Be Prepared to Produce Critical Documents for Litigation
Risk management requirements of federal, state, case law, governing bodies, and insurance carriers
Amateur sports organizations face ever-increasing legal risks arising out of injury to participants, spectators, and other third parties. Federal law, state law, case law, governing bodies, and insurance carriers require that amateur sports organizations adopt and implement a variety of risk management forms and programs to protect participants and spectators against injury risk and sports organizations against legal risk.
Organizing and managing these documents may seem overwhelming for a sports organization, but we provide helpful tips on how to simplify this process.
Critical forms that must be retained for retrieval
- Participant registration forms, such as waiver/release, emergency information/medical consent, and image release.
- Vendors’ certificates of insurance evidencing minimum insurance requirements.
- Certificates of insurance of visiting teams you host evidencing minimum insurance requirements.
- Local member agreements with the sanctioning body outlining responsibilities and transfer of risk through indemnification/hold-harmless provisions.
- Criminal background check results on all staff with access to youth.
- Child Abuse and Other Misconduct Risk Management Plan, including policies and educational training that is compliant with the federal 2018 Safe Sport Act.
- Brain Injury / Concussion Risk Management Plan, including policies and educational training to meet the requirements of state legislation and governing body best practices.
- General Risk Management Awareness Training to reduce risk in supervision, instruction, facilities, equipment, sports injury care, and the use of autos.
- Delivery of required training by outside sources, such as coach certification, CDC concussion, etc.
- Documentation of preseason meetings reviewing risk management requirements with all staff in attendance.
- Facility permit or lease agreements, which include insurance requirements and indemnification-hold harmless provisions.
- Field/facility inspection and maintenance schedules.
- Equipment replacement, reconditioning, cleaning, and inspection schedules.
Sports organization must be able to document implementation, execution of agreements, delivery of training, etc.
Having these risk management programs in place is just the start. Sports organizations must also be able to prove their programs were adopted by formal board action, implemented as official policy on an annual basis, and that many of these documents were acknowledged with a signature. Otherwise, critical documents may not be available to enter into evidence in the event of a lawsuit or governmental administrative action.
Paper or electronic storage? Your cloud system or a vendors cloud system?
This documentation can be retained in paper and/or digital format. Sometimes these are individual documents. But sometimes documents are collected online through automated registration software used by the sports organization or vendors providing services to sports organizations. In the latter case, the only evidence is often a registry page or dashboard that shows a list of persons who clicked on “I agree” or completed training. Sports organizations can’t rely on these automation vendors to store critical information over the long term. This is because they are frequently start-up companies with high failure rates.
Sports organizations must retain documents for at least 16 years in many cases
For legal purposes, retention of these documents by sports organization should be at least 16 years, in most cases. The reason is that a 4-year-old child can wait until the age of majority plus an additional two years for the statute of limitations to run out. The age of majority is typically 18, and the statute of limitations may be up to 2 years. As a result, the child may have a span of 16 years in which to file a lawsuit for past injuries.
This 16-year time span presents a problem due to the frequent turnover of volunteers in local organizations. Who wants to store paper records for 16 years? A better solution is cloud-based storage where the login information is passed on with each new turnover in staff.
Staff acknowledgment of training and compliance
Critical risk management documents, such as those related to abuse, brain injury/concussion, and general risk management awareness training, require acknowledgment of receipt, review, and compliance with either a wet or electronic signature.
Below is a sample staff acknowledgment that can be built into your online registration:
As part of your registration as a staff member, you are required to receive, review, and agree to follow a number of risk management programs. Below you can find links to our policies and educational awareness training on Child Abuse Risk Management, Brain Injury Risk Management, and General Risk Management Awareness Training. Please download and save these programs, familiarize yourself with the information, and adopt the policies outlined in the documents. In addition to these links, you can find all of these resources (and more) on our website under the risk management tab.
- Child Abuse: Click here (embed link) to access our Child Abuse Risk Management Plan, which includes our policies and educational training: I will download, carefully review, and agree to follow the policies contained in this document: I agree ______
- Concussion/Brain Injury: Click here (embed link) to access our Brain Injury / Concussion Risk Management Plan, which includes our policies and educational training. I will download, carefully review, and agree to follow the policies contained in this document: I agree ______
- General Risk Management Awareness Training: Click here (embed link) to access our General Risk Management Awareness Training Plan, which includes our policies and educational training. I will download, carefully review, and agree to follow the policies contained in this document: I agree ______
Below is a sample acknowledgment that can be inserted at the bottom of a document for collection of a wet signature and returned to the sports organization:
I agree that I have carefully reviewed this document and will comply with these guidelines.
Cloud storage solutions for document retention
Problems with relying on website and online registration vendor storage systems
Vendors that provide websites and online registration services often offer document storage solutions for the various forms being collected. But what would happen to your forms if the vendor were to be purchased by a competitor or went out of business? What if you decide to switch to a new website vendor? Do you have a contractual guarantee that allows you to download your stored forms and move them to a new platform? What file management capabilities does their software offer in terms of setting up folders and sub-folders, methods of uploading documents, and optical character recognition (OCR) search capability? Can their storage limits be easily exceeded?
When storing critical documents with a third-party vendor, we recommend that you take screenshots of dashboards for storage in your own systems. For example, take a screenshot of a dashboard of parents who clicked on “I agree” to the waiver/release agreement.
Off-the-shelf cloud storage and document management: Evernote and OneNote
- They are not as likely to go out of business. In the event of a purchase by a competitor or going out of business, the files can be easily downloaded to another program.
- Both free and low-cost paid versions available.
- Account login information transferable from one league administrator to the next as they turn over.
- Accessible on a desktop PC, smartphone or tablet.
- The ability to set up by sports registration season with a folder and sub-folder structure for the intelligent organization of documents.
- Easy filing into the appropriate folder/sub-folder via scan, web clipping, or forwarded via email.
- Simple search and retrieval of documents with OCR.
- Documents can be forwarded to another party via email.
- Automatically generated backups.
Below is a sample folder/sub-folder structure for use in Evernote or OneNote:
Fall 2019 Baseball Season
Waiver/Release (individual forms or printed out of dashboard from online registration vendor.)
Emergency Information / Consent (but HIPAA compliance problem)
Field/Facility License/Permit Agreement
Certificates of Insurance – Vendors
Certificates of Insurance – Visiting Teams
Criminal Background Check Info (Privacy concerns)
Child Abuse Training acknowledgment
Concussion Training acknowledgment
Risk Management Awareness Training acknowledgment
Preseason Meeting Training Content and Attendance List
Certificate of CDC Concussion Training
NAYS Certificate for Coach Training (individual forms or print out of dashboard from online vendor.
Screenshots of third-party vendor dashboards containing critical information
One potential problem with Evernote and OneNote is that they are not HIPAA compliant. That means that you can’t store certain documents covered by HIPAA, such as emergency information / medical consent forms. Evernote does not have a solution for this at this time, but OneNote does, if you jump through a few hoops and are willing to pay a little. But if you prefer Evernote, you can find an alternate solution for the HIPAA documents.
And because of the sensitive nature of some documents and the ease of access over multiple platforms with Evernote and OneNote, it is imperative that access is limited to those within the sports on a need-to-know basis. It is possible within Evernote and OneNote to restrict access on some folders to certain administrative staff and allow access on other folders to a larger group of administrators. Creating sufficiently secure passwords is also paramount.
Time to get started with cloud-based document retention
We hope this information is useful and helps you visualize how you can store your critical risk management documents in the cloud. You never know when an unfortunate incident may require a legal defense for your organization, administrators, and staff. Please visit our risk management resources page for our best-in-industry risk management forms, articles, and ready-to-implement risk management programs.