Triathlon Tumble: Compensation Awarded for Injuries Caused by a Participant

Have you been injured during a competition or sporting event? If so, according to the new decision of James v USM Events Pty Ltd, the event organisers can be held liable for your injuries. 

The Facts

The Plaintiff, Dr James, enjoyed participating in triathlons. She had competed in a number of events in the past and was signed up for the 2018 Gold Coast Triathlon. The event was organised by the Defendant, USM Events Pty Ltd.

Unfortunately, due to poor weather, the event was changed to a duathlon where the swimming leg was replaced with a second running leg. This resulted in the para-athlete wheelchair event overlapping with Dr James’ event.

Dr James started off her event strong and was doing well as she entered an “S-bend” to complete her first return lap. Suddenly she heard someone shouting behind her, and before she knew it, a para-athlete in a wheelchair ricocheted across her right-hand side. This caused her to fall to the ground and hit her head.

As a result of the incident, Dr James sustained a brain injury, psychological injuries and minor physical injuries. Due to her injuries, she was unable to continue her work as a psychologist and required significant care, assistance and treatment.

The Decision

The Court found in favour of Dr James and held that USM Events Pty Ltd was liable for her injuries.

The Court identified that the “S-bend” that Dr James was running through was very narrow, and there was no separation between the athletes as they went through this part of the course.

As a result, the Court determined that USM Events Pty Ltd breached their duty of care to Dr James by failing to protect her from fast para-athletes in wheelchairs. This is because USM Events Pty Ltd should have ensured that there was sufficient separation between para-athletes in wheelchairs and able-bodied athletes as they competed in the narrower sections of the course.

It did not matter that Dr James may have been aware that para-athletes could come up from behind her because she had not competed on this course before, nor with para-athletes.


Dr James was awarded over one million dollars by the Court for her injuries and consequential loss of employment and treatment/care she received and will require for her life expectancy.

The Take-Away

It is important to be aware that, as a competitor in a sporting event or competition, you may have an entitlement to bring a claim against the event organiser and or others if you suffer from injuries caused by another participant as a consequence of the event organiser failure to meet the relevant duty of care.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an organised event, you may have an entitlement, and time limits do apply to bring such a claim; please feel free to contact our friendly team for a free consultation.