Do you realize how much YOU have in common with Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Mike McQuery? No, these men did not commit the physical crimes against children, as did Jerry Sandusky. However, they are responsible and liable for their own actions when there is even a hint that someone is abusing a child. This blog isn’t specifically about the Penn State case and who was (or wasn’t) fired, that will all pan out in court, but it is a REALITY check for all involved with youth that no one is invincible.
While the Penn State case is making national headlines because of its legendary coach and it’s football program, understand that this happens FREQUENTLY in youth sports. Most of our readers are involved in teams/leagues/youth programs in one-way or the other. Are you a coach, athletic director, team mom or a parent on the side-lines? Whatever your position, today is the day to step back and realize where exactly you fit into the lives of the kids participating in your youth sports organization. You are there to protect them at all cost.
Some time ago, we did a blog on Protect Your Kids From Predators In Youth Sports. This blog is a must read for anyone that has or is involved with children. It includes an article from Sports Illustrated from actual predators in youth programs saying “This is how we got away with it …this is how you protect your kids.” (Example from the article, Did you know, Studies have found that the average preferential molester victimizes about 120 children before he is caught? DISTURBING). It also contains useful Risk Management guidelines that can be implemented TODAY!
For more articles on preventing sexual abuse and molestation, visit our blog.
Shart this with others so that we all can make a difference.
Field / facility owners such as recreation departments, school districts, schools, and municipalities often allow outside user groups to use their premises under a lease or permit. These relationships are beneficial to all parties involved. However, field / facility owners expose themselves and their insurance carriers to liability arising from injuries that may occur on the premises arising out of the lease or permit. This is true even though the injury may be due to the 100% negligence of the outside user group.
Field / facility owners are almost always shot gunned into these lawsuits as a deep pocket even if they are 0% at fault. The defense costs and possibility of settlement or adverse jury verdict can be very expensive. This can result in unbudgeted out of pocket expenses (in event of self insurance or large deductible insurance program) or in a large loss that is paid by their insurance carrier. When these losses are paid by insurance carriers, such insurance carriers may non renew or may ask for large rate increases. Therefore, field / facility owners have a lot to lose when they make their premises available to outside user groups.
It makes sense that the group that is responsible for the injury and resulting lawsuit should be financially responsible for paying the damages. Therefore, prudent field / facility owners require outside users to carry their own insurance that meets certain minimum standards that are drafted by risk managers or attorneys employed by the field / facility owner. Such insurance requirements specify the types of policies to be carried, minimum limits of coverage, and special coverage endorsements such as “Additional Insured” status for the premises owner.
Requiring outside user groups to be financially responsible for their own injuries and lawsuits is a good business practice. Even high limit insurance is surprisingly affordable and easy to obtain when reputable sports insurance and event insurance specialists are contacted.
It is clear that all sports and recreation organizations have liability for incidents that occur during scheduled, sanctioned and supervised activities such as tryouts, practice, and play.
However, some sports organizations that own or are long term lessees of athletic facilities are also legally responsible for injuries that occur on a 24/7 basis for 365 days a year. Ownership triggers the liability for premises owners and lease agreements with hold harmless and indemnification provisions trigger the liability for long term lessees.
If your sports organization has 24/7 liability as discussed above, you should avoid the endorsement entitled “Ownership, Maintenance, Management of Athletic Fields or Facilities Exclusion or similar exclusions. As an alternative to removing this exclusion, some sports General Liability carriers allow a buy back that is commonly called “24 Hour Premises Liability”.
Source: John Sadler
General Liability insurance policies for sports and recreation organizations sometimes contain a potentially dangerous exclusion entitled “Collapse of Temporary Structure Exclusion.”
Presumably, the purpose of this exclusion is to protect the General Liability carrier against paying a claim in the event of collapse of bleachers or similar structures such as tents, signs, billboards, and fences that are temporary in nature.
Unfortunately, the exclusion does not define “temporary”. Does “temporary” mean a one time event? A season? A Year? Are any bleachers that can be moved considered temporary?
Bleacher collapse is a serious event in terms of both the number of spectators that can be injured and their severity potential. Because of the seriousness of these bleacher collapse incidents, sports organizations can’t afford to have this ambiguous exclusion on their General Liability policy.
Source: John Sadler
The existence of “Exclusion – Athletic Or Sports Participants” is by far the most troubling exclusion that is commonly found in General Liability policies of sports and recreation organizations. The applicable language of this exclusion reads: “With respect to any operations shown in the schedule, this insurance does not apply to “bodily injury” to any person while practicing for or participating in any sports or athletic contest or exhibition that you sponsor.”
Obviously, sports and recreation organizations frequently face these types of lawsuit risks and the damages tend to be severe in nature. Therefore, it is unconscionable for this type of exclusion to appear in the General Liability policy of a sports organization if such coverage is readily available in the market place. And, such coverage is readily available and affordable in the current market place with the exception of certain semi pro adult sports or sports of a high risk nature.
Sports and recreation organizations that have the Athletic Participant Exclusion have their coverage reduced to nothing more than a policy that covers lawsuits arising out of spectator injuries.
If the General Liability policy is “silent” and there is no mention of the Athletic Participant Exclusion, it can be safely assumed that coverage automatically exists even if it is not affirmatively stated. However, some carriers provide an affirmative coverage grant by creating a coverage called Participant Legal Liability (even though this is not necessary and is primarily a marketing ploy). It is important to note that most carriers that specialize in writing General Liability for sports and recreation organizations do provide the affirmative coverage grant of Participant Legal Liability on a special endorsement. But, the special endorsement may actually introduce certain new exclusions such as Player vs Player or Participant vs Participant which would not be found if the policy were silent. These two exclusions will be discussed in a future blog.
It is always surprising to me to find out how many sports and recreation organizations have the Athletic Participant Exclusion on their policy but don’t seem to be aware even though they have presumably knowledgeable insurance agents and risk managers looking out after their interests. I teach classes to recreation department administrators and I have found that the Athletic Participant Exclusion exists on roughly 25% of the General Liability policies that they bring to class to be reviewed.
Source: John Sadler
General Liability policies for sports and recreation organizations should cover the following activities that are adult supervised and sanctioned by the sports organization:
- Non Sport Outing
It is critical that coverage is included for non sport outings such as swimming parties, backyard cookouts, restaurant and ice cream celebration trips, etc. Some of the most serious injuries and largest lawsuits that I have witnessed over the past 20 years have come from non sport outings – particularly swimming parties.
Some General Liability policies that are deficient may restrict coverage to owned and leased premises that are scheduled on the policy. This could be a big problem if the sports organization has travel teams or if non sporting outings occur away from the premises.
Some General Liability policies include endorsements that restrict coverage to the time periods when officially sanctioned events take place. This is a big problem if a sports organization owns its field or facility or is responsible under the terms of a lease on a 24/7 basis.
Source: John Sadler
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