect yourself.
  • In April 1999, a bull named Dillinger made a daring escape at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, terrorizing spectators after scaling a 6-foot chute and rampaging through the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. This terrifying event left a 66-year-old Tennessee resident with severe injuries, including a shattered cheekbone and multiple fractures. She filed a lawsuit alleging negligence, and her son sought damages for emotional trauma. It was settled out of court.

Risk Assessment Doesn't Excuse Negligence

Risk Assessment Doesn’t Excuse Negligence

Most people assume that the rodeo would be held liable for any spectator injuries. However, under Texas law, this is not always the case. Individuals who have expressed or knowingly agreed to participate in a dangerous activity or condition have essentially “assumed the risk.”

The assumption of risk is a defense that the defendant can raise in a personal injury case. It essentially means that the injured party voluntarily took on the risk associated with an activity and, therefore, cannot hold another person or entity liable for their injuries.

In rodeo spectator cases, this defense may apply if it is found that the individual was aware of and willingly assumed the potential risks involved in attending a rodeo event. However, this does not completely absolve the organizers or contractors from liability. If negligence is proven on their part, they could still be held liable for any injuries sustained by spectators. For example, rodeo officials must have emergency personnel on standby in case someone gets injured and must also take proper safety precautions to prevent animal escapes and other accidents.

It is important for rodeo attendees to be aware of the risks involved in attending such events, and for organizers to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of their audience. Ultimately, it is a shared responsibility between both parties to minimize risk and promote a safe environment for all participants and spectators.

Who Is Responsible For Rodeo Spectator Injuries

Who Can Be Held Responsible for Rodeo Spectator Injuries?

Determining liability for rodeo spectator injuries can be complicated. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident, several parties may be held accountable.

  1. Rodeo Organizers: The primary responsibility often lies with the event organizers, such as the rodeo company or the organization hosting the event. They are responsible for ensuring the safety of the event, which includes adequate barriers, crowd control, and emergency protocols.
  2. Venue Owners and Operators: The owners and operators of the venue where the rodeo is held can also be held liable. They are responsible for maintaining the premises in a safe condition and ensuring that any potential hazards are addressed before the event.
  3. Animal Handlers and Contractors: Companies or individuals who provide animals for the rodeo can be liable if it is found that they failed to properly secure or handle the animals, leading to an escape or injury.
  4. Equipment Manufacturers: If faulty equipment contributed to the injury, such as defective fencing or barriers, the manufacturers of that equipment could be held liable under product liability laws.
  5. Insurance Companies: Insurance policies held by the rodeo organizers, venue operators, or contractors may also play a role in covering damages for injuries sustained by spectators.Each case is unique and may involve multiple parties sharing liability based on their roles and responsibilities in ensuring the safety of the event.


Proving Negligence in Rodeo Spectator Injury Cases

Proving negligence is crucial in personal injury cases. It involves demonstrating that the responsible party failed to take reasonable steps to ensure safety, leading to the injuries sustained.

To prove negligence in Texas rodeo injury cases, you generally need to establish four key elements:

  1. Duty of Care: Show that the defendant (such as the rodeo organizers, venue operators, or animal handlers) owed a duty of care to the injured spectator. This means they were responsible for ensuring the safety of the spectators attending the event.
  2. Breach of Duty: Demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty by acting negligently. This could involve showing that the defendant failed to provide adequate safety measures, such as proper barriers, sufficient crowd control, or competent handling of animals.
  3. Causation: Prove that the breach of duty directly caused the injury. This means linking the negligent actions (or inactions) of the defendant to the specific injuries sustained by the spectator. For instance, if a bull escaped due to inadequate fencing, you need to show that this specific failure led to the injury.
  4. Damages: Establish that the spectator suffered actual damages as a result of the injury. This includes physical injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs. Documentation such as medical records, bills, and expert testimony can be used to support this claim.

Examples and Evidence

  • Documentation and Records: Collect medical records, photographs of the injury, and any other documentation that can show the extent of the harm and the connection to the incident.
  • Eyewitness Testimony: Gather statements from other spectators, event staff, or anyone who witnessed the incident. Their testimony can help corroborate the sequence of events and the conditions that led to the injury.
  • Expert Testimony: Use experts in event safety, veterinary science, or other relevant fields to testify about how the negligence occurred and how it could have been prevented.
  • Event Policies and Procedures: Review and present the safety protocols and procedures that were in place at the time of the incident. Comparing these to industry standards can help show where the defendants failed in their duty of care.

By thoroughly documenting these elements and presenting strong evidence, a plaintiff can build a compelling case for negligence in a Texas rodeo injury lawsuit

Types of Compensation for Workout Machine Injury Accidents

Types of Compensation for Texas Rodeo Spectator Injuries

In Texas rodeo spectator injury cases, plaintiffs can seek various types of compensation, which are broadly categorized into economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Here’s an explanation of each type:

1. Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate for the financial losses directly resulting from the injury. These can include:

  • Medical Expenses: Costs for hospital stays, surgeries, doctor visits, medications, physical therapy, and any future medical care related to the injury.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for income lost due to the injury, including wages lost during recovery and any potential future earnings lost due to long-term or permanent disability.
  • Property Damage: Reimbursement for any personal property that was damaged during the incident.
  • Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Any additional costs incurred as a result of the injury, such as travel expenses for medical treatment or modifications to a home to accommodate a disability.

2. Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are intended to compensate for the non-financial impacts of the injury. These can include:

  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress endured as a result of the injury.
  • Emotional Distress: Damages for psychological impacts such as anxiety, depression, and trauma resulting from the incident.
  • Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the negative impact on the plaintiff’s relationship with their spouse or family due to the injury.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Damages for the reduced ability to enjoy life’s activities and hobbies as a result of the injury.

3. Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not compensatory but are intended to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or malicious behavior and to deter similar conduct in the future. These are awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were especially egregious or demonstrated a willful disregard for the safety of others.

To claim these types of compensation, plaintiffs must present strong evidence of the injury’s impact on their life, both financially and emotionally, and demonstrate the defendant’s negligence or misconduct. Documentation, expert testimony, and comprehensive legal arguments are critical in securing these damages in court which are uncommon in rodeo injury cases.

Our personal injury lawyer will make sure you are not suffering in silence.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

A personal injury lawyer plays a crucial role in assisting an injured rodeo spectator by providing expert legal guidance and representation. Here’s how they can help:

  1. Case Evaluation and Legal Advice: A personal injury lawyer will evaluate the details of the incident, determine the viability of a claim, and provide advice on the best course of action. They can explain the spectator’s rights and outline the legal process for pursuing compensation.
  2. Evidence Collection: Lawyers help gather and preserve crucial evidence to support the claim. This includes medical records, eyewitness testimonies, photographs of the scene, and expert analyses. Proper evidence collection is essential to prove negligence and establish the extent of damages.
  3. Negotiating with Insurance Companies: Dealing with insurance companies can be challenging, as they aim to minimize payouts. A personal injury lawyer negotiates on behalf of the injured party to ensure a fair settlement that covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
  4. Litigation and Court Representation: If a fair settlement cannot be reached, a personal injury lawyer can file a lawsuit and represent the injured spectator in court. They will present a compelling case, argue effectively, and strive to secure the maximum compensation possible.
  5. Managing Legal Documentation: The legal process involves extensive paperwork and strict deadlines. A personal injury lawyer handles all documentation, ensuring that all filings are accurate and timely, thus preventing procedural errors that could jeopardize the case.

By leveraging their expertise, a personal injury lawyer provides invaluable support to injured rodeo spectators, helping them navigate the complexities of the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome for their case.

Injured at a Texas Rodeo? Contact Us.

Texas rodeos offer excitement and tradition, but they also come with risks. If you’ve been injured as a spectator at a rodeo, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. We can help. Our team has the expertise to navigate complex rodeo injury cases and help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation.

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